I watched Oklahoma State’s game against Mississippi State on Saturday and have digested pretty much every story, report, video, tweet and other type of coverage available — so now it’s time for my thoughts on the game.
(I’ll try to do this for each OSU game this year. I know there’s a ton of coverage out there, but what’s wrong with adding one more voice to the chorus, right?)
1. The QB situation: I’m not upset that J.W. Walsh has been picked, although I do think it was peculiar the way it happened. Then again, Mike Gundy has been known to not exactly handle quarterback situations in the smoothest fashion. (There was the whole, “There’s been a twist at the quarterback position,” from the early days of Gundy’s tenure, and of course Bobby Reid vs. Zac Robinson a couple years later, and then Alex Cate vs. Brandon Weeden.) For however bad Clint Chelf looked as he floated screen passes into the ground two yards behind his receivers, or fired that one ill-advised pass into triple-coverage, the demotion still seems very swift and severe — as if it were indeed pre-ordained. Considering that, why even run Chelf out there in the first place? Again, Gundy. That being said, I think it was the right call. I was talking to my brother (and fellow OSU alum) on the phone Saturday morning, and made the point to him that however good Chelf was at the end of last year, that will be the best he will ever be. He’s too old now — in terms of 20-something college football players — to really make any great leap from year to year. If it got to the point where Walsh could pass the ball anywhere near as well as Chelf, it wouldn’t make sense to play Chelf any more. Walsh’s dynamic running tips the scale in his favor. So if Walsh did indeed improve his mechanics and throwing during the off-season, starting him instead of Chelf is the smart move to make. It just has happened in a kinda strange way.
2. The greatest defense of all time: I’m not buying it. We should all know as long-time OSU fans that the true measure of OSU’s defense is not taken until they face a Big 12 team with a mobile quarterback who slings the ball around to five different wide receivers like 40 times a game. You know, like pretty much every good team in the Big 12. OSU’s strength as a defense is best shown against a lackluster middle- to lower-tier SEC team that stubbornly tries to run straight up the middle on 90 percent of its snaps. Of course they could stop that kind of a potent attack! Don’t buy the hype, people. Talk to me about OSU’s defense in a month’s time and we’ll see. (I view OSU’s defense like a mid-2000s game against Texas — it might look good at the beginning, but let’s see how things wrap up before we get too excited.)
3. The team’s identity: There’s every good chance OSU will be 5-0 heading into the Oct. 19 home game against TCU. What troubles me is that I don’t know if we’ll know by then what kind of team OSU really is. Will the defense really be overly stressed by UTSA, Lamar, West Virginia (William and Mary!!) or Kansas State (North Dakota State!!)? Will the offense really have to open it up to compete with these teams? I don’t think we’ll know until the middle of October what we have on our hands. That’s how little of a test Mississippi State turned out to be. OSU ran a rather vanilla offense, when you think about it — can they turn up the playcalling and execution against better teams? We may not know for a month and a half.
4. The schedule: While a lot of people cited OSU’s schedule — which features most of the conference’s best teams traveling to Stillwater — as a reason for picking the Cowboys to win the conference, that thing makes me nervous by how back-loaded it looks now. In know it’s early, but Texas, Baylor and OU over the last three weeks of the schedule doesn’t seem like the hottest thing right now, even if two of the three are at BPS. You gotta play everyone anyway, but it would be nice if the schedule broke in a way to spread those games out over the course of the season a little more evenly. Otherwise you could close your season losing to two decent teams and then get dropped to a no-name bowl because you’re not a hot team at the moment. It’d suck to see something like that happen.
5. Kicking game: Maybe I’m being overly paranoid, but I’m somewhat frightened by OSU’s field-goal-kicking situation. Ben Grogan appeared to me to kick his first extra point attempt dangerously low. And a bit off-center, if I’m criticizing. Then his first field goal attempt was low and blocked. Then he still appeared a little sketchy with his ball flight on the subsequent PATs. Not good signs. Maybe he can correct things mechanically for more loft, but shouldn’t you have that straightened out prior to the game/season? And of course, if things don’t work out with Grogan, I know a certain 30-something former soccer player who I’m pretty sure hasn’t used up any college football eligibility. You may not put much stock into the kicking game, and maybe you’re right. Because after all, it’s not like one kick that misses by an inch or two could keep you out of your best chance ever at playing for the national championship, or anything.