Are Mike Gundy's Cowboys true contenders for the College Football Playoff?
The Pokes should find themselves in contention for the league title again in 2017. The Mason Rudolph-to-James Washington connection gives them the best quarterback-wide receiver combo of any offense in the nation. Meanwhile, the passing game is backed up by up-and-coming sophomore Justice Hill at running back and an offensive line that seems poised to take a step forward.
Do the Cowboys have the goods to make a run at the College Football Playoff? Athlon Sports polled a few writers to get their take on Oklahoma State’s realistic 2017 win/loss projection.
Oklahoma State Football Game-by-Game Predictions for 2017
Allen Kenney (@BlatantHomerism)
Oklahoma State doesn’t have a particularly daunting schedule in 2017. Non-conference opponent Pittsburgh will likely go through some growing pains early in the year. TCU, Oklahoma and Kansas State come to Stillwater. Texas will be adjusting to new head coach Tom Herman.
The Cowboys’ bigger obstacle lies more in how the games are set up. They play five straight games to start the year, three of which are on the road. Then there are back-to-back away games against Texas and West Virginia waiting in the middle of the season.
Lately, the Pokes have survived more than their fair share of close scrapes. In the last two seasons, OSU is 8-1 in games decided by a touchdown or less. Those kinds of breaks tend to turn against teams after a while.
Enough land mines are dotting OSU’s schedule this season to dash the hopes of a bid to the College Football Playoff. The Cowboys do have the firepower, though, to put themselves in position for a spot in the Big 12 title game in December.
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Oklahoma is the Big 12’s top team for 2017, but the gap between the Sooners and Cowboys is pretty small. Coach Mike Gundy’s team is loaded with firepower on offense, starting with quarterback Mason Rudolph and the nation’s best receiving corps. Running back Justice Hill is only going to get better as a sophomore, and the offensive line picked up offseason reinforcement with the addition of Cal graduate transfer Aaron Cochran. The biggest concern for Oklahoma State is on defense, where each level was hit with key personnel losses. But even with those concerns, the Cowboys could simply outscore every team on the schedule. Outside of the defense, the biggest challenge is a difficult road slate, which features trips to Texas Tech, Iowa State, Texas and West Virginia.
Matt Fortuna (@Matt_Fortuna)
There’s no reason to think that a Mason Rudolph-led Oklahoma State team can’t win the Big 12 this season, and the schedule serves as further proof of that. Oklahoma, longtime nemesis and the likely league co-favorite, has to come to Stillwater this season. So, too, does TCU and Kansas State.
The non-conference schedule is exciting — two-thirds of it, at least — and the Tulsa opener and trip to Pitt will be great tests for the Cowboys, albeit tests they should pass. But we often underestimate the cumulative effect of so many tough-but-winnable games on 18-22-year-olds, and that will catch up with the Pokes in their Oct. 28 trip to Morgantown, as WVU has spoiled big seasons before and will catch OSU right before Bedlam. Still, an 11-1 campaign is nothing to sneeze at, and the Pokes can enter the Big 12 title game with a legitimate shot to make the College Football Playoff in Mike Gundy’s 13th season in Stillwater.
Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer)
Oklahoma State is going to be a trendy pick to win the Big 12 and sneak into the College Football Playoff with good reason this season. The offense is absolutely loaded and the Cowboys might just be one of the more fun teams around to watch on a weekly basis with the combination of Mason Rudolph launching bombs to James Washington and that terrific receiving corps (to say nothing of tailback Justice Hill). There are concerns on defense with so many new starters but DC Glenn Spencer has done more with less before. OSU has enough talent to reach the renewed Big 12 title game this season but given the nature of the conference, a smooth and undefeated ride there seems unlikely.
Kevin McGuire (@KevinOnCFB)
Oklahoma State has the offense to do some damage in the Big 12, even in what could be difficult road trips to West Virginia and to Pittsburgh for a non-conference tilt. The defense should be above average as well, but could be exposed enough by some teams along the way to put a dent in Oklahoma State’s Big 12 championship hopes. Back-to-back games against West Virginia and Oklahoma should be the make-or-break point in the season, right in the middle of the year. If the Cowboys can earn a split in those two games, they have a chance to play for the Big 12 title. Lose both, and they will likely be out of the hunt.