College football season is upon us and today we are looking at the second half of Oklahoma State's 2013 schedule.
10/26 at Iowa State
Not to rip a Band-Aid off an old wound, but the last time the Cowboys traveled to Ames they had their national title hopes dashed in the biggest upset in ISU history. There are a lot of players on the Pokes' roster who remember that day and shapes up as bad news for the Cyclones.
ISU has shown improvements the past few years but still hasn't been able to take the next step and an uninspiring 1-4 run in its final five games last season didn't exactly build enthusiasm during the offseason. Quarterback Sam Richardson is the current frontrunner in ISU's revolving door at the position and returning starter James White is aiming to become the school's first 1,000-yard rusher since 2009. JUCO transfer Aaron Wimberly will push for the RB job after averaging 7.4 yards per carry for the junior college national champions but there isn't much else to get psyched about other than big-play tight end Ernst Brun. One of the Cyclones biggest problems the past few years has been their lack of an offensive punch to score at a high enough rate to compete in the heart of the conference schedule – as evidenced by their 85th-place scoring offense last season – and it's been the defense that has kept ISU in some games. That trend looks to continue in 2013.
While ISU will again lean on the strength of its defense, it must replace six starters, including five in the front seven. The coaching staff is high on the new linebackers but there has yet to be anything proven on the field. The Cyclones are a solid team are good enough to cause problems but if OSU is focused a result similar to last year's 31-10 is likely.
11/2 at Texas Tech
OSU has owned Texas Tech in recent years, perhaps more than any school in the Big 12. The Pokes have won four straight against the Raiders and the past two seasons have been lopsided 66-0 and 59-21 beatings.
Tech is under new leadership with coach and former TTU QB Kliff Kingsbury, who came over from A&M where he was Johnny Football's offensive coordinator in his Heisman campaign a year ago. Kingsbury inherits dual-threat QB Michael Brewer and a stable of wide outs who will make his transition a lot easier. Tech is still very capable of putting up points but it just hasn't been the same since Mike Leach left West Texas. Kingsbury learned under Leach and has the potential to get TTU back where it wants to be. Odds are, though, that this will take some time but returning every starting receiver and running back is an added advantage in speeding up the process.
The defense, on the other hand, has continued to struggle and now must adapt to its fifth defensive coordinator in five years. That said, the defense has a similar advantage to the offense in its transition because the Raiders return all four starters on the d-line and all three linebackers. Tech was improved last season and should continue to take more steps in the right direction in 2013. IF there is a trap game on OSU's road schedule that they'll likely be favored in, this is it. Tech could be a surprise team in the conference.
11/9 vs. Kansas
Kansas should be improved but that should also be expected coming off a 1-11 campaign where the Jayhawks failed to beat a single FBS school. Actually, KU is on a 21-game losing streak in Big 12 play. That said, Kansas showed more fight last year, threatening Texas, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State but was unable to get over the hump.
The J.W. Walsh-led Cowboys outlasted Kansas 20-14 but will certainly be looking to avoid a repeat of that nail-biter in Lawrence when KU come to Stillwater. The Jayhawks are putting a lot of faith in BYU transfer QB Jake Heaps to turn around the offense and he impressed with four touchdown passes in the spring game, albeit against a KU defense that ranked 114th in pass defense, but he should be an instant upgrade of Dayne Crist. Running back James Sims is the star of the offense and a workhorse, entering his fourth year as the starter. Sims should enjoy Heaps' ability to air out the ball to create more running room than he's accustomed to.
The defense was a mess last season and returns just two starters from the 113th-ranked unit in America. While it may lack experience, fresh faces could be just what this defense needs to forge a new identity. Hoping to anchor a new-look d-line will be DT Marquel Combs, who was the No. 1-ranked junior college prospect in the country. New defensive ends Chris Martin and Andrew Boston were also highly-recruited out of the JUCO ranks, so there is reason for KU fans to be optimistic.
11/16 at Texas
If things go as expected through the first nine games, this trip to Austin should have significant Big 12-title implications. OSU no longer has any fears of road trips to UT, having won the past two times meetings in Darrell K. Royal. However, this is unquestionably the Cowboys' stiffest road test of the year.
Texas made a return to relevancy in 2012 with a 9-4 record and returns 19 starters, including the league's deepest stable of running backs and a physically imposing offensive line. The biggest key to UT's success offensively will again be quarterback David Ash. The junior has erased any threat of a quarterback controversy but he is still inconsistent at best. Unfortunately for OSU, he was at his best last year in Stillwater en route to a Longhorn victory. The Pokes' best bet is to get a few hits on him early and get in his head. Texas has a stable of talent but its ability to execute could haunt it.
The defense returns most of its key contributors and needs to improve based on that experience if the Horns are going to be in the conference title discussion. They gave up a school record 404.2 yards per game last year and the pressure continues to mount on coordinator Manny Diaz. A lot of the team's hopes center on Jackson Jeffcoat and Jordan Hicks coming off of season-ending injuries.
11/23 vs. Baylor
Baylor has officially arrived under coach Art Briles and this Bear team could shape up the second-straight conference title contender on OSU's schedule. The Cowboys' dominance of BU came to a halt last season with a 41-34 loss in Waco so there should be plenty of motivation on OSU's end of things.
Bryce Petty takes over the reins under center with three years of experience in Briles' system aiding his transition. Also benefiting Petty will be a bevy of skill position talent. Tevin Reese and Levi Norwood headline a loaded receiving corps and running back Lache Seastrunk is the preseason Big 12 offensive player of the year. Backup RB Glasco Martin is a load in short-yardage situations, as well, giving Baylor plenty of opportunities to duplicate its offensive production from 2012, when it ranked No. 4 in scoring, No. 4 in passing and No. 2 overall in the country.
Sounds like a BCS contender after the offensive synopsis? Well, now it's time to talk defense. BU might have finished No. 2 in total offense but it finished the exact opposite in defense, ranking 119th out of 120 teams. Experience is working in Baylor's favor with eight returning starters and the continuity of the group started to show in the latter half of last season, helping the Bears to win five of their final six games. Linebacker Bryce Hager returns after leading the Big 12 with 124 tackles in 2012.
12/7 vs. Oklahoma
Oklahoma State has the luxury of hosting the majority of its tough games in Payne County in 2013 and finishes things off with a bang welcoming arch rival Oklahoma to Stillwater.
OU is a bit of a question mark heading into the season after a drawn-out quarterback competition ended with a surprise in Trevor Knight earning the job over Blake Bell. Knight and Bell both bring a rushing element unseen from the Sooners in recent years at the position and will be further aided by arguably the league's best offensive line and a steady rushing attack from Damien Williams and Brennan Clay. The Sooners also feature a deep, talented receiving corps and the conference's best fullback. Essentially, this offense is loaded and will be as successful as Knight and offensive coordinator Josh Heupel can make it.
Furthering the trend seen from other conference foes, things aren't as rosy on the defensive side of things. OU returns just three starters from a disappointing defense that got exploited by West Virginia, Baylor, OSU and Texas A&M in 2012 – basically any offense with a spread system. Mike Stoops' rebuilding job in year No. 2 is going to be a tough one coming off the worst statistical season defensively in school history.
If OSU lives up to its preseason billing, a win against OU in this game could signal the second-straight time a Bedlam victory in Boone Pickens Stadium resulted in a Big 12 title for the Cowboys.