2010 record: 11-2, 6-2 (T-2nd Big 12 South)
2010 bowl: 36-10 win over Arizona in the Alamo Bowl
2010 final AP/coaches’ ranking: 13th/10th
Coach: Mike Gundy, seventh year; 47-29 overall, 25-23 conference
Offensive coordinator: Todd Monken, first year
2010 offensive rankings: third, scoring offense (44.2 ppg); third, total offense (520.2 ypg); 36th, rushing offense (174.4 ypg); third, passing offense (345.8 ypg)
Defensive coordinator: Bill Young, third year
2010 defensive rankings: 61st, scoring defense (26.4 ppg); 88th, total defense (409.5 ypg); 37th, rushing defense (133.7 ypg); 115th, passing defense (275.9 ypg)
Returning offensive starters: 9
Returning defensive starters: 6
Location: Stillwater, Okla.
Stadium: Boone-Pickens Stadium (FieldTurf; 60,218)
Last league title: 1976
2011 schedule: [view]
2011 roster: [view]
2010 statistics: [view]
Snapshot: Even with the loss of offensive mastermind Dana Holgorsen to West Virginia, the Cowboys will still maintain the ability to match any team in the country point for point, yard for yard. The loss of running back Kendall Hunter will certainly be a fair-to-middling blow, but the return of quarterback Brandon Weeden and All-World wide receiver Justin Blackmon will more than mitigate the loss of Hunter’s production. On top of that, all but one of last year’s top six receivers return, as does the entire offensive line.
There’s little doubt OSU will maintain the ability to put points on the board; the question is, will they be able to do a stouter job in stopping opponents from putting them up than they did in 2010? The Cowboys will be forced to do it by replacing almost half the starters from a unit that was in the middle third in points allowed and the bottom half in total yards yielded.
Can Oklahoma State somehow manage to top last year’s school-record 11-win season? An improved defense and two games in particular will determine how close the Cowboys can get to — or surpass — last year’s historic season.
Make-or-break games: Sept. 24 at Texas A&M; Dec. 3 vs. Oklahoma
No offense to the games at Missouri and at Texas Tech — those aren’t exactly Little Sisters of the Poor contests — the matchups with the Aggies and Sooners, after last year’s breakout season, will determine how the Cowboys follow up the level they reached in 2010. The Bedlam rivalry with their in-state nemesis is a big-game showdown annually regardless of the situation, although the stakes have been upped in recent years as the Oklahoma State program has made strides toward being a year-in, year-out contender on the national stage. Thus, the make-or-break game may actually come much earlier in the season with the trip to College Station. Even in September, the game has the makings of a classic matchup: the video game-like offense of the Cowboys vs. the stifling, suffocating defense of the Aggies. If the Cowboys can manage to pull out the road win, and take care of the business they should in between, it would set up what could be an epic, one-for-the-ages showdown in early December. And, in the conference’s first year without one, a de facto Big 12 championship game.
Heisman hopeful: Weeden
I would love nothing more than to put Blackmon here. He caught 111 passes for nearly 1,800 yards and 20 touchdowns last year, but what did that get him? A very distant fifth finish in the Heisman voting. Blackmon, it appears, would need more than 2,000 in receiving yards and approach 30 TDs before the voters would even give him serious consideration. Weeden, on the other hand, has a couple of things going in his favor. One, he plays the position Heisman voters adore and seemingly solely focus on. Two, he plays for a team that should be high up in the rankings, another key barometer for the voters. And three, he will likely put up ungodly gaudy numbers that will be difficult if not impossible to ignore. Add it all up, and Weeden, barring injury or another unforeseen catastrophe, will be in the middle of the Heisman discussion from the start of the season in September all the way through Bedlam in December.
Postseason projection: Sugar Bowl