In the year that Oklahoma State has aspirations of the College Football Playoff, it faces some of the premier athletes in college football looking to derail the Cowboys season.
Here’s a look at the best players opposing the Pokes this year:
Before OSU can enter the grueling Big 12 conference play, it must get past a few tremendous athletes. It all starts in the season opener when the stud senior DE Jesse Brubaker will test the semi-experienced offensive line after a season of 13.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks. On the other side of the ball, senior RB D’Angelo Brewer comes into this year having rushed for more than 1,400 yards and seven touchdowns; plus he doesn’t have to share carries this year. Brewer will test this defense that gave up almost 200 yards on the ground per game last season.
The barrage of athletes in the non-conference doesn’t end because the Cowboys must travel to Pittsburgh to take on one of the best all-purpose players from 2016 in Quadree Henderson. Henderson was a consensus All-American this past season, but the Cowboys will look to slow him down similar to how they did last year only allowing him 133 all-purpose yards. Along with Henderson, Pittsburgh features a safety on the 2017 Lott IMPACT trophy watch list given out to the top defenders in college football. Jordan Whitehead did some damage in the game last year with 6 tackles and 1 pass breakup.
The Cowboys start off conference play going head to head with another all-purpose stud in KaVontae Turpin, who is coming back from a leg injury that limited him to touching the field in only eight games for TCU. Turpin isn’t the only Horned Frog to keep an eye out for because the Big 12 leader in tackles, Travin Howard, is the leader for the TCU defense this year.
The tests don’t get easier as dual-threat quarterback, Anu Solomon, steps on the field for Baylor having recently transferred from Arizona. After the Bears come into town, the Cowboys travel to Austin to face one of the most dynamic rushers in the league in Chris Warren III, who had an impressive few games his freshman year before being sidelined last year with an knee injury. If Warren III can get it going this season, it will be in part because of the Walter Camp All-American Connor Williams who led the way for D’Onta Foreman last year.
Big 12 play doesn’t offer any breaks because the Pokes travel to Morgantown to attempt to slow down Big 12 Offensive Newcomer of the Year Justin Crawford who has full reigns of the running game this year for West Virginia. After facing the Mountaineers, OSU comes home to take on Heisman hopeful Baker Mayfield and the Sooners. Mayfield’s only loss in the Big 12 came in 2015 to Texas and he hasn’t lost since. Star cornerback Jordan Thomas will be one of the Sooners looking to continue that streak of winning after he gained a first-team All-Big 12 selection this past season.
After Bedlam, have a few final tests including Jesse Ertz, the quarterback at Kansas State. With Oklahoma State having struggled with mobile quarterbacks in the past, Ertz will test the inexperienced Cowboy defense, which only returns five starters this year.
While the Cowboys sit at #10 in the Way-Too-Early polls, they will need to work hard to stay in the top 10 and have a chance at climbing into the College Football Playoff at the end of the year.