Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Is Oklahoma State headed for a drop-off?
By David Ubben
Oklahoma State won a school-record 11 games last season, which only fuels fan desires for even more victories. They've tasted it, you might say, and were a few bounces away from the program's first Big 12 Championship appearance.
So what's in store for the encore?
KC Joyner says the Cowboys are one of his five teams that may be headed for a significant drop-off next season. You'll need ESPN Insider access to read the whole thing, but here's what Joyner has to say about Boone's Boys.
Offensive hurdle: The Cowboys' offense will be going through more adjustments than a team that is replacing two starters normally would. Oklahoma State lost its offensive coordinator (Dana Holgorsen, now the head coach at West Virginia), an All-American running back (Kendall Hunter) and its No. 3 wideout (Bo Bowling).
Defensive hurdle: Oklahoma State's defense faced more plays from scrimmage than any other team in the Big 12 last year (1,069). Because the Cowboys' offensive game plan this season figures to be as fast-paced as the one Holgorsen called in 2010, it means that the six new starters on this side of the ball will have their endurance tested quite often.
X factor: Oklahoma State was the only Big 12 team to finish the 2010 season with a turnover margin of even or better in every conference contest. That feat will be hard to replicate.
Joyner makes plenty of interesting points that aren't quite so obvious, namely the increased impact of turnover on the defensive side of the ball for teams with high-paced offenses.
I don't see the Bowling loss as a big one; Josh Cooper can fill his role as long as he stays healthy, and I see Hubert Anyiam stepping in for a big season opposite Justin Blackmon.
The turnover advantages may make last season's accomplishments seem suspect, but Oklahoma State didn't play many close games where turnovers might have shifted the entire game, similar to what Texas experienced in 2010.
The season-defining Thursday night win over Texas A&M was the most obvious example (OSU won the turnover battle 5-3, and the game on a last-second field goal set up by, yes, a turnover), but the rest of the wins?
Oklahoma State won just one other game by single digits, an early season near disaster against Troy. The only other remotely close game was a 24-14 road win over Kansas State, but the Cowboys were forced to play without the Big 12's best player in 2010: Blackmon.
So, this isn't Michigan State in 2010 or Iowa in 2009 we're talking about, i.e. teams hanging on with late heroics to win tight games.
But what do you think? Is Oklahoma State headed for a drop-off? Vote in our poll.