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Cox: Five Predictions for the 2018 OSU Football Season



It is my turn to spit out my unfounded fiery takes and pretend I know a little bit about how this next season is going to shake out. Some of my esteemed colleagues have already spelled out their prognostications, and others are soon to follow.

Boone | Scott | Ragusa | Porter

I hope you’re keeping score, because I’m not.

1. Oklahoma State will score 550 points in 2018

I’ll hearken back to my 2017 predictions (I went a putrid 0-for-5 from deep) where I predicted that Rudolph’s final campaign would include several accolades that ultimately eluded him, including reaching 600 points.

The 2017 Cowboys chalked up 585 for the good guys, still better than all but Todd Monken’s 2011 and 2012 offenses since the start of what I’ll call the modern era of OSU offense.

Here’s an updated look.

2017 45.0 2ND 3.47 585 10-3
2016 38.6 3RD 2.89 502 10-3
2015 39.5 5TH 2.70 514 10-3
2014 27.6 7TH 1.86 359 7-6
2013 39.1 2ND 2.38 508 10-3
2012 45.7 1ST 3.01 594 8-5
2011 48.7 1ST 3.42 633 12-1
2010 44.2 1ST 2.96 575 11-2

The 2017 team did out pace the vaunted 2011 squad in the uber important points-per-drive metric, but fell short in the more important conference title column.

Looking forward to 2018, there are a far more questions for this upcoming offense than the last, starting with what is a currently settled QB race.

OSU losing Rudolph as well as James Washington and Marcell Ateman doesn’t help, but the program seems to be continuing its journey in the right direction along the offensive trenches. A talent-heavy backfield also boosts its profile, as wells as probably making Mike Gundy wish the Power-I was still acceptable in Big 12 country.

I think the Cowboys will be better than most expect on offense in 2018 based on the depth they’ve built up front and the weapons they still boast both at running back and receiver, and because I think the QB race might be less of a storyline than we want to believe.

Which leads us to…

2.  Taylor Cornelius will start at least eight games

There has been plenty of talk (and will continue to be) on this blog as the season goes on about who is not starting for OSU. That’s natural. Cornelius has exactly zero starts to his name, lacks any type of intrigue as the guy we’ve seen holding a clipboard for three-plus years and, let’s face it, doesn’t exactly scream charisma when he’s reluctantly trotted in front of a camera.

But magnetism does not necessarily equal wins, and it’s far from a selling point for Mike Gundy. His qualifications include confidence, experience and acumen. Cornelius has all three as someone Gundy stated knew the offense “as good as anyone that’s ever been here.”

“Yeah, he’s intelligent, he gets it,” said Gundy, “but when you’re here as long as he is, you’re almost just gonna figure it out after a couple of years.”

And it appears that the 14th-year head coach (if we take him at his word) is intent on giving Cornelius a significant, patient window to prove himself. This would be in contrast to previous QB competitions. See Clint Chelf’s start to the 2013 season.

“He’s still gonna go through some times,” Gundy said. “It’s not the same as playing in a game and I said this a month ago, that we can’t expect him to go out and play like Mason the first day, just like we can’t expect some of the wideouts to look like James or Ateman.

“…We have to be patient and let him make some mistakes and correct them. But I think he’s got enough ability to overcome those deficiencies as he works through the month of September.”

I think Cornelius has a chance to be very productive in this system, in this league with so much QB turnover, and with his attributes both physical and mental. And his head coach (at least in August) seems intent of giving him a fair shake. If you set the over/under on 2018 starts for the Oil Baron at 8.5, I might be tempted to take the over.

3. Justin Phillips Leads OSU in Tackles

This may not seem like a huge leap of faith to many, but a linebacker hasn’t led the Cowboys in tackles in any single season since Caleb Lavey was punishing Big 12 offenders in 2013. If only he’d had one more tackle.

With tackling machines like Jordan Sterns and Tre Flowers now moved on, and a ton of youth at safety, I’ll tab the preseason all-conference snub Phillips as tackler numero uno.

But this goes beyond an arbitrary numbers ranking and speaks to the hopefully disruptive nature of backers in Jim Knowles’ scheme.

Phillips and Calvin Bundage will man the two starting LB spots and will inhabit a territory only bordered by vertical chalk stripes. Both will be asked to do a lot and both will be asked to play aggressively. And I think both will shine.

4. Tyron Johnson earns all-conference honors

Up to this point, the five-star Louisiana product has been decidedly overrated as a Cowboy. That is a fact and cannot be disputed (in my opinion).

He left a 1960s-era passing offense at LSU to come star in the Big 12. Jordan Sterns practically called him Dez on the pod before he ever got to suit up on a Saturday.

But just because we (outsiders lookin’ in) may have overrated him based on a slew of factors  — the biggest being a senior Biletnikoff winner playing his position — doesn’t mean he can’t and won’t live up to some of that hype when given the chance.

“He’s shown the ability to make a play,” said Gundy. “If he stays focused and buys in, which I think he is, he’s coached and trained by one of the best in the country. I think he’s very capable of catching 60 balls.”

It’s hard to know how much or little to read into the “buying in” part. We can point to the missed road trip to Pittsburgh last year and draw some loose conclusion. But Gundy would probably put the same qualifier on Gunnar’s chances of leading Stillwater High to a class 6A-D2 state title his upcoming junior year.

The point is that Tyron will get all the chances to be a star for Oklahoma State this year and I have a feeling that makes for some big plays and quite a bit of fan fare.

5. Lincoln Riley will be boast a 1-1 Bedlam record after Year 2

There are a few things going on here but the first involves an improbable Cowboy win in Norman. *Checks the weather forecast three months ahead.* ⛈?

It’s okay, I think the Corn Dog has some decent-sized mitts.

I think the Cowboys do upset the Sooners in Norman but fall outside of the Big 12’s Top 2, removing the possibility for an OU payback or an OSU conference title.

There is so much turnover in the league overall that I could see a step back across the board. Maybe West Virginia makes that title game, maybe K-State. It won’t be Texas.

Oklahoma State sneaks in a 9-win season with a mid-tier bowl loss and readies for the start of the Spencer Sanders era.





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