The Oklahoma State Cowboys became one of the surprise teams in college football through their first ten games in the 2015 season. They were able to start 10-0 including a victory against TCU (ranked number 8 at the time) 49-29. The season ended poorly for the Cowboys with three straight losses to Oklahoma, Baylor, and Ole Miss.
The Cowboys return 18 starters including the star duo of quarterback Mason Rudolph and wide receiver James Washington. Oklahoma State is considered one of the dark horses to overtake Oklahoma to win the Big 12. In this article we will be looking at part one of a two part Oklahoma State schedule analysis. Do the Pokes have what it takes to win the Big 12 in 2016? Will they take advantage of 18 returning starters this season?
Oklahoma State 2016 Schedule Analysis: Games 1-5
Game 1: Oklahoma State vs. Southeastern Louisiana, September 3rd, 2:30 pm CT
The Pokes start their season against Southeastern Louisiana out of the FCS. The Lions are 0-3 against FBS teams over the last three seasons. This could be an important tune up game for Oklahoma State before facing an underrated Central Michigan and Pitt. Mason Rudolph will use this game to get used to being the only starting quarterback, since J.W. Walsh graduated.
The Cowboys played one game last season against an FCS team, which was Central Arkansas, resulting in a 32-8 victory. Look for backup quarterbacks John Kolar and Taylor Cornelius to get some playing time in this game, especially if OSU gets a big lead early. Watch out for Jarell Owens and Jordan Brailford at defensive end in their first game taking over for NFL Draft pick Emmanuel Ogbah and Jimmy Bean.
Expect OSU to give Southeastern Louisiana a good dose of Stanford transfer running back Barry Sanders, Jr. Washington will test the Lions deep as the Cowboys rack up more than 500 total yards on offense. Cornerback Ramon Richards has a breakout game and intercepts the Lions twice. Jordan Sterns and Jordan Burton have strong games to start the season, notching more than 20 tackles combined. Kolar will get his first taste of action throwing an interception, but also racking up two total touchdowns (one on the ground and one in the air).
Oklahoma State 52, Southeastern Louisiana 17
Game 2: Oklahoma State vs. Central Michigan, September 10th, 11:00 am CT
After a 35 point victory in week 1 against Southeastern Louisiana, the Cowboys are confident to face an underrated Central Michigan team. The Chippewas are looking to pull off a big upset to give them some momentum entering their MAC schedule.
Central Michigan quarterback Cooper Rush gets off to a hot start throwing for 125 yards and one touchdown in the first quarter. Rudolph matches every point the Chippewas put up and more as the Cowboys end the first quarter up 17-10. The Cowboys look like they will start to pull away in the second quarter after Sanders finds a big gap in the Central Michigan defensive line for a 45 yard touchdown run. On the next series, Rush throws his first interception of the game as OSU safety Tre Flowers gets his first pick of the season. The Cowboys kick a field goal to make it a 27-10 game. The Chippewas will not go away as Rush finds receiver Jesse Kroll for a 25 yard touchdown pass on the last drive before halftime to make it 27-17.
The third quarter goes back and forth as the Cowboys score on their first drive after halftime on a eight yard run by Sanders. Central Michigan running back Devon Spalding scores his first touchdown of the season on the next drive. The Cowboys put up two Ben Grogan field goals to end the third quarter. Rudolph finds Washington for a deep touchdown, and Blake Jarwin notches his first touchdown of the year. The Pokes look like they will end the game on a 20 point run before the Chippewas score a late touchdown. Central Michigan gets ran out of Stillwater in a much more lopsided game than in 2015.
Oklahoma State 54, Central Michigan 31
Game 3: Oklahoma State vs. Pittsburgh, September 17th, 2:30 pm CT
Pitt comes into this match-up after winning their first two games of the season, including a big victory the week before against Penn State. James Conner comes into the game as one of the hottest running backs in the country with 425 rushing yards and six touchdowns. The Panthers are looking to make a big statement before opening their ACC slate the following week against North Carolina. The Cowboys are playing in their last non-conference game before Big 12 play starts against Baylor the following week.
