Gameday: Saturday, November 17
Location: Boone Pickens Stadium, Stillwater, OK
Opponent: Oklahoma State Cowboys
Predicted Season: 8-4, Offense - 6th; Defense - 71st
Streak:The Cowboys have won three straight
I gotta admit, when it comes to Bill C, I understand most of his concepts. I don’t always agree but in general I understand them. I don’t understand them here for OSU. I just don’t see how you lose a player as special as Mason Rudolph and only drop 3 spots on offense. But Bill does. According to his metrics, the Oklahoma State offense is going to be top ten despite replacing Mason Rudolph and the defense is going to drop 1 spot. I just don’t buy it.
Right now, the Cowboys are what the Mountaineers should be striving for. The Cowboys didn’t win 10 games until 1984 with first year head coach Pat Jones. Jones would go on to win 10 games three times in a five year stretch, culminating with 1988 and Barry Sanders. The Cowboys wouldn’t win 10 games until 2010, in Mike Gundy’s sixth season. In Gundy’s last eight season, he has won 10 games six times. OSU is now at the point where 10 wins is just about considered the floor.
The Cowboys lose prolific passer Mason Rudolph, who threw for over 4,900 yards, 37 touchdowns. If it weren’t for Baker Mayfield’s Heisman season, Rudolph could have been the Offensive Player of the Year. The ‘Pokes will try to replace Rudolph with either former walk-on, senior Taylor Cornelius, sophomore Keondre Wudtee or Hawaii graduate transfer Dru Brown.
Then there is four-star freshman Spencer Sanders. I’m sure Gundy wants to redshirt Sanders, give him sparing play in 3-4 games and start him next year.
OSU does have All-American running back Justice Hill back. Hill has rushed for over 2,600 yards in his first two seasons and averaged 112 yards a game last season but he also had Rudolph that defenses had to contend with. Can Hill carry the load if the quarterbacks aren’t the deadly threat that Rudolph was? Also back is J.D. King. Mountaineer fans should remember King as he rushed for 142 yards in the win over the ‘Eers in Morgantown.
Mason Rudolph took his favorite receiving target James Washington to Pittsburgh with him. Also gone is Marcell Ateman. Between the two targets, that is 133 catches, 2,700 yards and 21 touchdowns lost. Senior Jalen McCluskey’s 50/647/5 return. So does former five-star LSU prospect Tyron Johnson. Johnson transferred to OSU after his freshman season, sat out in 2016 and caught 23 passes for 294 yards last season.
On the line the Cowboys lose both tackles and their center. Outside of their guards, they have six returning starts in their lineman. I keep harping on this with the teams but it takes time for linemen to gel and having so many new parts can be detrimental to seasons. The 2016 Mountaineers were so good in part because of their experienced offensive line.
Defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer was let go and former Duke Blue Devils DC Jim Knowles was added. Duke ranked 3rd in scoring defense and 4th in total defense in the ACC last year. Knowles achieved this by being aggressive and attacking. IN some ways that works because it gives an explosive offense more chances. Generate a turnover and positive things happen. Even lapses that result in long gains aren’t all that bad given that the offense can retaliate.
Along the D-Line, Jordan Brailford returns after collecting 11 TFL and 5 sacks last year. Along with Darrion Daniels, Jarrell Owens and Cole Walterscheid and defensive tackles Trey Carter and Enoch Smith, the Pokes have six seniors on their line. That’s a good place to start.
Knowles will be transitioning to a 4-2-5 system, the same system that Gary Patterson uses. That’s good because OSU loses Chad Whitener, Kirk Tucker and Gyasi Akem. None of the Cowboy linebackers were tackling machines so maybe it is good that the defensive system is changing.
Losing your starting free safety and strong safety while you are moving to a safety heavy defensive scheme is going to present some challenges. Okie Lite is going to be without Tre Flowers and Ramon Richards, who combined for 19 pass-breakups and 4 interceptions. In their place will be Thabo Mwinki who had 10 PBU in his own rights and backed up the pair. Junior AJ Green returns. No, not that AJ Green.
Kicker Matt Ammendola returns after making all 70 of his point-afters last year. He was fairly accurate from beyond 40 yards, making 6 of 8 as well. Punter Zach Sinor returns for his senior season after failing to win the Heisman. It wasn’t for a lack of effort though.
UPDATE - Sinor underwent hernia surgery and is currently out indefinitely.
It looked like the Mountaineers had figured out the Cowboys in 2013 and 2014 when they beat them in Morgantown and then Stillwater, but the last three years have shown how far apart the two teams are. 2016 the Cowboys knocked the Mountaineers back for their first loss of the season and it left the ‘Eers scrambling in the Big 12 race. Last year, despite the defense playing lights out inthe first quarter, the offense couldn’t get out of its own way and finally Rudolph caught fire.