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The State of Oklahoma: Exciting again in Stillwater? Dez Bryant Edition

Recent computer woes made this State of Oklahoma post late. On my own laptop, a Dr. Pepper explosion has made my keyboard inoperable, and then my cursed touch caused my brother's laptop to mysteriously show the blue screen of death in the middle of typing a sentence (and it refused to load Windows afterwards). Nice. However, perhaps that was all a blessing; after all, a relatively routine a boring post about Oklahoma State's upcoming game with the Aggies just got spiced up with the news that Dez Bryant has been ruled ineligible by the NCAA.

You can find the story here, and posters such as Sunkist and horns2009 have alerted the community with a fanshot and fanpost, respectively. Basically, the NCAA asked Bryant if he had visited Deion Sanders' house, worked out with him, and visited with agents. Bryant, apparently scared, denied all three, although the first two, at least, are true. While merely visiting with Sanders and working out with him are not violations, the NCAA did not like the fact that he lied to them, dropping the hammer on his season (and arguably, OSU's as well).

It is important to note that this is not set in stone; Bryant insists that he did not interact with agents and is therefore only guilty of lying about things that are not violations (although the very act of lying about possible violations is itself a violation). He will appeal the decision, which is obviously a good idea considering that this could also adversely affect his draft stock.

Dez-less Cowboys

On the assumption that he is done for good, I'll discuss how this affects Oklahoma State's offense. In a nutshell: It sucks for them. We all miss Brandon Collins, but he is nowhere near the talent that Bryant is. Dez is arguably the most talented receiver in the country and is universally considered a high draft pick (at least, he was before this mess). Six foot-three receivers who can run fast, jump high, and make great catches do not grow on trees, although they might look like them.

If Bryant played for a team with good WR depth like Texas, he would be dearly missed. For a team that is searching for just a capable #2 option such as OSU, his loss will be devastating. As I noted in my previous post about the Pokes' offense, the passing options are basically Dez Bryant, Dez Bryant, Dez Bryant, Runningback, and then No Name Receiver X (slight exaggeration). Despite skipping the game against Grambling State, in which he most likely would have ballooned his stats, he leads the team in receptions, yards (over twice as many than the next guy), and touchdowns. Against Rice, he caught 9 of Zac Robinson's 14 completions, had 161 of Robinson's 227 yards, and both receiving touchdowns. Evidently, Zac likes to throw to him. Without Brandon Pettigrew, Bryant is virtually the only target that really scares a defense.

Thus, his departure, if it remains, will dramatically change how defenses play OSU. Dez Bryant would obviously almost always have a safety over him and shading to his side, and his very presence often discourages loaded fronts, despite the reputation of the OSU rushing offense. Now, teams can start cheating safeties up to the line of scrimmage without the fear of getting roasted by a freak receiver, and they can also blitz more liberally using the secondary to force Robinson to find another target to bail him out. It certainly makes things easier for a defense when they do not have to account or a player on almost every down. Even when Bryant has a statistically mediocre game, it's hard to replace the effect his presence on the field causes.

Who can OSU turn to? In my previous post about OSU, I talked briefly about Josh Cooper, Dameron Fooks, Wilson Youman (TE), and Hubert Anyiam. They are all inexperienced, and while some have good attributes, none of them are ready, in my estimation, to become a true #1 target. Cooper is the only player with 10 or more receptions besides Bryant and the only one with over 100 yards receiving. If you take into account that the majority of these players' receiving stats came against games versus Rice and Grambling State, things look even worse.

This offense definitely had not looked like the best in the country so far in the season. Without Bryant, they may not even be considered a "great" offense. He has that much affect on this offense. Oh, and by the way, he happens to be one of the more dangerous punt returners in the country. That small thing.

The Aggies have more hope

With slow news from OSU ever since their loss to Houston, this upcoming road game at Kyle Field was to be their shot to regain some legitimacy. This is not to say that A&M is all that good at this point. They beat up on a slew of bad teams and then got hammered by Arkansas. Despite this, Texas A&M still has a recognizable "name brand" in college football, and Kyle Field is still considered a very tough location to visit. A strong win on the road to start Big 12 play will set the stage for a run back into the Top 10.

That run to the Top 10 just got a whole lot harder. A&M remains a very winnable game considering their flop against Arkansas, but the Pokes haven't exactly shown defensive dominance yet and the Aggies now have a much easier task defending OSU. Oklahoma State needs to show some defensive competency against an actually capable offense. Debate how much you wish on how good A&M's offense actually is, but I think it is safe to say that it is better than Rice's and Grambling State's and probably better than Georgia's (at least, the Georgia we saw the first week of the season with a sick quarterback). Even granting that much of the yards came in garbage time, the Aggies put up well over 400 yards of total offense on Arkansas and scored the game's first ten points.

Things to watch? I'll list a few:

Defensive ends Ugo Chinasa and Jeremiah Price: The Aggie O-line, after a decent start, got whipped against Arkansas. If these two guys want to live up to their hype and help slow down Jerrod Johnson, they need to get to him and also contain him when needed.

OSU wide receivers: This one is obvious. Without Bryant and with the attention the run game is going to get, somebody needs to present Zac Robinson with a reliable target. Even if OSU is running the ball all over A&M, this would be a good thing to keep an eye on.

Kendall Hunter: As far as I know, Hunter should be back. It will be interesting to see if he has fully recovered or if more carries will be shared by Toston and Johnson.

OSU Back 7: A&M has some capable runners, which includes Jerrod Johnson. Not only must the LB's stop them, they will need to cover the middle of the field. I'm not too impressed with the Aggie receivers yet, but Johnson does have over 300 yards a game and the secondary will have to do their part to stick with their assignments if Johnson gets loose in the backfield.

Zac Robinson: He's often been a bit jittery this season, and I'm curious to see how he reacts without his #1 target.

Season on the line

Make no mistake, Bryant's sudden suspension has put OSU's season on the endangered list. This week will be important for them to prove to not only outsiders but to themselves that they can perform well without him. If they lose or look like garbage in a win, there's not a whole lot of reason to believe they can seriously challenge for the Big 12 crown. This is not to say that Stillwater will be a walk in the park, because worse OSU teams have challenged Texas before, but their chances in that game just got a whole lot worse.

Now both Oklahoma schools are without their #1 wide receivers. Brutal, although Broyles is nowhere near Bryant.