Cowboys should have great shot at Big 12 next season
BY JIMMIE TRAMEL World Sports Writer
Monday, November 26, 2012
11/26/12 at 5:24 AM
Related Story: OSU Football Notebook: Bowling strikes
Considering the personnel Oklahoma State lost, the Cowboys weren't expected to win a Big 12 championship in 2012.
OSU was picked fourth in the league's preseason poll. Mike Gundy's team was not among four squads receiving first-place votes.
But, until an overtime Bedlam road loss in which OSU never trailed until after the final play, it was mathematically possible for the Cowboys to finish the season as co-owner of the conference's best record.
Did OSU flirt with contender status one year ahead of schedule? Or was it more than flirting? The Cowboys would have beaten Texas and Oklahoma if they had made fourth-down stops on last-gasp drives by the Longhorns and Sooners.
OSU still has games to play this year, including a regular-season finale Saturday at Baylor and a bowl game.
But, looking far ahead, next season is one that sets up for the Cowboys to be a more legit contender.
Fifteen of 22 offensive and defensive players who started in Bedlam were underclassmen. (Senior starters were center Evan Epstein, guard Lane Taylor, receiver Isaiah Anderson, defensive end Nigel Nicholas, defensive end Ryan Robinson, linebacker Alex Elkins and cornerback Brodrick Brown.)
OSU has scored 62 touchdowns this season and players responsible for 61 of the TDs are expected to return, including senior fullback Kye Staley, who was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA, and injured senior receiver Tracy Moore, who is sitting out a redshirt season.
On paper (and barring significant defections), the Cowboys could be poised to chase another ring only two seasons after winning the first Big 12 title in school history.
"We've got a number of players coming back," Gundy said. "I don't know that the schedule really benefits things falling in place for us. But we do have a number of returning players that are really good."
Maybe Gundy was referencing a neutral-site (Houston) 2013 opener against Mississippi State. The coach has said many times that he wants to take it easy in non-league games so his team will be in the best position to chase a conference crown.
Or maybe Gundy was talking about grueling travel and the opponents that await at enemy stadiums. OSU will trek "only" 4,066 round-trip miles to participate in road games this season. The Cowboys will travel 7,068 round-trip miles for away-from-home games in 2013, including Big 12 road trips to Texas, West Virginia, Texas Tech and Iowa State.
But next year can wait. The Cowboys will try to put the wraps on a 2012 league season that was oh-so-close to being grand.
OSU can finish as high as third place in the conference. Gundy credited his team and Big 12 parity, telling reporters he has been saying for years that you will see more seven- and eight-win teams and fewer 10- and 11-win teams.
"And there are enough skill players (league-wide) that, week-to-week, the emotional balance and mental part of the team is so important," Gundy said.
"And in a 12-week season, it changes each week. Our guys did a good job of handling that this year and they have fought through some adversity and competed, and we've got another one to go here."
Sept. 1: vs. Savannah State W, 84-0
Sept. 8: at Arizona L, 59-38
Sept. 15: vs. La.-Lafayette W, 65-24
Sept. 29: vs. Texas L, 41-36
Oct. 13: at Kansas W, 20-14
Oct. 20: vs. Iowa State W, 31-10
Oct. 27: vs. TCU W, 36-14
Nov. 3: at Kansas State L, 44-30
Nov. 10: vs. West Virginia W, 55-34
Nov. 17: vs. Texas Tech W, 59-21
Nov. 24: at Oklahoma L, 51-48 (OT)
Dec. 1: at Baylor 11 a.m.
11 a.m. Saturday
Radio: KFAQ am1170
Original Print Headline: Next year sets up well for Cowboys
Jimmie Tramel 918-581-8389
OU's Javon Harris grabs OSU's Joseph Randle in Norman. STEPHEN PINGRY / Tulsa World