Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
The preseason hype around the Oklahoma State program has been constant, almost commencing at the end of the Cowboys' Holiday Bowl loss to Oregon.
Oklahoma State owns one of the most varied offenses in the nation with playmakers like quarterback Zac Robinson, running back Kendall Hunter and wide receiver Dez Bryant. And massive tackle Russell Okung might be the best offensive lineman in the Big 12.
The Cowboys will be able to score with anybody, but the biggest factor in whether they fulfill the high preseason rankings will be a defense that has had trouble matching up against high-powered attacks like Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech in recent seasons.
Here are three predictions for the Cowboys:
1. Oklahoma State's offense will remain the most balanced in the Big 12. Over the last two seasons, the Cowboys have been almost equal in passing yards and rushing yards. The Cowboys averaged 245 yards rushing and 243 passing yards last season and 243 yards rushing and passing in 2007.
I don't think that will change too much this season. The Cowboys have been successful with Hunter running and Robinson throwing the ball. Why mess with success?
2. Bill Young will coax more sacks out of his defense. Of course, it would be hard for the Cowboys to struggle more in pass defense than they did last season when the Cowboys ranked 107th in sacks and 109th in pass defense.
Young has worked very hard with his defensive front, particularly returning starting defensive tackle Derek Burton and defensive end Ugo Chinasa. I think increased defensive pressure from the front will be the key to Oklahoma State's South Division title hopes.
3. The Cowboys still don't have the talent -- particularly defensively -- to match up with either Texas or Oklahoma. Oklahoma State can score with anybody in the nation. But their inability to have the kind of defense that can consistently stop Big 12 powers like Texas and Oklahoma will ultimately be the Cowboys' undoing. Mike Gundy has upgraded the recruiting and improved the players there. But he still hasn't caught either the Longhorns or the Sooners, particularly in depth issues.