Flashing an electric new-look offense in their opener over the Oregon State Beavers, the Oklahoma State Cowboys are one of the more intriguing teams on the fringe of a top 25 ranking.
Led by head coach Mike Gundy in his 15th year at Oklahoma State, the Cowboys are coming off a down year that saw them finish 7-6. After three straight seasons where the Cowboys reached double-digit wins, Oklahoma State is looking to bounce back in 2019 and work themselves back into the picture as one of the top 25 teams in the nation.
Although the high-octane offense is exciting, the team has some areas of concern that keep them from being a surefire top 25 team. The Cowboys will get a chance to keep things moving in the right direction when they host McNeese State on Saturday night. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. ET, with coverage on ESPN+. You can sign up for an ESPN+ subscription here to watch the game. A subscription costs $4.99 per month.
Can Oklahoma State Football Earn a Top 25 Ranking?
After three straight years of winning ten games, Oklahoma State saw their record dip in 2018 as they finished the year just 7-6. Despite losing veteran talent at quarterback and on defense, the Cowboys boast an electric offense capable of carrying the team to a much better finish.
They’ll need to see some improvement across a few areas of concern but undoubtedly have the talent to crack into, and stay in the top 25.
What Oklahoma State’s Offense Needs to Do
Despite losing some key playmakers to one of the nation’s most electric offenses, Oklahoma State opened up the year with a statement win over Oregon State. While the pass attack might not put up as prolific numbers compared to last year’s unit, the Oklahoma State rushing attack looks to be much improved. With dual-threat quarterback Spencer Sanders winning out the starting quarterback job, the Cowboys were able to gauge Oregon State to the tune of 330 yards between Sanders and running back Chuba Hubbard.
While Oregon State struggles mightily against the run, the efficiency of the rush attack is promising and Hubbard looks poised to thrive in his new role as the featured running back. In order to work their way up to a top 25 ranking, Oklahoma State needs Hubbard and Sanders to continue their stellar work on the ground against much better defensive units. Especially considering their situation on defense, the ability of their rushing attack to control the clock and keep their defensive unit fresh and off the field should go a long ways towards helping them make a push up the college football rankings.
What Oklahoma State’s Defense Needs to Do
Defensively, the Cowboys need a major improvement over last year’s unit and their first showing didn’t do much to inspire confidence. While they won handily, they still surrendered 36 points to one of college football’s worst offenses in 2018. The defensive line features an entirely new cast of characters and although the secondary doesn’t look terrible on paper, they could perform significantly worse should the line be unable to consistently create pressure and collapse pockets.
Oklahoma State needs the defense to come up with a few key stops each game as while they boast one of the nation’s better offenses, they can’t be expected to go out and score 40-50 points on a weekly basis. The defense is going to face far better units compared to Oregon State in Big 12 play and if Oklahoma State wants to pick up some signature wins to bolster a top 25 resume, they’ll need the defense to show up on occasion.
It all starts with defensive line play for the Cowboys and if the unit continues struggling to shut down lanes and collapsing the pocket, there won’t be much of a chance for the Cowboys to ever really stick around in the top 25, especially considering the quality of opponents they face as the season goes on.
How the Schedule Factors Into Things
Oklahoma State gets two relatively easy nonconference matchups before their schedule gets considerably more difficult. Facing McNeese State followed by Tulsa, Oklahoma State has a good chance to head into a matchup with #9 Texas sitting at 3-0 on the cust of a top 25 ranking. The Cowboys are already receiving votes for a top 25 spot and assuming the offense can continue providing big performances over the two smaller programs, the Cowboys could find themselves in a ranked showdown with Texas.
After Texas their schedule gets considerably more difficult as Big 12 play opens up, facing Iowa State, Baylor, and ending the year with a matchup against college football playoff-hopeful Oklahoma. Road matchups against Texas Tech and Iowa State should be difficult midseason tests, however, wins over both should almost ensure the Cowboys find themselves sticking around the top 25 as the season rolls on.
Ending the season with Oklahoma in the Bedlam Series doesn’t do Oklahoma State any favors with the hopes of heading into postseason football with a bit of momentum. While the schedule is tough, the path to 9 wins undoubtedly exists and if Oklahoma State can perform to the best of its ability, the Cowboys should find themselves earning a very respectable spot in the top 25 as the season goes on.
Impact Players on the 2019 Oklahoma State Cowboys
Mentioned above, it seems the catalysts for the Oklahoma State offense are the duo of quarterback Spencer Sanders and running back Chuba Hubbard. All-American wide receiver Tylan Wallace is back, though Sanders has yet to prove himself as a reliable downfield threat. Either way, Wallace should still find himself open enough to have an impact on offense, giving the Cowboys a dangerous three-headed monster on offense. Especially as Sanders settles into his role and gets comfortable, expect the Oklahoma offense and the individual members to only improve as the season goes on.
AJ Green and Rodarius Williams look to be some of the Big 12’s better defensive backs, though improved line play is needed to let them actually be effective for the Cowboys. If the Oklahoma State defense wants to play consistently enough to get the Cowboys back into the conversation for a top 25 ranking, they will need one of (if not more) the young faces on the defensive line to step up and emerge as an impact player. Though that hasn’t happened in their one game against Oregon State, there is still plenty of time for one of the young players to rise to the occasion before facing off in a tough matchup against Texas.