Football season is just around the corner and we're previewing Oklahoma State's 2014 opponents in a two-part series. Here's Part 2 of our schedule breakdown:
And in case you missed it, here is Part 1 from Monday.
Biggest game: Dec. 6 at Oklahoma
Most difficult game: Aug. 30 vs. Florida State
Trap game: Sept. 13 vs UTSA
Toughest stretch: Nov. 1 – Dec. 6 (at Kansas State, vs. Texas, at Baylor, at Oklahoma)
Oct. 18 at TCU
TCU is coming off its worst season in the 13-year Gary Patterson era after posting a disappointing 4-8 record in 2013 and has gone just 6-12 in conference play since joining the Big 12 following the Frog's 11-2 campaign in 2011.
The adjustment period hasn't been kind so the Horned Frogs decided to take a page out of the Big 12 playbook, hiring co-offensive coordinators with Big 12 ties to implement the ever-popular air-raid offense.
Sonny Cumbie (Texas Tech) and Doug Meachem (Oklahoma State/Missouri) will most likely task Texas A&M transfer Matt Joeckle with running the new high-octane scheme while former QB Trevone Boykin shifts to wide receiver but Boykin certainly isn't out of the mix. The strength of the offense is the two-headed rushing attack of speedy backs B.J. Carlton and Aaron Green, who should both find running lanes more plentiful with defense's no longer able to put eight men in the box.
While the offense is undergoing an overhaul, no such facelift is necessary on the other side of the ball. The defense should be able to maintain its status as one of the league's best with nine starters returning to a unit that finished second overall in the Big 12 and allowed just 25.1 points per game, which was deceptive because of TCU's offense routinely putting them in bad positions.
The D was expected to receive a huge boost with the return of 2012 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Devonte Fields from a foot injury that cost him the entire 2013 season but his future is clouded after a recent suspension for domestic violence accusations. Even with his unsettled situation, there is plenty of talent, highlighted perhaps by the dynamic safety tandem of Sam Carter and Chris Hackett.
TCU returns kicker Jaden Oberkom and punter Ethan Perry, who both have three years of starting experience.
TCU has been a tough team to peg since joining the conference but hope abounds around Fort Worth that the Frogs are about to take a big hop back in the right direction.
Oct. 25 vs. West Virginia
Most coaches and players tend to downplay the whole “revenge factor" but it's unlikely it won't be on the minds of more than a few Cowboys when the Mountaineers head to Stillwater.
OSU shellacked the Dana Holgorsen-led squad 55-34 in their first meeting in 2012 but last year's showdown in Morgantown delivered one of the biggest upsets of the young college football season, as WVU shocked the 11th-ranked Cowboys 30-21.
Now both teams are in a bit of a rebuilding phase and pressure is mounting on Holgorsen to turn things around on the heels of a 4-8 campaign in which the big upset of OSU was offset by being the first conference foe to lose to Kansas since Nov. 6, 2010. In fact, West Virginia is just 4-12 in its past 16 games.
And that turnaround effort will rely heavily on the outcome of the offseason quarterback derby among Clint Trickett, Paul Millard, Ford Childress, Skyler Howard and freshman William Crest. Early signs point to Trickett, who OSU fans likely remember for coming in and leading the Mountaineers to the comeback victory, but he has been highly susceptible to injury throughout his career.
WVU also returns four of its top five receivers, explosive running back Dremius Smith and there are high expectations that Pitt transfer running back Rushel Shell can become an instant threat. The tools are there for the Mountaineers to put up big numbers in Holgorsen's air-raid attack despite a slump in explosivity last year.
But, as is typically the issue, the defense is full of questions. Tony Gibson was promoted to defensive coordinator in the offseason after coaching safeties last year, becoming the team's fourth d-coordinator in the past four years. That inconsistency has led to spotty results, including a paltry 101st-ranked defense a season ago.
The Mountaineers efforts to improve on defense will be aided by an experienced linebacking corps and a vastly improved secondary, led by last year's breakout freshman corner Daryl Worley and proven commodities in safety Karl Joseph and corner Ishmael Banks.
Nov. 1 at Kansas State
And so it begins. This is game No. 1 in a brutal four-game stretch to end the season. The Wildcats finished last season off strong by winning six of their final seven after a rough 2-4 start to finish 8-5. A lot is expected of Bill Snyder's 2014 squad after that finish, as KSU is preseason No. 21 in the AP and Coaches polls.
