Oklahoma State will face its first real test of the 2018 season this coming Saturday as the No. 17 Boise State Broncos head to Stillwater for a first-time matchup with the Cowboys.
Both of these teams eye their Saturday afternoon contest as a litmus test for their season-long viability, and if you’re Oklahoma State, there are reasons to think you can earn a passing grade. Here are five.
1. Playmakers Galore at Wideout
NEWS FLASH: Kasey Dunn can recruit and develop wide receivers.
One of the things that we have learned in two weeks of football is that Oklahoma State is just fine when it comes to talent in its receiving corps. We thought that was probably the case coming in, but any lingering questions were laid to rest against South Bama.
Tyron Johnson finally had another Tyron Johnson game, and I’m pretty sure Josh Stewart has a poster of Tylan Wallace in his bedroom.
Add in Dillon Stoner, Jalen McCleskey, Landon Wolf and a number of other #dudes that can make plays and the Cowboys are loaded in the passing game. Just gotta feed them.
2. Running Back Depth for Days
After the Cowboys’ offensive line and four-headed RB monster chewed up 400-plus on the ground against Missouri State, we were ready to name this tailback group the deepest ever under Mike Gundy. A so-so performance against South Bama, albeit against a loaded box, might have dampened that sentiment for some, but I’m still all in.
Mike Gundy said he wanted to limit Justice Hill to 15 handoffs per game and he’s stacked the odds in his favor with 19 total carries through the initial fortnight of 2018. I wouldn’t expect Justice to register in the single digits in attempts very often moving forward unless a game gets out of hand, but Gundy has to feel pretty great about the diversity and depth he has in J.D. King, Chuba Hubbard and LD Brown.
3. A Fun and Feisty Defense
Here’s where I try not to get too ahead of myself. As Kyle Boone pointed out, Jim Knowles’ defense might be pretty good. He also qualified that with the fact that shutting down Mizzou St. and directional Bama can teach you as much about a defense as my daughter can learn when I read her Dustin Ragusa’s X’s and O’s features.
I have no idea if this defense will end up being good, but I think it will be fun and I know it will play with an edge. So join me, throw on your Calvin Bundage jersey and plop down on the edge of your seat because this figures to be one hell of a ride.
4. Most of OSU’s Issues Are Repairable
One less than encouraging discovery through two weeks of football has been the Cowboys’ ineptness on special teams and its lack of discipline as it piles up penalties. This OSU team can’t afford either if it wants to be relevant post-Halloween.
The silver lining to that dark, gloomy paragraph is that OSU is still pretty young all over the field and these things take time to figure out.
Oklahoma State comes in ranked T-84 with just 12 returning starters (five on offense and seven on defense) and ranked 120th out of 130 teams in returning production according to SB Nation’s Bill Connelly.
Will they figure it out? Will they be any better before halftime this Saturday? I have no idea. But this feels like a team that might just play its best football in November. I guess that doesn’t technically lighten the mood before Game 3, but that’s what I’ve got to work with.
5. Neither Team Has Proven a Thing
This may not make you feel great about OSU’s chances as much as it is tempers our view of Boise State.
The Broncos do have a returning QB in Brett Rypien (who might be really good) and several playmakers at wide receiver. Boise’s defense has looked dominant so far and is No. 9 nationally in returning production from a squad that ranked 25th in points per drive allowed a year ago.
But… We can probably take as much from Boise State’s two wins as we can from Oklahoma State’s.
OSU beat a 1-1 FCS school and an 0-2 Sun Belt school by a combined 113-30. Boise beat a 1-1 Troy team and a horrible 0-2 UConn team by a combined 118-27.
Neither team has played anyone of substance though. And aside from QB and possibly in the secondary (I realize these are paramount), OSU probably is a mismatch everywhere else on the field for the Broncos. The talent scale definitely tips in favor of the Pokes.
So, all that to say that while this is Oklahoma State’s first big test of the year, it’s probably the biggest test for Boise State all year.