Rudolph gets off to a tough start going three-and-out on his first two drives of the game. Pitt quarterback Nathan Peterman is able to find Zach Challingsworth to put up the first score of the game. Things don’t get any better for the Pokes when Pitt safety Jordan Whitehead intercepts Rudolph for his second pick of the year. Conner breaks a big 35 yard run to get Pitt into field goal position to make the game 10-0. OSU responds with a Jhajuan Seales touchdown to make it 10-7 at the end of the first quarter. The Pokes defense holds strong before halftime, and Grogan is able to notch two field goals before the break.
Pitt shows off their impressive running back depth as Qadree Ollison punches in a four yard score on the first possession of the second half. Rudolph gets off to a poor start once again in the second half as the Cowboys have to punt it away on their first two possessions of the second half. However, the Cowboys score two straight Washington touchdowns to re-take the lead. The Cowboys defense stays strong, holding Pitt to only one more field goal.
Oklahoma State 27, Pittsburgh 20
Game 4: Oklahoma State at Baylor, September 24th (Kickoff Time TBA)
Oklahoma State comes into McLane Stadium 3-0, finishing their out of conference slate strong with a win against Pitt. Baylor enters the game 3-0 as well. However, Baylor has experienced some growing pains after the most tumultuous off-season of any team in recent memory. The Bears are favored to win according to the odds and are hoping to get their third straight victory against the Pokes. Baylor has Seth Russell available to play OSU this time around. In 2015, Jarrett Stidham got injured against OSU and Baylor had to play Chris Johnson at quarterback.
The Pokes start off fast with a screen pass to Jalen McCleskey, on the third play of the game, for a 55 yard touchdown. Russell connects with K.D. Cannon for his Big 12 leading eighth touchdown of the year on the following drive. Both teams use their running games to lead their offenses for the rest of the first half. Sanders and Chris Carson combine for three touchdowns in the first half. Shock Linwood and Johnny Jefferson each get one.
To kick off the third quarter, Rudolph connects with Jarwin for a touchdown. Linwood fumbles and Burton recovers the ball for OSU. McCleskey takes his second screen pass for a touchdown on the day. Baylor makes a furious 17 point comeback in the fourth quarter, but fall four points short.
Oklahoma State 42, Baylor 38
Game 5: Oklahoma State vs. Texas, October 1st (Kickoff Time TBA)
Coming off another close victory against Baylor, the Cowboys look to win their first game at home against Texas since 1997. Oklahoma State was able to squeak by Texas, thanks to a special teams gaffe, in 2015 by a score of 30-27. Texas’ true freshman quarterback Shane Buechele has had a solid start to the 2016 season, throwing for seven touchdowns in his first three games. The Longhorns come into the game 2-1, with their only loss being a 35-24 defeat at the hands of Notre Dame.
The game starts off slow, with a Grogan field goal being the only points on the scoreboard. Buechele gets the Horns on the board, with 12 yard touchdown pass to John Burt. Texas takes a 14-3 lead in the second quarter, after a 30 yard touchdown run by Chris Warren III. Rudolph connects with Washington for a 45 yard touchdown pass to finish off the first half.
The second half kicks off with a 40 yard field goal kicked by Mitchell Becker of the Horns. Sanders caps off the next drive for the Cowboys with a five yard touchdown run. On the next drive, Buechele is picked off by Ashton Lampkin and returned for a touchdown to tie the game at 17. Both defenses hold strong through the end of the third and beginning of the fourth quarter. McCleskey returns a punt for a 75 yard touchdown return to give OSU the lead. Jordan Brailford seals the game for the Cowboys with a sack of Shane Buechele on fourth down.
Oklahoma State 24, Texas 17
Be sure to check out predictions for games six through 12 of the 2016 Oklahoma State schedule.