STILLWATER — Coming off a year in which the Cowboys had the best team in the Big 12. Picked to finish in the middle of the conference. A quarterback landscape that includes a hotshot freshman and J.W. Walsh. One side of the ball facing major issues.
This OSU football season sure looks like the 2012 OSU football season.
These Cowboys are wiped out on defense, returning just four starters, and are picked fifth in the Big 12. The 2012 Cowboys were wiped out of offensive star power. No Brandon Weeden. No Justin Blackmon. No Josh Cooper. They were picked fourth in the Big 12.
“We have some young guys that are going to have to step up and play this year,” said cornerback Kevin Peterson. “We lose guys every year; it’s just unfortunate that we lost a lot of guys this year. We have to rebuild and get our guys rolling and able to play fast.”
In 2012, the Cowboys were bushwhacked 59-38 at Arizona, then entered an injury-induced quarterback carousel. But OSU stayed in Big 12 title contention until Thanksgiving Saturday, when they fell to the Sooners in overtime at Owen Field. OSU finished a respectable 8-5.
A similar finish in 2014 would be solid for a program that seems to have reached the status of elite football every other year, sandwiched around a catch-your-breath season.
“You can go back to early in my career when I was just starting up as a head coach,” Mike Gundy said. “I don't remember the exact year since they all kind of run together, but with the turnover between last year and this year, we're pretty much back to base one. That's where we are as a football team in a number of areas.”
The Cowboys were inexperienced in spots in 2012. And it showed, at times. It will show in 2014. But the Cowboys aren’t doomed to a rebuilding season. They showed that in 2012, when they were fourth-down stops against Texas and OU from going 10-3.
“It's definitely motivation, knowing that people doubt us,” said cornerback Ashton Lampkin. “That's not even in sports. That's in life, too. When people doubt you, you feel like you've got to prove those people wrong and that's what we want to do.”
Once OSU gets beyond the Florida State dragon on Aug. 30, the Cowboys could build some momentum. OSU might be favored in every other game through October. It’s not far-fetched to see the Cowboys sitting at 7-1 when they go to Kansas State the day after Halloween.
At OSU Media Day on Saturday, the Cowboys played the underdog card.
“I feel like it's a true motivator, because what underdog do you know that doesn't like to prove someone wrong?” asked defensive tackle James Castleman. “I love the fact that they make us underdogs all the time. I've been like that ever since I've been here. They always either talk bad about the team or about the defense. So I love being the underdog, because I love proving someone wrong.”
Not to be picky, but the Cowboys weren’t underdogs in 2013. They were picked to win the Big 12 and would have won it with a little Bedlam aggression.
But in 2014? Yep. The Cowboys are underdogs against the Big 12’s best. Just like in 2012, which proved to be quite the interesting season.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.