Cowboys Sked Now Looks Favorable
By John Helsley
follow me on twitter @jjhelsley
Once upon a time, back before the season started, I considered OSU unlucky in terms of the schedule.
Unlucky in that the Cowboys had the wrong home/road split of games. Unlucky in that, in this “rebuilding” year, their swing games were in the wrong stadiums. I thought they could beat Texas Tech, Kansas State and Kansas at home, yet considered them significant underdogs with games against those teams on the road.
Likewise, I thought the Pokes could handle Baylor or A&M anywhere — they won at both places a year ago, and the Aggies, for all the love outsiders want to shower on them annually, are inconsistent enough to win or lose to anyone, anywhere.
Granted, OSU’s best shot against Nebraska and Oklahoma comes at Boone Pickens Stadium, which is where those clashes occur. But realistically, they were losses.
So as far as swing games, those matchups that could swing the Cowboys’ win total from 6 to, say, 8 or 9… the schedule didn’t seem to fall their way.
Time for a re-check.
Things have changed. OSU is better than advertised. And suddenly, those trips to Lubbock and Manhattan and Lawrence appear much more doable. Waco, meanwhile, looks much more dangerous.
And having seen Nebraska Thursday night, and knowing the drastic difference in the Cowboys’ Bedlam performances when the games are in Norman, it’s good they get them both at the Pickens Palace. And maybe, just maybe, there’s never been a better time to take on Texas in Austin.
Clearly, any six-win projection was too low.
Now the question is how high can they go?
Assuming a win at Louisiana-Lafayette — that’s safe, right? — the Cowboys are 5-0. From there, let’s add them up.
OSU should beat Baylor and Kansas.
I think they’re better than Tech and K-State, although those locales haven’t been kind to OSU — the Cowboys are winless at both places during the Big 12 era. The Red Raiders are reeling, struggling to meld spread offensive talent with Tommy Tuberville’s more conservative mindset. The Wildcats, meanwhile, simply aren’t fast enough, which was painfully clear against the Huskers. Sure, it’s a shaky limb to assume wins in both Lubbock and Manhattan, yet for fun, let’s do it.
Getting interesting, huh?
Nebraska’s going to be a major test, bringing its revamped option running game to Stillwater, where the Cowboys will have one short week to prepare for the radically different approach. But OSU will be much faster and much more physical than K-State. Consider this, too: The Wildcats ranked last in the Big 12 and No. 102 nationally in rushing defense… before Thursday night’s game. And the Huskers have had their own struggles with spread passing attacks. The Cowboys have a shot.
At Texas? That’s never easy. Still, remember this: UCLA won there. And won big.
The Sooners? Hey, it’s in Stillwater, where the Cowboys are always competitive in Bedlam, even when the talent gap is wide, which it’s not this time.
Quick, somebody throw some cold water in my face.
No, I’m not calling for 12-0. Not even suggesting it’s possible. Zero percent chance.
But six wins? It’s time to raise the bar, several notches.
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