Was there a team that won 10 games more quietly than the Oklahoma State Cowboys last year? They had struggled to 7-6 the year before, and they rebounded without garnering a lot of attention - or at least not from me. Sure, their 20-point win at home against TCU, ranked 5th at the time, was impressive, and you had to at least look twice at their 10-0 start. Once you took a look at that start, though, it quickly lost its shine - outside of TCU, though, they hadn't really beaten anyone of note, and five of their opponents were just plain lousy. And then they went out and lost their last three pretty badly once the level of competition ramped up.
They were a decent team in several ways, but they just weren't one that captured the imagination. So, can they take a step forward this year? Or will it be another season that doesn't make too many ripples outside of Stillwater?
Key Additions and Departures
The Cowboys return nine offensive starters. Most significant among those are probably quarterback Mason Rudolph and receiver James Washington. They are both very good players, and they have excellent chemistry, so they are the driving forces for this team.
There can be an issue with returning a lot of starters, though, if those starters aren't any good. This team was just horrible running the ball last year - 115th in the country. The running backs were not productive, and the line was not good at opening running lanes. There is some change in the running game - Barry Sanders Jr. joins his dad's alma mater as a grad transfer and hopes to recapture some family magic, though he is certainly not his dad. They return all five offensive line starters and have added reinforcements in Larry Williams - a juco All-American last year. They will hope that experience improves performance on the line. That happens often enough, but it certainly isn't guaranteed.
Defensively the team had some real issues last year - especially later in the season when injuries and a lack of depth caused them to collapse and throw away those three key games. The news here isn't ideal this year. DE Emmanuel Ogbah, the best defensive player the team had last year, is now with the Browns, and three other starters are gone, too. If they can be healthier this year, though, they should be able to be stronger even without the departed players. They relied on several freshmen last year, so experience should again provide a boost this year. It all comes down to health - their margin for error is smaller than last year, but at full strength they should be just fine.
Oklahoma State Cowboys Schedule Analysis
This is a tougher schedule than they faced last year . They start with two virtual sure things, but the final nonconference game against Pitt could present a challenge. In conference, they play their three best opponents - Baylor, Oklahoma and TCU - all on the road, with the latter two coming in the final two games of the season. The home conference games are all winnable - though Texas could provide a test if this is the year they finally get their acts together. They are fortunate to play some very easy conference games as well - Kansas, Iowa State, Kansas State and probably Texas Tech. Unfortunately, because they play in the Big 12, that isn't a real bonus - every team plays every other team, so each of the contenders gets to feast on the weaklings every year.
2016-17 Oklahoma State Betting Odds and Trends
Bovada has Oklahoma State at +5000 to win the national title, which ties them with four other programs as the 18th choice overall. They are tied with TCU at +500 to win the Big 12. That has them as the second choice, though in a different stratosphere entirely than Oklahoma at -125. BetOnline has the season win total set at 8.5 wins, with the "under" a mild favorite at -125.
For a team that won as many games as they did last year coming off a poor year it's shocking that they were so underwhelming for bettors - they were just 6-7 ATS. They were easier to bet on totals - they went "over" in eight of their 13 games.
2016-17 Oklahoma State Predictions and College Football Picks
I think this will be much the same team as last year, more or less. And that's the problem. They face a tougher schedule, and I don't think they are any better equipped to consistently beat good teams. There are seven games they are probably going to win. The other five are a toss-up, and when things got tough last year they didn't have a great record in those types of games. I don't see them as a true Big 12 contender.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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