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Texas Tech Football | Oklahoma St. Cowboys Preview

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Oklahoma St. at a Glance
Home | Stillwater, OK (Big 12 Conference)
2011 Record | 12-1 (8-1) (Big 12)
Offensive Starters Returning | 8
Defensive Starters Returning | 8
2012 Offensive MVP | RB Joseph Randle
2012 Defensive MVP | CB Broderick Brown

This is my yearly attempt to educate myself on the teams on the Texas Tech schedule. I am not an expert about any of these teams, but rather I have spent a few hours studying the team and it is more likely than not that I have something wrong. Please correct me in the comments. All helmet images via The Helmet Project.

Important Links | NCAA Stats (3rd Total Offense; 107th Total Defense) . . . 2012 Media Guide (PDF) (beware that this is a huge file and almost shut down my computer as it was downloading for over 10 minutes) . . .

The Coach | I like Mike Gundy and I think he's hired some terrific coaches to make his program better over the course of his tenure at Oklahoma St. Just to recap, there was a time when Gundy called all of his own plays while his team was on offense and would then completely ignore the defense as he huddled on the sideline with his players. Gundy relinquished that role over the course of time, I think at the time that he hired Dana Holgorsen to be the offensive coordinator for OSU and I think that's been a very good thing for Oklahoma St. This isn't to say that Gundy did a bad job calling plays, but he let his coordinators coordinate and I think that's one of the last things that a coach wants to do is give up control, even if it is for the betterment of the program.

Holgorsen only stayed for a year and Gundy then hired Todd Monken and I was sure that there would be a drop-off in production last year. I was horrifically wrong. There was no drop-off, but Monken did even better averaging about 30 more yards a game, from about 320 to about 350 and increased scoring from 42 to 48 points a game.

I'd also add that there may not be two better hires for Gundy in his offensive line coach, Joe Wickline, and defensive coordinator, Bill Young. The skill positions get all of the press, but Wickline and Young have done terrific jobs of churning out relatively talented and successful units year after year. Young's defense isn't perfect, but it's pretty darned good considering the defensively challenged Big 12.

DTN 2012 Previews
* 9/1/12 Northwestern St. Demons (Preview)
* 9/8/12 @ Texas St. Bobcats (Preview)
* 9/15/12 New Mexico Lobos (Preview)
* 9/29/12 @ Iowa St. Cyclones (Preview)
* 10/6/12 Oklahoma Sooners (Preview)
* 10/13/12 West Virginia Mountaineers (Preview)
* 10/20/12 @ TCU Horned Frogs (Preview)
* 10/27/12 @ Kansas St. Wildcats (Preview)
* 11/3/12 Texas Longhorns (Preview)
* 11/10/12 Kansas Jayhawks (Preview)
* 11/17/12 @ Oklahoma St. Cowboys (Preview)
* 11/24/12 Baylor Bears (Preview)

What We Do Know | A huge part of the reason why OSU was so good last year was because of their best players, both on offense and defense. Gone are QB Brandon Weeden, WR Justin Blackmon, WR Josh Cooper, and LT Levy Adcock. Defensively, gone are DE Richetti Jones, DE Jamie Blatnick, and S Markelle Martin. All of those players played hugely important parts of Oklahoma St. and it's success last year.

So I think that OSU is going to be an interesting study. They return 8 players on offense and 8 players on defense, so they return quite a few starters, but the problem is that the starters who left were incredibly productive. I don't really know how that's going to play out over the course of the year.

At quarterback, Gundy named true freshman Wes Lunt and I like that Gundy went with who he thought was best, even though there are older players in front of Lunt. As successful as OSU was last year, it would seem to be incredibly unlikely that Lunt could replicate the same type of year. I wish I had the numbers to back this up, but no matter how talented a player is, most younger players will struggle with consistency. Most of the time, they have the tools to compete, but it is the consistency that keeps a player from replicating that success game after game. Lunt should have options at receiver, including Tracy Moore, Isaiah Anderson and Charlie Moore, but they weren't as dominating as Blackmon and Cooper (few were as dominating as Blackmon). Moore broke out during the spring game, but again, even with receivers, consistency is important.

At running back, Joseph Randle returns, and he rushed for 1,216 yards and 24 touchdowns, while Jeremy Smith also returns and he rushed for 9 touchdowns. This is just a ton of production returning at running back. Much has been made of the dismissal of Hershel Sims and he was an important part of Oklahoma St.'s future, but Randle and Smith will be juniors and they'll have time to recover. This is not a problem. And they will run behind 4 of 5 returning starters along the offensive line, Michael Bowie, Parker Graham, Jonathan Rush and Lane Taylor.

Oklahoma St. is in a similar situation on defense in that they lose a ton of productive players. Gone are the leading pass rushers in Jamie Blatnick and Richetti Jones (combined for 12 sacks) and S Markelle Martin. But OSU does return some heavy hitters, including linebackers Caleb Lavey, Alex Elkins and Shaun Lewis. That's your 5th, 2nd and 6th leading returning tacklers. Oklahoma St. will have to replace the ends, but they do return Nigel Nichols and Anthony Rogers in the interior, Nichols was 9th in tackles and Rogers was a bit further down the list. Even though Martin leaves, the Cowboys do return CB Brodrick Brown, CB Justin Gilbert and S Daytawion Lowe. In case you were wondering, Brown and Gilbert each had 5 interceptions last year.

More after the jump.

What We Do Not Know | So my biggest question about Oklahoma St. is can they replicate, or come close to last year's success? And can Oklahoma St. have a repeat performance in regards to forcing so many turnovers, 44 to be exact, including 24 interceptions and 20 fumble recovers, to lead the nation in turnover margin. The question is if OSU has done this before and in 2010 was tied for 11th in the nation in turnover margin, was 61st in 2009, 35th in 2008 and 76th in 2007. And in case you were curious, there has not been a team that had 44 turnovers gained in the last 5 years and the closes team to 44 was Cincinnati and South Florida with 42 turnovers in 2007.

So Oklahoma St. does have some success in this area and the question is if with a freshman quarterback and a defense that can reproduce those numbers. And this isn't a case where Oklahoma St. was perfect and a low-turnover team as they had 23 turnovers lost last year with a senior quarterback, which was 62nd in the nation in holding onto the ball. And as noted above, in terms of total defense, Oklahoma St. was horrid, 107th in the nation in total defense (still better than Texas Tech) and there is no doubt that the bevy of turnovers helped this defense be incredibly successful in 2011. I just don't think they can do it again to they extent that they did in 2011.

Best Player | This has to be Randle. He's terrific and he was over-shadowed by his teammates last year. That won't happen this year, he'll be a star.

Break Through Player Candidate | When you start a true freshman quarterback, it's sorta difficult to not pick the signal-caller. I'll go with Lunt. He'll be good, but he'll be inconsistent.

Overall Fear Level With 1 Being Not Afraid At All and 5 Being So Scared Baby | Again, I'm probably a three with Oklahoma St. The problem will be that Lunt will have a lot of time to mature over the course of the year and so if Lunt can stay healthy then they'll be facing a player that's had time to mature and the defense may have had time to find those playmakers from last year. Plus, playing in Stillwater is almost always tough, so there's that. And I don't understand how OSU can allow students to have big wooden paddles near the sidelines and are permitted to bang them on the padding. Seems like someone could get hurt with one of those.