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Previewing The OSU Cowboys 2012 Schedule (Part 2 of 2)

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Instead of starting the season seeking its first Big 12 title, Oklahoma State begins the 2012 campaign in defense of its Big 12 and Fiesta Bowl championships. The Cowboys have a target on their backs as the season nears and the schedule sets up fairly favorably for the Cowboys with most of the big games scheduled to be played in Boone Pickens Stadium, save for Bedlam. Here is part two of our a glance at what awaits the Pokes in 2012.

8/24/12 Related Story: Previewing The OSU Cowboys 2012 Schedule (Part 1 of 2)

 

10/27 vs. Texas Christian

2011 record: 11-2

Oklahoma State definitely got a favorable deal with both Big 12 newcomers heading to Payne County in 2012. The first to make the trip is TCU, which enters the league on the heels of its third-straight Mountain West championship and fourth-straight season of at least 11 victories. It's hard to know exactly what to make of the Horned Frogs but this is a pivotal game on the Cowboys' schedule. Joining a new league isn't the only question mark for TCU after the drug-trafficking scandal in February involving 23 players took several key players out of the equation. TCU lost three defensive starters in the scandal and return only two starters in the back seven of the unit. The Frogs still have plenty of talent on defense, led by defensive end Stansley Maponga (55 tackles, 9 sacks) and linebacker Kenny Cain (72 tackles, 1 sack, 3 interceptions). It will be interesting to see how this defense stacks up facing the air-oriented attacks of the Big 12. With one example from last season, TCU gave up 564 total yards, including 414 through the air, in a 50-48 loss to Baylor. The offense should be solid with quarterback Casey Pachall at the helm. He finished 2011 with 2,921 yards and 25 touchdowns against seven interceptions. He has talented targets with receivers Josh Boyce (61 catches, 998 yards, 9 TDs) and Skye Dawson (45 catches, 500 yards, 5 TDs) capable of stretching the field and opening up the running game, which is focus of the TCU offense. All three running backs return from 2011 after combining for more than 2,100 yards and 24 touchdowns.

11/3 at Kansas State

2011 record: 10-3

This will be a rematch of one of the most exciting games of last season when the Cowboys thwarted KSU's upset bid in Stillwater in the waning moments to remain unbeaten. Quarterback Collin Klein was a menace that day and is expected to be again. Klein was extremely effective in 2011 to the tune of 3,059 yards and 40 touchdowns, accounting for 69 percent of the team's total offense. KSU has lost three starters from the offensive line that paved the way for the run-first Klein but the biggest task for the Wildcats must accomplish to build on last season's 10-3 finish is to develop playmakers around Klein. John Hubert had a solid season with 970 yards but had just three touchdowns and was inconsistent in his performance as the featured running back. The receiving corps is even more undecided but K-State is built to give the Cowboys problems. Bill Snyder's ball-control, clock-melting offense gave OSU trouble and wore the defense down. A repeat of that on the road could be a problem for the Cowboys. The defense is breaking in new defensive coordinator Tom Hayes, who served as the team's secondary coach last season, but he has the benefit of welcoming back arguably the league's top defensive player in Arthur Brown. Brown is an early candidate for Big 12 defensive player of the year and cornerback Nigel Malone led the Big 12 with seven interceptions last season to lead an improving defense.

11/10 vs. West Virginia

2011 record: 10-3

This is one game that Cowboy fans marked on the calendar the day the 2012 schedule came out: former OSU offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen and the Orange Bowl champion West Virginia Mountaineers are coming to town. And Holgorsen is not the only Cowboy connection: former OSU running backs coach Robert Gillespie went to Morgantown when Holgorsen was hired and then former OSU assistant Joe DeForest followed them this offseason. Add in the fact that WVU is a vogue pick to win the Big 12 in its first season in the league and this game is going to be a massive one in Boone Pickens Stadium. WVU returns every major statistical leader from last year's offense that ranked 13th nationally in scoring and sixth in passing. QB Geno Smith is the focal point and he posted 4,385 yards, 31 touchdowns and just seven interceptions. He has the Big 12's best receiving duo at his disposal with Stedman Bailey (72 receptions, 1,279 yards, 12 TDs) and Tavon Austin (101 rec, 1,186 yards, 8 TDs). Running back also appears to be secure with Dustin Garrison (742 yards, 5.5 ypc, 6 TDs) and Shawne Alston (416 yards, 4.3 ypc, 12 TDs). Co-defensive coordinators Keith Patterson and DeForest are switching from the 3-3-5 defense to a 3-4 and are doing so after losing standout defensive ends Bruce Irvin and Julian Miller, who combined for 14.5 sacks last season. They also lose All-Big East linebacker Najee Goode. One major strength will be at the safety position, where Darwin Cook (85 tackles, 2 ints) and Terence Garvin (72 tackles, 4 sacks, 2 ints) make up arguably the top safety tandem in the league.

