STILLWATER — We've reached the midpoint of the Oklahoma State season, with the Cowboys sitting at 5-1 (2-1 Big 12), ranked in the top 20 of both major polls and still very much alive in a wide-open conference title race.
Through the first six games, the Cowboys have made two quarterback switches. The defense has been stout. Special teams have sometimes been quite special, and other times, not so much.
As common in the world of college, let's hand out some midseason grades.
Who saw this coming before the season? It's impossible to pin the Cowboys' surprising offensive struggles on one person or one area. J.W. Walsh overtook Clint Chelf as the starting quarterback two series into the opener against Mississippi State and has been inconsistent throwing the football and largely bottled up running the ball during conference play. Chelf wasn't great after being reinserted against TCU, but does give the Cowboys more ability to throw down the field. The running game has been largely ineffective. The offensive line has holes. That leads to a unit that has slipped considerably compared to its production since installing the Air Raid spread in 2010. The Cowboys are averaging 440.2 yards and 35.7 points per game so far after averaging 547 yards and 45.7 points per game in 2012.
Glenn Spencer's revamped unit has largely held the Cowboys up while the offense has sputtered. OSU ranks second in the Big 12 with 16 takeaways, including 12 interceptions. Calvin Barnett has plugged the middle. Shaun Lewis and Caleb Lavey would be all-conference contenders if the season ended today. Justin Gilbert looks like a different player in the secondary after a disappointing 2012. The Cowboys rank in the top 4 in the Big 12 in scoring defense (18.3 points per game), rushing defense (117.5 yards per game) and total defense (355.2 yards per game).
SPECIAL TEAMS: C+
Difficult to rope all the areas of special teams into one category. OSU has been great on both sides of the return game, as Josh Stewart has already returned two punts for touchdowns while the kickoff coverage unit ranks sixth in the nation by allowing 16.94 yards per return. The kicking game, however, has been a different story. True freshman kicker Ben Grogan is just 6-of-12 on field goals this season, including a key 23-yard miss at West Virginia. Kip Smith has been sound overall as a punter, but will be most remembered so far for two bad boots that didn't make it 20 yards against the Mountaineers.
OFFENSIVE MVP: IR JOSH STEWART
The Cowboys' offense as a whole has regressed, but Stewart has remained one of the most dynamic playmakers in the conference. He's compiled 31 catches, 473 yards and two touchdowns so far this season, and his uncanny ability to make defenders miss in space makes him a threat to turn any touch into a big gain.
DEFENSIVE MVP: LB CALEB LAVEY
The middle linebacker has been all over the field for the Cowboys this season, leading the team with 45 tackles (6.5 for loss) while adding 1.5 sacks, two interceptions, one forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
TOP NEWCOMERS: WR JHAJUAN SEALES AND CB TYLER PATMON
There was lots of buzz about Seales heading into the season, and the redshirt freshman has delivered, ranking third on the team with 20 catches and 270 yards. Patmon, a post-graduate transfer from Kansas, has seen his role increase as the season has gone along and has totaled five pass breakups and one interception.