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Cornelius the Wire-to-Wire QB in 2018? Mandeville Weighs in with Five Season Predictions

Mandeville has veteran gunslinger Taylor Cornelius starting every game for the Pokes this season.



I wanted to run this thing up as close as possible to the season – the equivalent of drafting your fantasy football team after the pre-season ends. Because whose preseason predictions aren’t intimately shaped by a rotation of three guards?

1. Chuba Hubbard + LD Brown + J.D. King Production > Justice Hill’s Production

This is a hot take right out of the gates that Old Takes Exposed could hang me on by the start of conference play. But I’ll buy a few shares of stock in Mike Gundy’s comments on limiting Justice Hill’s carries for the sake of his NFL career.

The OSU running back depth chart has taken the place of the 2017 Cowboy receiver depth chart begging the question – how can one offense feed all of these playmakers with just one ball? James Washington put up Biletnikoff numbers, Ateman went for 1,000+ yards and yet, the three-headed monster of Jalen McCleskey, Dillon Stoner, and Tyron Johnson combined for nearly as many yards (1,514) as the country’s best wide receiver (1,549).

If you take that level of offensive focus and apply it to the running game, look for the lesser backs to get into the ballpark with Hill’s numbers. Mike Gundy has historically played three running backs splitting carries in the ballpark of 60/30/10%. Out of the carries that went to running backs, Hill took 64% of carries in 2018, J.D. King took 24 percent, LD Brown got eight percent and Ja’ron Wilson carried four percent of handoffs. If Hill steps back five carries a game, this prediction gets awful darn close.

Perhaps the best support of this theory could be 2016 when Justice Hill ran for 1,142 and Chris Carson, Rennie Childs, and Barry J. Sanders combined for 889 yards.

2. It’s Now the Taylor Cornelius Show – Wire to Wire

While every other quarterback that has a realistic shot of playing are more dynamic runners than Corndog, his saving graces are familiarity and most importantly: the capacity to make all the throws.

Do you remember what it was like when J.W. Walsh and Mason Rudolph were competing for the job? Rudolph’s best case wasn’t his athleticism but his capacity to get the ball out and down the field. A vote for Taylor Cornelius over the other experienced quarterback on the roster (Dru Brown) appears to be a vote for the Rudolphian candidate.

Besides, what’s the point in Gundy pumping up Corndog? Why crown him the starter so early and not drag out the competition? There’s no gamesmanship in that – it’s clearly an acknowledgment that the others won’t be in Cornelius’ neighborhood of production. With that being said, reading pieces like this one do have me excited about Brown’s potential.

3. Dramatic Improvement in Points Allowed Per Game

Here’s the deal – in league play OSU is going to allow a touchdown less per game in 2018: a decrease from 2017. And it’s a by-product of two things: new philosophy and an offense focused on running the ball.

The defense under Glenn Spencer was fantastic at forcing turnovers. This was done by taking away long plays and giving the defense more opportunities to mess up before they got into the endzone. An unfortunate by-product of this style of play was a wearing out of the defense as games went on, leading to late-in-the-half gashings of the defense where it often led to more breaks than bends.

You see where I’m going here – Jim Knowles’ defense didn’t force long drives. Duke saw opponents go deep more than their ACC peers did and forced middle of the road turnover numbers. But they won the time of possession battle consistently, giving the ball back to an inept offense that paled in comparison to Oklahoma State’s.

Tying it all together, late game (and late half) scores given up by a tired defense won’t be there. This is mostly a bet on an experienced front six being able to get to the quarterback and slowing down the run game, covering up for an inexperienced safety depth chart.

If you’re curious about how the new defense is going to slow down defenses and have more success slowing down opponents, listen to the below podcast and you’re sure to have a better feel.

4. Taylor Cornelius Will Be Sacked Less than Mason Rudolph Was in 2017

What? 24 sacks on the year are less than two per game (1.85). Who loses two bookend tackles and allows fewer sacks?

A team with a guy who runs like this behind center.

It’s reasonable to assume teams won’t be game planning for Corndog to run the same way they would for Dru Brown or Spencer Sanders. Mason Rudolph taking off was one of the last concerns a defense had playing OSU. While Cornelius isn’t likely to be as fast with his reads or throw the NFL-deep bomb of his predecessor, his capacity to pull it down with some designed runs will materially affect the sack total.

The other prong of this argument is how much more the offense will depend on the run game – and not just from the running backs (as if an All-American candidate alone isn’t enough). Bob Stitt was brought in with an expertise on the horizontal run game, count on OSU’s dynamic receivers and their yards after the catch expertise to soak up more of the play calls.

5. Oklahoma State Wins 9 Games

OSU will flirt with 8 and 10 wins – escaping with wins against a Boise team with an experienced, pedigreed quarterback and a defense with few holes and a homecoming thriller where Texas succumbs to the brighter orange.

A revenge bid against Kansas State in Manhattan will come up short as Knowles’ defense stands paralyzed when they see a fullback, tight end and running quarterback on the field at the same time and a predominantly orange crowd in Fort Worth struggles to overcome the turkey-induced coma. I went with the Sooners in Bedlam by ten in a recent podcast – no more Bob to give us the repunt.

Other PFB season predictions

Porter | Boone | Cox

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