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Oklahoma State football: Cowboys still among Big 12 favorites despite uncertainty in Stillwater

Oklahoma State football is facing change that's unprecedented in the Mike Gundy era. But this much is sure — you still have to count the Cowboys among the favorites in the Big 12 next season.
by Jenni Carlson Published: January 14, 2013


photo - COLLEGE FOOTBALL / BOWL GAME / CELEBRATION: Oklahoma State's Jeremy Smith (31) celebrates a touchdown during the Heart of Dallas Bowl football game between the Oklahoma State University (OSU) and Purdue University at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas,  Tuesday,Jan. 1, 2013. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman
COLLEGE FOOTBALL / BOWL GAME / CELEBRATION: Oklahoma State's Jeremy Smith (31) celebrates a touchdown during the Heart of Dallas Bowl football game between the Oklahoma State University (OSU) and Purdue University at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Tuesday,Jan. 1, 2013. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman

What about the defense?

I could be snarky and say that the Cowboy defense couldn't play much worse than it did this season, but that wouldn't be nice or true. The defense wasn't all bad — even though those cushions by the defensive backs were maddening — and it returns a lot of good players. Calvin Barnett. James Castleman. Shaun Lewis. Caleb Lavey. Daytawion Lowe. Shamiel Gary. Justin Gilbert.

While Spencer has never coordinated a defense at college football's highest level, he will have lots of pieces with which to build.

So, for as much upheaval as the Cowboys have, they are in pretty good shape.

And if you look around the Big 12, there aren't any other teams that you would automatically place leaps and bounds ahead of OSU. Oklahoma and Texas are perennial favorites, but with all the upheaval in Norman, the Sooners head into this offseason as unhinged as they have been in a long time. And last we checked, David Ash was still the quarterback for the Longhorns.

We all know how well that's gone.

There are some promising teams in the league. TCU is a possible contender. Ditto for Baylor, which didn't lose a beat after the departure of Robert Griffin III. But do you look at either of those teams and say they're more capable of winning the Big 12 than OSU?

Me neither.

Add in the fact that OSU will play TCU, Baylor and OU at Boone Pickens Stadium, and that only adds to the Cowboys' chances of contending.

Right now, the league is wide open, and despite all of its changes, all of its departures, all of its uncertainty, OSU is still one of the teams that could jump into that top spot.

The Cowboys have lost some important people.

They shouldn't lose hope.

Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at (405) 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.

by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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