College football is finally back, with Oklahoma State matching up against SEC foe Mississippi State in a key nonconference game in Houston Saturday afternoon.
Like in the past, we’ll examine a few storylines and make a couple predictions for each game.
Four questions (normally this will be three, but there are several unknowns heading into the first game)
1. How is the quarterback situation managed?
Does the tandem of Clint Chelf and J.W. Walsh look more like the end of 2012, where Chelf started and Walsh ran a specialty package? Is it an extension of that? Or is it really a full-blown two-quarterback system? If Walsh is really going to run the full offense, I’m most curious to see how much his arm has improved.
2. How will both coordinators handle a game day?
Mike Gundy said he’s not concerned about Mike Yurcich or Glenn Spencer. Spencer’s been around before (and briefly served as DC for the first two games last year during Bill Young’s health scare). Yurcich said that, essentially, the one thing that’s the same about his gig last year (Shippensburg) and this year is the actual football part of it. How fast does this Cowboy offense really go? How aggressive is this defense? We’ll finally get to see.
3. Which newcomers immediately emerge?
Names to keep an eye on: Ben Grogan (that’s obvious), Sam Wren, Marcell Ateman, Ra’Shaad Samples, Rennie Childs, Brandon Garrett, Tyler Patmon, 1-2 of those true freshmen defensive backs.
4. How will special teams look?
Lots of new guys here, with Grogan, a true freshman, handling field goals and extra points, transfer Kip Smith handling kickoffs and punts and Josh Stewart stepping into the punt returner role.
5. How will Joe Wickline patch up the offensive line?
Devin Davis’ season-ending knee injury was the big news item of the week. How will Wickline shuffle guys around to replace his projected starting left tackle? Parker Graham will likely move back to his old spot, at least initially. Chris Grisbhy could be pushed into the starting lineup at guard. Beyond that? We’ll see.
Key matchup: Mississippi State offensive line vs. Oklahoma State defensive line
This should be a fun battle in the trenches, with OSU’s defensive tackle duo of Calvin Barnett and James Castleman going up against the interior of the Mississippi State offensive line, led by preseason All-American Gabe Jackson. This will also be a strong initial test for the Cowboys’ new crop of defensive ends.
Uniform prediction: Orange helmet (OSU logo), black jersey, orange pants
We’ve now reached the point on OSU’s uniform jersey where this decision will often need to be made: Go with a new look or go with a sharp look that has worked well in the past? This is a new look I’d like to see. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see orange jerseys for the first game–maybe the extremely popular black-orange-black combo.
Final score prediction: OSU 38, Mississippi State 26
A double-digit victory for the Cowboys, but not quite the two-touchdown win that Vegas expects. I would not be surprised if this game is close heading into the fourth quarter, but I think OSU’s offensive tempo eventually wears the Bulldogs down.