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Ranking the Top 10 Storylines of the Oklahoma State Season



I know it sounds crazy that the football season would sneak up on me, of all people, but we’ve been so deep in the grind of producing #content over the last month that it kind of has. I looked up today and realized that this time next week the chrome lids will be distributed in the BPS locker room and 50,000+ fans will be preparing to do the Arm Waving Thing OSU Fans Do After OSU Scores many, many times against Tulsa.

Before we get to Tulsa, though, it’s time to rank the storylines heading into the season. From kinda-sorta big to the biggest, here are the 10 stories I think loom large over this 2017 season.

10. An elite offense

Maybe this is interesting only to me, but Oklahoma State has a chance to join some of the elite offenses in school history by averaging 3.25 points per drive or better this year. If you average 3.25 or higher, you can be talked about as being elite. Last year, only five teams did that. Only one team in recent Oklahoma State history (2011) has done it. This one can, but will it?

9. Boots on the ground

• Oklahoma State has won 20 games in the last two years.

• Oklahoma State has won eight games in the last two years decided by seven or fewer points.

Having a great kicking game is underrated and cannot be fully mitigated just by having a world-class offense. At some point this season, Oklahoma State is going to need Matt Ammendola (or somebody) to hit a really massive kick at a really crucial time. Will he be ready?

8. How good, really, are the corners?

I have a confession. I think A.J. Green is going to be a superstar. Think about it. Would Mike Gundy — whose conservative decisions sometimes make Ted Cruz look like Hillary Clinton — OK a Ramon Richards move to safety without knowing that at least one of his corners is a star or superstar? I don’t think he would which leads me to believe that Green is that guy. I know there is much angst when it comes to the unknown, but when you read between the lines, I think what you see is actually encouraging.

7. RB and Safety 1-2 punches

At some point this year, we could have the conversation about Justice Hill and J.D. King being a better combination than Justice Hill and Chris Carson. We could have the same conversation about Tre Flowers and Ramon Richards being better than Tre Flowers and Jordan Sterns.

I’m not saying that either of those are going to be the case, but I think both are in play and will emerge as narratives as the year plays out.

6. The WR pecking order

Somebody in our Slack chat mentioned this the other day, but a pecking order always emerges on teams with oodles of talent at wideout. I think for Oklahoma State that is going to be a situation-specific order. That is, Washington will be the deep threat, Ateman will be the “we have to have a first down on third-and-8” guy, Lacy will be a combination of the two, McCleskey will just run 55 drags a game and Tyron will be the “the CFP committee wants us to play this game literally inside of a phone booth so let’s give it to No. 13 all night” guy.

It will be fun to watch Rudolph distribute dimes Doug Gottlieb-style all over BPS to his treasure chest of receiving talent. And it will be fascinating to see how that pecking order plays out over the next few months.

5. Are we sure about the offensive line?

Like, I think I’m sure about it. But it’s also a line that has allowed 104 (!) sacks in the last three seasons. That’s ranked No. 117 in the NCAA in that span of time. Not good! Yes, they’re more experienced. Yes, they figured out the run game in the second half of last season. Yes, Mason Rudolph is smarter and more seasoned and requires less time than ever before.

But it’s a concern.

4. The turnover scoreboard

In four of the last six seasons, Oklahoma State has been top 10 in the country in turnover margin. In those years (2011, 2013, 2015 and 2016) it has won an average of over 10 games. In the other two years (2012 and 2014) it was No. 59 and No. 111 respectively in TO margin. It won an average of just over seven games in those seasons. Turnover margin matters, people.

3. Handling the hype

Gundy has talked all fall about how his team is more mature than a redshirted kindergartner (looking at you folks over there at Jenks and Union who redshirted your five-year-olds … we know what you’re doing). Its stars are also its best and most productive leaders.

But that’s easy to say in August when none of the chips are on the table. Going out and walloping Tulsa and South Alabama and punching Pitt in the face early on the road is much, much different. I think this team is built for greatness, and I think Gundy not shying away from feeding them the truth has been good for everyone.

But again … it’s August. We can talk again in late October.

2. The Bedlam monkey

Maybe Bob Stoops took King Kong with him in his exit stage right from Norman, OK, but I’m with Carson Cunningham on this one. The Gundy-Bedlam thing feels like a logo issue more than a Big Game Bob issue.

The difference in teams and coaches between this year and last, though, should (should!) be so overwhelming that it overcomes all of Gundy’s Bedlam demons. And having it in November helps Oklahoma State a lot. But we’ve said all of these things before.

1. Will Gundy Trim the Mullet? Can OSU Really Make the Playoff?

There are so many ways this can go badly. Injuries are a concern (and a storyline I refuse to give an entire paragraph to for fear of jinxing it). At West Virginia is a concern. OU (x2?) is a concern. And the labyrinth of college football is a concern because it seemingly tilts away from the Big 12. Does OSU have to go 13-0 to make it to the CFB Playoff? With all the hype it has received this preseason, the answer to that question is “maybe.” But it’s certain that Oklahoma State has to prove more than Ohio State or USC does. If the CFP committee has taught us anything, it has taught us that blue blooded schools have less to prove than the Michigan States and Washingtons and Oklahoma States of the world.

I think that, depending on what happens with other top 10 schools, OSU can probably afford a Big 12 loss this year because of the Big 12 title game. Somewhat humorously, I don’t think it can afford for its only loss to be in the Big 12 title game (recency bias and such).

So maybe this is the year. The one we thought we had in 2011. Maybe not. The great thing about sports is that it unfolds in real time with all of us gathered together to dissect and parse through every second of it. I don’t know if those will be joyous gatherings or massive letdowns. But I do know that the next four months should be a hell of a ride.

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