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Despite Concerns, Oklahoma State Can Absolutely Still Win the Big 12



I’ve become incredibly intrigued by this Oklahoma State team over the last few weeks. They have somehow simultaneously put the dagger into the air raid offense era in Stillwater and not destroyed my hopes that they can win a second Big 12 title in the last five seasons.

How is that possible? Well, it’s because I feel like we’re looking at this team (and probably the last couple of teams and next few teams) all wrong. I laid that out on Thursday.

That leads us nicely into Tuesday’s poll question. I asked you guys how confident you were Oklahoma State will win the Big 12 this season. That’s a tough question, because there’s so much we don’t know and “confidence” is measured at different levels for different folks.

Anyway, this is what the poll turned up.

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It’s understandable. But in a league so full of elite offenses, I feel confident in what Oklahoma State is doing. Football always has been and always will be won by good (or opportunistic) defense and running the football (or throwing it two yards and calling it a pass even though it’s essentially a run — see 2011). Oklahoma State seems pretty intent on doing those two things.

So why am I so confident in Oklahoma State despite a mildly lackluster performance in nonconference play? Look at this lede from Jake Trotter when talking about the Big 12 earlier this week.

The proud defensive traditions of Oklahoma, Texas and TCU were on the backpedal in their final nonconference tilts Saturday. The Sooners continued to bleed yards against anyone operating a spread. The Longhorns have now surrendered more points than any Big 12 defense not named Kansas. And the Horned Frogs lost a fifth defensive starter for the season before getting a scare from SMU.

The Big 12 has always been an offensive-minded league. But if the nonconference games were any indication, that might be the case more than ever as league play kicks off this weekend. In other words, get ready for shootouts.

Baylor hasn’t fared much better, either, despite facing much inferior competition. The Bears were hoping they would field their best defense under Art Briles, headlined by a pair of special talents in defensive linemen Shawn Oakman and Andrew Billings. So far, the Baylor defense has been anything but special, giving up three first-half touchdowns to both SMU and Lamar.

It sounds crazy, but OSU is going the opposite direction of most of the big time teams in the Big 12.[1. Am I ignoring this? yes, I am. Stats are for losers.] Gundy knows the formula and has built a team to execute it. Oklahoma State must finish at the top of the league in per game turnover margin.

Strangely, it’s the non-elite teams that worry me most right now. Texas tomorrow is terrifying. Iowa State in November? Don’t even want to talk about it. West Virginia in a couple of weeks? Egads.

OSU might not win the Big 12 this year, but at least it has a plan in place to do so. It feels like some of these other squads are just throwing their hands up in the air and saying, “hope we score enough points!” And as Pokelahoma pointed out here in the comments, this plan was set into motion a long time ago.

“We used to divide our scholarships 41-41-3, our 85 scholarships,” Gundy told the Oklahoman, referring to 41 for offense, 41 for defense and three for the kicking game. “Three years ago we went 44-38-3 (with 44 for the defense), and we’ve pushed more scholarships on the defensive side of the ball. It’s a move that we felt like we had to make in order for us to have enough players on that side of the ball to give ourselves a chance to win the Big 12 championship.”

Always trying to stay ahead of the curve is something Gundy has never gotten (and will never get) enough credit for.

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