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Oklahoma State’s Perfect Storm Started With a Devastating Injury

An all-time what-if for the Pokes.



Let me walk you back to the week of Halloween. It was complete chaos behind the curtain of the content-making machines. Tylan Wallace injury rumors started to spill into DMs and text messages, but nobody would talk. Not even off the record. Whatever your opinion is of Mike Gundy, it’s undeniable that his ship is among the tightest in the country.

It was eventually revealed that Tylan had torn his ACL and would be out for the rest of the year. OSU won three straight without him before losing to OU, which it probably wouldn’t have beaten with two Tylans, a Blackmon and a Washington.

That week though was the genesis of a great what-if. As in, what if Tylan Wallace hadn’t gotten injured? Would OSU still have gone 8-4 in the regular season? Probably. Would they have still lost to Texas A&M in a bowl game that didn’t mean a whole lot? Possibly. Either way, 8-5 or 9-4 doesn’t do a whole lot in the grand scheme. But it’s also fair to ask (and this is the big one): If Tylan hadn’t gotten injured, would OSU still be returning him and Chuba for another run at the thing in 2020?

There’s a world in which Tylan simply puts up another 1,400 yards in 2019 and ejects for the second round, taking Chuba with him. A sub-what-if is: If Tylan leaves, does Chuba also leave or does he return no matter what?

I think a lot of what happened over the last few weeks — especially with Chuba — had to do with winning a league title and making a run at the CFP. The CFP part — while I suppose not technically impossible, is a wild long shot (although Baylor nearly sneaked in this year!) — but the conference title part is definitely in play. And it’s probably not in play if Tylan doesn’t return. And Tylan maybe doesn’t return if not for a freak injury in a practice in late October. You get the point.

Depending on how this next year goes, it could go down as an all-time what-if in OSU history. I’ll make the 30 for 30 someday. What if I told you one wide receiver’s knee injury is the only reason OSU has a Rose Bowl appearance.

In thinking about all of this, I was reminded of something else. We bemoan some of the talk about OSU’s infrastructure and the culture and some of these other seeming buzzwords that don’t end in rings or crowns. But those things are the same things that allow you to take shots at titles once every three or four years.

Would I rather them be reloading every single year? For sure, but that’s another post for another time. I know the comp isn’t perfect, but think about OSU basketball. There’s no established floor. They might go 24-9 one year and 9-24 the next. It’s a roller coaster. OSU’s football program has an established floor. And when they’re able to land top talent — even if they have to recruit it internally like with Chuba — they can make a run at something special.

Obviously this is fun in years like 2017 and 2020 in which the run is happening and is kind of lousy in other years, but as far as small-market (so to speak) programs go, there are certainly worse ways to exist.

So the top talent has been landed through a bizarre and seemingly sad (at the time) process, and the infrastructure was laid a long time ago. Now, the only thing left to do is to go out and do what they couldn’t do in 2017: Play a 14th game.

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