11/17 vs. Texas Tech

2011 record: 5-7

The second half of the 2011 season can only be described as a disaster for Texas Tech. The Red Raiders were 5-2 following a shocking upset of No. 3 Oklahoma in Norman; they never won again. They lost their final five game and seven of their last eight. Tech was outscored 256-102 in their five-game losing streak, lowlighted by a 66-6 home loss to Oklahoma State for the worst loss in school history. It goes without saying that the pressure is on Tommy Tubberville and the rest of the staff entering 2012. Youth, inexperience and poor defense were all pointed to as major factors for the unraveling. The Raiders' camp seems to believe it has addressed all three. The youth and inexperience should be aided in the fact that 19 starters return, including virtually every major contributor. QB Seth Doege will be back at the helm after throwing for 4,004 yards and 28 touchdowns. Also returning are receivers Eric Ward and Alex Torres, as well as, running back Eric Stephens, who missed half the season with an injury. The offense didn't have the same punch it did in the Mike Leach era but the main reason for the drop off was the play of the defense, which ranked 114th nationally in total D and 117th in scoring defense. Art Kauffman was named the Raiders' fourth defensive coordinator in the past four seasons and he will take over a unit that returns 10 starts. The defense will also return to a 4-3 scheme after running a 3-4 in 2011.

11/24 at Oklahoma

2011 record: 10-3

Last season didn't go as planned for the preseason No. 1 Sooners. Injuries decimated the offense but the defense, particularly the secondary, was a major disappointment. The latter led to Brent Venables' exit from Norman and Mike Stoops' return. Stoops has made major shifts in defensive personnel in an effort to fix last season's shortcomings in the defensive backfield. The first major change was switching Tony Jefferson back to his more natural spot at free safety after having played nickel back last season. In the spring, Mike Stoops also shifted safety Aaron Colvin to corner to play opposite three-year starter Demontre Hurst, leading many to believe the secondary should move from a major weakness to a team strength in 2012. OU lost plenty of talent on defense with LB Travis Lewis, LB/DE Ronnell Lewis and DE Frank Alexander all moving on to the NFL but the Sooners have restocked and enter the season ranked No. 4 in the polls. The Sooner offense will again go as Landry Jones goes. The senior passed for 4,463 yards and 29 touchdowns but also threw 15 interceptions in 2011. The Sooners have a solid crop of capable backs, highlighted by the return of Dominique Whaley and also the "Belldozer" short yardage package with backup QB Blake Bell. A lot of OU's offensive success will depend on the development of the receiving corps, which was ineffective after Ryan Broyles' injury  last year. Kenny Stills leads all returning pass catchers with 61 catches for 849 yards and eight scores but the buzz during the spring was all about freshman Trey Metoyer, who most believe will develop into a super star. Norman hasn't been kind to the Cowboys in recent years and they must venture down south for the first time since 2009.

12/1 at Baylor

2011 record: 10-3

OSU's regular season finale isn't OU this year but it will still be an important road contest. Robert Griffin III is now playing on Sundays and the Baylor Bears will rebuild around senior quarterback Nick Florence. Sure the Bears aren't likely to repeat their 10-win feat without the likes of RGIII, WR Kendall Wright and RB Terrance Ganaway pacing the offense but the cupboard is not bare in Waco. Florence is expected to flourish in coach Art Briles' offensive system and he will have plenty of talented targets. Even without Wright (108 catches, 1,663 yards, 14 TDs), wide receiver is arguably the strongest position on the team entering the season. Senior Terrance Williams will be No. 1 target for Florence and Williams is ranked No. 1 among draft-eligible receivers for the 2013 NFL Draft by Mel Kiper Jr. The No. 2 target is likely Tevin Reese, who amassed 51 catches for 877 yards and seven touchdowns and BU has plenty of depth. The Bears should still be able to put up points and the defense should be stronger than it was a year ago. BU is entering its second year under defensive coordinator Phil Bennett and return eight starters, highlighted by safety Ahmad Dixon. Baylor ranked 114th nationally in yards allowed and 109th in points allowed. The defense will have to take a major leap forward for the Bears to make their third straight bowl appearance. This game might be more of a toss-up on OSU's schedule than most would believe.

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