The offense should be particularly solid with quarterback Jake Waters development and firm grasp on the starting role. The Cats also have one of the nation's most dangerous threats in Tulsa native Tyler Lockett, who had 1,262 receiving yards on 82 receptions with 11 TDs last season. Not to mention that Lockett is arguably the nation's best return specialist. Lockett will line up beside returning starters receiver Curry Sexton and tight end Zach Trujillo, ensuring plenty of chemistry in the passing game.
The o-line is rebuilding but has a heck of a cornerstone piece to build around with three-time All-Big 12 center B.J. Finney anchoring the efforts in the middle. Senior running back DeMarcus Robinson and highly-touted incoming freshman Dalvin Womack should form a one-two punch in the backfield that will prevent the Pokes and other Big 12 defenses from focusing solely on shutting down the aerial threat.
If K-State is to challenge for the Big 12 title, the defense will need to mesh quickly with seven new starters entering the mix. The defense is led by end Ryan Mueller, who ranked eighth in the country with 11.5 sacks last season, and safety Dante Barnett, who was the MVP of the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.
Nov. 15 vs. Texas
Oklahoma State has owned the series recently with three wins in the past four meetings but the Cowboys have been unable to beat UT in Stillwater since 1997. That streak could very well come to an end this season in the Pokes' home finale against a retooling group of Longhorns under first-year coach Charlie Strong.
Texas is ranked 24th in both preseason polls but questions still abound and chemistry hasn't been a high point in Austin in recent years. Not helping that perception has been the rough start to the Strong era with several offseason dismissals and a rash of suspensions. That said, Texas is never lacking for talent and Strong is trying to bring the swagger back to UT with increased work ethic and mental toughness.
Texas does have a shot to show rapid improvement if quarterback David Ash can stay healthy and that has proven to be much easier said than done for the junior quarterback. Many hoped highly-touted Tyrone Swoopes could unseat Ash for the job in the offseason but a poor spring put hopes squarely back on Ash. Whoever ends up flinging the pigskin around will be without last year's top receiver Mike Davis because of graduation and super-athletic wide outs Kendall Sanders and Montrel Meander, who was dismissed due to felony sexual assault charges. Jaxon Shipley and Marcus Johnson will be have a lot of pressure to perform at the position.
Despite the recent dismissal of Joe Bergeron, the running back position is still stacked. Malcolm Brown (940 yards) and Johnathan Gray (780 yards) are clearly the strong point of this offense and comprise one of the country's best one-two punches at the position.
Expect the Cowboy defense to be fired up for this matchup with former OSU o-line coach now running the offense for the Longhorns.
Defensively, another former Oklahoma State coach is in command. Coordinator Vance Bedford made the move from Louisville with Strong and also served as the Pokes d-coordinator under Gundy before being fired following the 2006 season. Bedford was never loved by the orange-clad faithful, particularly following an incident where he referred to OSU fans as “a bunch of roaches.”
Bedford may be coordinator in name, but this is where Strong shines and he will have plenty of influence over this unit. Despite the loss of stud lineman Jackson Jeffcoat, the defensive line has the potential to be outstanding with All-American candidate defensive end Cedric Reed partnering with Malcolm Brown, Desmond Jackson, Poona Ford and Shiro Davis.
And ample experience returns behind the line, as well. Dalton Santos, Steve Edmond and Jordan Hicks all return to their starting roles from injury-plagued 2013 seasons. The secondary will rely on star corner Quandre Diggs but it is experienced and loaded, too, leading many to think Texas has everything in place to be the Big 12's best defense in 2014.
Nov. 22 at Baylor
It's highly likely Baylor has this one circled on the calendar after the Cowboys plastered then-unbeaten Baylor 49-17 on national television last year in Stillwater.
The defending Big 12 champs are ranked No. 10 entering the season and returns a ton of key players from an offense that ranked No. 1 nationally in scoring (52.4) and total offense (618.8). Big 12 offensive player of the year Bryce Petty makes the offense tick and he does it with nearly effortless precision, amassing 4,200 passing yards and 32 touchdowns against just three interceptions, while also leading BU with 14 rushing touchdowns.
