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Cox: Five Predictions for the 2023 Oklahoma State Football Season

Some of these predictions are bolder than others.



[Devin Wilber/PFB]

We’re coming on the opening week of college football 2023, so it’s time for the PFB staff to prognosticate about the Cowboys’ season.

Marshall dropped his five predictions for OSU football in 2023 last week. Here are mine, some bolder than others.

1. The Cowboys Run Game Bounces Back

Oklahoma State was downright sluggish in its ground attack last season, turning in the worst rushing average (126 per game) since 2001, the year Mike Gundy was hired on as an offensive coordinator under Les Miles. But improvement on the ground has been an emphasis for OSU coaches all offseason, and there are reasons to believe in the bounce-back.

First off, the coaching staff did away with the longtime hybrid “Cowboy back” in favor of a more tradition, separate, groups of full backs and tight ends to help in run-blocking. And, as of Thursday’s practice, Gundy reported that the offensive line was healthy, and in much better shape than last year.

“We’ll be a better run-blocking team, and we’ll be better overall on the offensive line when we play next week,” said Gundy.

Despite losing leading rusher Dominic Richardson (now at Baylor), the Cowboys return some talent in Ollie Gordon and Jaden Nixon and add Michigan State transfer Elijah Collins and freshman Sesi Vailahi. Like most of the position battles, the first three in that list share an “or” designation atop the RB depth chart. It looks like Gundy & Co. is going to see who gets it done on the field and ride the hot hand.

2. The Cowboys Have Two 1,000-Yard Receivers

Pass the Kool-Aid because I’m coming in hot. This is probably the boldest of all my predictions but hear me out. I think Brennan Presley and Talyn Shettron each hit 1,000 yards receiving. (Even though there may be a slight hitch in my thinking, given that Shettron is not the No. 1 on the depth chart at the X position to start the season.)

This is leap is based on Alan Bowman being QB1, regardless of what the depth chart says, and his ability to stay healthy and return to his Texas Tech self, and it depends on a lot of other things falling in the right order.

Last year’s offense missed a reliable, healthy outside target. I think Shettron can plug right into that role after showing some flashes of brilliance last year, which will make Presley all the more dangerous on the inside. Even listed as the No. 2, it seems unlikely OSU will be able to keep him and his huge talents off the field.

3. The Cowboys Take It Back

There was a time when the Cowboys hung their hat on takeaways, and they have a chance to get back to that.

The “We’re takin it back” slogan was a calling card for defenses under Glenn Spencer, including forcing 33 in 2013. And before that they put up historic numbers in 2010 (34), 2011 (44!). But the Pokes have only reached 20 in one season over the last five. Can that turn around with a new system and new DC?

During his eight years at the helm of Emporia State, Bryan Nardo’s defense was one of the best in Div. II at forcing turnovers and was the only program to force 25-plus takeaways from 2012-16. In his one year at the helm of Gannon, his group forced 16, but was plus-five in TOs.

I’m aware that I’m going out on a bit of a limb having never seen, especially without their interception leader from last year Jason Taylor, but I say the Cowboys get that number back up to 25. That would be a big help to an offense that’s working in a lot of new pieces, namely at QB.

4. Collin Oliver Gets Back to Double-Digit Sacks

I am pretty excited to see what the Cowboys’ sack leader looks like in Bryan Nardo’s 3-3-5 defense.

Oliver punctuated his star freshman season with a Bedlam-sealing sack of Caleb Williams two year ago and ended the year with 10.5 QB takedowns. He still led the Pokes in sacks a year ago, but that number was cut in half to five. But with a new position in a defense that should allow him to pin back his ears and attack, I think former Bedlam hero puts up a new career-high with 11.

Speaking of that…

5. OSU Wins Final Bedlam

I’m going to step out on a limb even further and say that Gundy gets his fourth Bedlam win and the Pokes send the Sooners packing to the SEC in style.

The Sooners dropped five of their seven losses by one score last year. While that has been posited as a reason for an optimism for bounce-back year in Norman, I think it bodes well for OSU in a game the Cowboys will be motivated to stay in.

To this point in the season, we will have seen all the Cowboys’ warts, and they might be myriad. But the Sooners are coming off their worst season in 25 years and there are a lot of issues to work out. There is reason to believe OU will be better in 2023, but some of this national love is reminiscent of the treatment the Longhorns get every offseason. Plus, I think the Cowboys will want it more.

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