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Know The Opponent: Oklahoma State

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Thanks to Austin Higgs from Cowboys Ride For Free for the Poke preview.

NCAA Football: Sugar Bowl-Oklahoma State vs Mississippi Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Offense

We are bringing back a very experienced offensive squad from last season. Our offense is coming back almost fully intact, only losing JW Walsh QB, David Glidden WR and Jeremy Seaton FB/TE. All eleven starters on offense were major contributors on last season’s squad, and all but Jalen McCleskey (So.) are juniors and seniors.

Our passing game is due to be explosive. At Oklahoma State, we still believe Mason Rudolph is not getting the hype that he deserves. Rudolph enters this season as an experienced junior, and with JW Walsh’s graduation, we look for him to enter the national spotlight in a big way. Our receivers are deep and talented, and it all starts with James Washington. Washington is most proven receiver in the Big-12, and we expect him to make big plays all over the field. Much like #Weeden2Blackmon, expect to hear a lot of #Rudolph2Washington buzz during this upcoming season.

If you payed any attention to Cowboy football last season, you would know that our running game was nearly non-existent. This is the same program that produced Barry Sanders and Thurman Thomas, and our most successful running attack last season is when we used our undersized backup quarterback to run a QB draw. To be blunt, Ricky Williams has a better chance of passing a drug test than an OSU running back had at converting a 3rd and 1 last season.

However, our running backs were not the issue, our offensive line was the major problem. We are returning all of our O-line starters from last year, but it is still a group who helped produce one of the worst rushing attacks in college football. Many OSU fans believe the success of our team lies heavily on the shoulders of the offensive line’s performance this upcoming season.

Defense

We were hit hard by major departures in the defensive end and cornerback position groups, but the rest of our defense is still intact from last season. Toward the end of last year’s campaign, our defense was gassed. Our offense couldn’t run the ball, and it seemed like the game clock stood still while we were on offense. Our “bend-don’t-break” defensive philosophy saw too much time on the field, and our guys ran out of gas. In our last three games, we gave up 45 to Baylor, 58 to OU and 48 to Ole Miss.

Our run defense is bound to be top notch this upcoming season. Our interior D-line is coming back in full force, as we were without predicted starter Vili Levini for all of last season. He is going to be joining up with the anchor of our defense, Vincent Taylor and Motekiai Maile. Also, Chad Whitener and his linebacker crew are all back and looking to contain opposing running backs.

Our secondary and defense as a whole is led by senior free safety, Jordan Sterns. Opposing wide receivers fear the middle of the field because they know Sterns is around and looking to lay the wood. Sterns has made 100+ tackles in his two seasons as the starter, and he’s looking to lead the defense to another successful season.

Biggest Playmaker: Offense

James Washington / WR

Biggest Playmaker: Defense

Jordan Sterns / FS

Biggest thing to watch for:

Mason Rudolph in the red zone.

Last season, Walsh received almost all of our red zone snaps at quarterback. Mike Gundy and offensive coordinator, Mike Yurcich, ran a two-quarterback system in which we would sub in JW Walsh in the red zone to threaten the opposing defense with both the pass and the run. Walsh’s dual threat abilities were a huge reason for our success in 2015, and with Walsh’s departure, those snaps will likely go back to a less mobile Mason Rudolph.

Keys to the season:

- Offensive balance. If our running attack is as poor as it was last year, and our entire offensive game plan is based around Mason Rudolph, we will have trouble beating the elite teams in the Big 12. If we can incorporate a more effective running game into the game plan, it will give Rudolph and the wide receivers more room to operate.

- Defense needs to limit the big plays. Our offense should be putting up points this season, so it is up to our every defensive player to stay focused, and know where they are supposed to be. If we can prevent the 10+ point quarters on defense, we should be able to keep up with anybody.