Petty will have plenty of weapons at his disposal, highlighted by receivers Antwan Goodley (71 catches, 1,339 yards, 13 TDs) and Levi Norwood (47 catches, 733 yards, 8 TDs). The rest of the receiving corps comprises one of the nation's deepest units and the Bears have brought in a boatload of highly-recruited receivers in recent years; any of whom could break out at any moment.
Shock Linwood takes over running back duties from departed stud Lache Seastrunk but Linwood has certainly proven himself capable coming off an 881-yard, eight-TD season in a reserve role.
The defense has far more holes to fill, replacing seven starters, including All-American safety Ahmad Dixon and all-conference linebacker Eddie Lackey. All-Big 12 linebacker Bryce Hager should serve as a more-than-capable building block for Phil Bennett's defense and the addition of Boise State transfer and former Freshman All-American defensive end Sam Ukwuacha should help, as well. There is plenty of proven depth on this team that has been primed to take over starting roles so this is shaping up to be more of a reloading than a rebuilding effort.
On special teams, the Bears lost the school's all-time leading scorer in kicker Aaron Jones but they return the Big 12's best punter in Spencer Roth and Norwood is one of the league's best return specialists.
Expect Baylor to be a major threat to repeat as conference champs in 2013 but the team that is likely to threaten that dream is next up on the Cowboys' schedule….
Dec. 6 at Oklahoma
Bedlam hasn't been kind to Oklahoma State over the decades and the past two meetings have been particularly heartbreaking for the Pokes, dropping back-to-back games in which they were favored in nail-biting fashion.
This won't be an easy year to reverse that trend. Oklahoma is a legitimate national title contender in 2014 and is riding high off a strong finish to last season, capped with the dramatic Bedlam win and the Sugar Bowl victory against Alabama.
The offense should be very skilled with dual-threat quarterback Trevor Knight officially in command of the starting role and he'll have a highly-talented supporting cast, most notably receiver Sterling Shepard, who is coming off a 51-catch, seven-touchdown season. OU will have one of its most physically dominating offensive lines in recent memory even with the loss of center Gabe Ikard. There are 75 combined career starts on the o-line entering the year.
The experience isn't quite as plentiful at the skill positions with Sheperd being the only truly battle-tested wideout but talent and potential abounds with Derrick Woods, Duron Neal, Jordan Smallwood, Austin Bennetter and newcomers like Dallas Todd, Mark Andrews and Miciah Quick all capable of making an impact.
But if Missouri refugee Dorial Green-Beckham is ruled eligible, watch out. DGB is not only one of the country's best receivers, he's one of its top overall players.
Bruising running back Keith Ford appears to be leading the pack in the backfield in a position battle with Alex Ross, while newcomer Semaje Parin could also factor into the equation. Freshman Joe Mixon could also change things up quite a bit depending on the outcome of his ongoing legal situation. Mixon was the No. 1-rated running back prospect in the country last year.
OU's offense might be counting on a lot of unproven talent to deliver on its potential but the Sooners' defense is already firmly established after a masterful rebuilding job under Mike Stoops. The unit was delivered a huge blow on Monday when it was announced that standout linebacker Frank Shannon, who led the team with 92 tackles last season, has been suspended for the entire 2014 season stemming from an internal investigation into an alleged sexual assault.
But even minus Shannon, this defense is loaded and could be one of the best in FBS. Potential All-American linebacker Eric Striker and defensive end Charles Tapper anchor the Sooners' effective 3-4 scheme that ranked in the top 30 nationally in every meaningful defensive category a season ago. At linebacker, Big 12 defensive newcomer of the year Dominique Alexander and converted lineman Geneo Grissom, who was phenomenal in the Sugar Bowl, should help OU overcome the loss of Shannon. Zack Sanchez emerged as a legitimate lockdown corner last season as a freshman and will partner with corner Julian Wilson and safeties Quentin Hayes and Hatari Byrd to form a standout secondary. Jordan Phillips and Chuka Ndulue are also monsters to deal with on the d-line.
OU also returns one of the country's best kickers in Michael Hunnicutt and senior punter Jed Barnett is reliable. The returner roles are still up in the air but that is one of few concerns for the Sooners entering the season and OU looks as strong as it has in several years.