The Big 12 is up for grabs in 2013. Without a clear frontrunner, this conference should be one of the most entertaining battles for the top spot in the nation this year.
A strong case could be made Oklahoma State is the team to beat in the Big 12, but like the rest of the teams in the conference, the Cowboys have question marks.
The offense should be among the best in the Big 12, but quarterback Clint Chelf needs to prove he can be effective for a full season, and the offensive line needs to find three new starters. The biggest area of concern has to be on defense.
Oklahoma State is thin on proven defensive ends, and the secondary ranked 110th nationally against the pass last year.
With a schedule that features home games against TCU, Kansas State, Oklahoma and Baylor, it’s easy to see why Oklahoma State was picked during Big 12 Media Days as the early favorite.
What will Oklahoma State's record at the end of the 2013 regular season? Athlon’s panel of experts debates:
Oklahoma State's 2013 Game-by-Game Predictions
8/31 Mississippi State (Houston
9/7 at UTSA
9/28 at West Virginia
10/5 Kansas State
10/26 at Iowa State
11/2 at Texas Tech
11/16 at Texas
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Under coach Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State has been a model of consistency. The Cowboys have won at least seven games in each of the last seven years, including a 23-3 stretch from 2010-11. There’s no question Oklahoma State has joined the ranks of the Big 12 elite, and despite a rebuilding year in 2012, managed to go 8-5 with three losses coming by seven points or less. The Cowboys are my pick to win the Big 12 this season, and with a schedule that features home games against Kansas State, TCU, Baylor and Oklahoma, the conference title will run through Stillwater. Senior quarterback Clint Chelf played well in limited action last season, and he will be surrounded by plenty of weapons at running back and receiver. The defense has to play better, but new coordinator Glenn Spencer could be what this unit needs to fix some of the issues from last year. Considering how close the top teams are in the Big 12, two losses will likely win the conference title.
Mike Perez, (@OrangePowerCom), OrangePower.com
Oklahoma State has had four offensive coordinators during Mike Gundy's eight-year head coaching tenure (including Gundy himself) and each season the offense continues to churn like a well-oiled machine. Expect more of the same this season with Mike Yurcich becoming the newest offensive coordinator to take the reins. Once again, the determining factor of the Cowboys' season will be the level of play they can get from the defense. With linebacker coach turned defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer at the helm, expect to see a more aggressive defense on the field than in year's past. The Cowboys have the talent and experience to get through the non-conference portion of the schedule unscathed and with a relatively down year for the Big 12 I don't expect more than one or two losses for the season. If defensive NFL prospects Calvin Barnett and Justin Gilbert live up to expectations and the OSU defense is able to take advantage of the more aggressive scheme, the Cowboys very well may be a dark horse contender for the BCS Championship game.
If there was ever a season for Oklahoma State to seize the Big 12, this would be it. With the quarterback uncertainty at Oklahoma and Texas, not to mention the Longhorns' recent "slide," Mike Gundy's team appears to be well positioned to win the conference. Offense has been Gundy's trademark since he took over in Stillwater, and even with a new offensive coordinator in Mike Yurcich and unproven starters in quarterback Clint Chelf and running back Jeremy Smith, this Cowboys team should score its fair share of points. The defense has seven starters returning, including experience at every level, and should be able to improve on last year's poor performance against the pass (110th in the nation).
The other thing Oklahoma State has going in its favor this fall is its schedule. The opener with Mississippi State in Houston will be tough, but otherwise the Cowboys should breeze through their non-conference slate. OSU gets five home Big 12 games, with the toughest road test by far coming in Austin, Texas, in the middle of November. However, even there the Cowboys get a break as that game is sandwiched between home dates with Kansas and Baylor. As long as the Pokes don't slip up when they have back-to-back road games in Ames, Iowa, and Lubbock, Texas, they will be in a position to take advantage of a home slate that features Kansas State, TCU and Oklahoma. The Cowboys have gone 17-3 at Boone Pickens Stadium over the last three seasons. The bar has been raised in Stillwater, and as long as the offense does what it does and the defense can show some moderate improvement, there's a good chance that Oklahoma State just may be able to clear it this fall.
David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Mike Gundy did a wildly underrated coaching job last season. The Cowboys lost Brandon Weeden and needed to start three different quarterbacks to replace him, and they still finished in the top 10 nationally in passing, yards per game and points per game. The 5-4 Big 12 record isn’t pretty, but Oklahoma State lost one-score games to Texas, Oklahoma and Baylor, the last two on the road. For 2013, I’ve picked Oklahoma State to lose two Big 12 games, which may be enough to win the league. The truth is, there’s not much that’s going to be predictable in this conference. Oklahoma State, though, benefits from a good home schedule, drawing rival OU, Baylor and TCU at home. The pick here that sticks out is the Texas Tech loss. The Red Raiders will be OK, and strange things happen to Big 12 frontrunners in Lubbock.
Chris Williams, (@ChrisMWilliams), CycloneFanatic.com
Oklahoma State is without question the safest pick to win the Big 12 in 2013 but I'm wondering if replacing four assistant coaches might not take its toll on Mike Gundy's program this season? Maybe it won't. After all, Gundy seems to do just fine as he loses offensive coordinators on an annual basis (it seems like it at least). OSU won't have any problems starting off 5-0 but that sixth game vs. TCU is a real swing game. I have TCU winning the league and that game as well, but should the Cowboys knock off the Horned Frogs, running the table until its road trip to Austin is very realistic. OSU's final three games are all tough. I see 10-2 as a best-case scenario for the Cowboys but 9-3 is the pick.
Allen Kenney, @BlatantHomerism, BlatantHomerism.com
Mike Gundy has done a fantastic job of growing Oklahoma St. from a middle-of-the-road program in the Big 12 that is consistently competing for the conference crown. In fact, I'm picking the Cowboys to win the league for the second time in three years. The experience at quarterback is a big plus in a year with so much turnover at the position throughout the conference, and Clint Chelf will have plenty of weapons at his disposal. The defense also boasts impact players at all three levels: Calvin Barnett up front, Shaun Lewis at linebacker and Justin Gilbert in the secondary.
To me, the big concern with OSU this year is the Pokes' tendency to take their eye off the ball. I'm betting one team that has no business beating OSU pulls it off. How about at Texas Tech? The Red Raiders have enough offensive firepower to at least put a scare into the Pokes, and they'll be playing their ninth game under new coach Kliff Kingsbury and his staff. That's enough time to get everything in place to spring an upset.
That lone loss will likely keep OSU out of the national championship game, but another BCS bowl should make for a nice consolation prize.
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