Oklahoma State enters the 2017 football season with some of the highest expectations in recent school history and they are very much warranted. The Pokes enter as preseason #10 but have a ceiling at the top of the country because of the returning talent on the offensive end.
Mason Rudolph will lead the Cowboys next season into a hopeful CFB playoff run in his senior season. OSU ended last season dominating the Colorado Buffaloes and giving fans a taste of what the Pokes can do when everything comes together. Rudolph is an early candidate for the Heisman trophy in 2017 after throwing for more than 4,000 yards and 28 touchdowns in 2016. He also has a better receiving corps and more experienced running backs beside him.
The Big 12 isn’t known for its defense, not that there aren’t premier players on that side of the ball, but you have to look hard for a premier, well-rounded defense that will be able to stop the Cowboy offense. The Pokes feature two receivers who were on the Biletnikoff award watch list last season in James Washington and Marcell Ateman, senior Chris Lacy, LSU transfer Tyron Johnson and dynamic slot Jalen McClesky. Along with that is the Big 12 offensive freshman of the year, Justice Hill, returns alongside Rudolph to help balance out the Cowboy offense.
Let’s not focus solely on the offensive firepower because the defense will be able to hold its own with returning starters on all three levels. Senior Tralund Webber and Redshirt Junior Trey Carter, who combined for 10.5 TFL and 7 sacks in 2016, lead the D-Line with RS Senior Chad Whitener holding down the linebacking core. The biggest key on the defense is the returning of seniors Tre Flowers and Ramon Richards who combined for 125 tackles this past season.
The only conference loss this past season came against the defending Big 12 champ, Oklahoma and team in Norman is going in the opposite direction from Oklahoma State. The Sooners have recently lost a few key parts of its team from 2016, including Dede Westbrook, Joe Mixon, Samaje Perine and head coach Bob Stoops. Although the Sooners still have Hesiman hopeful Baker Mayfield, the impact pieces around him are gone and are left to rely on new players lacking experience.
Along with having Bedlam at home, the Cowboys have a nice schedule layout this season with Baylor and TCU coming to Stillwater including three of the four November games being held in Boone Pickens.
With the fortunate schedule to go along with the premier talent, especially on the offensive side of the ball, the Oklahoma State Cowboys are the team to beat in the Big 12.