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Returning Big 3 Gives Cowboys a Chance for Big 2024 Season

How will this trio compare to previous Big 3s coached by Gundy?

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[Devin Wilber/PFB]

The Cowboys have a retuning Big 3, which normally translates into a successful upcoming fall. If nothing else, it should make for an optimistic summer.

Alan Bowman is back for his, (double-checks this) yes, his seventh season of college football. Ollie Gordon is back for his, (triple-checks this) YES!, his third. And Brennan Presley — one of the most underrated stars in the Big 12 — is back for one more shot at 1,000 receiving yards. Add the entire offensive line returning and you’ve got a scary offense to try to slow down.

But coming off a 10-win season, a second Big 12 title game appearance in three years and all that returning potential, it still feels like the Cowboys are flying a little bit under the radar. So, in an effort to contextualize just what an established trio like this could mean for OSU, and possibly stoke the flames a bit, let’s see how this returning Big 3 compares to others in Mike Gundy’s tenure.

Without getting into all the minutia of missed games — and that crazy QB carousel we witnessed last noncon — we’ll consider last year an Alan Bowman year.

Sanders-Wallace-Hubbard (2019-20)

For as much talent as this group had, it’s hard not to see them as having under achieved. The Cowboys followed up one 8-5 season with another 8-5 season. In those two years, OSU’s offense ranked fourth and fifth, respectively, in scoring in the Big 12 at 32.5 points per game and then 30.2.

This trio did have to deal with massive turnover and lingering injuries across the offensive line as well as persistent turnover troubles. Oh yeah, and COVID. Spencer Sanders was able to put it together for a 12-win season, a Fiesta Bowl win and a bringing OSU this close to a Big 12 title. And Bedlam wins still count for something.

Rudolph-Washington-Hill (2016-17)

Mason Rudolph and James Washington did the heavy lifting to get OSU to 10 wins in 2015, but it was the addition of freshman Justice Hill in 2016 that made this offense pop. Aside from a quirky, questionable finish against the directional Michigan school which shall not be named and a Big 12-opening loss to Baylor, OSU went undefeated against schools not named OU and thumped Colorado in the Alamo Bowl. The Pokes went 10-3 and ranked third in the league scoring 38.6 points per game.

The 2017 Cowboys returned as one of the most hyped units ever at OSU, and they mostly paid that off. OSU turned in another 10-win season and ranked second in the Big 12 scoring 45 points per game (third-most in school history). That Big 3 put on an epic Bedlam at home that ultimately went the way of Rudolph’s Heisman-winning nemesis. The Cowboys, again, fell short of their ultimate prize, but that was one heck of an offense and one heck of a team.

Weeden-Blackmon-Randle (2010-11)

The GOAT season in OSU football was also a heralded return. Brandon Weeden, Justin Blackmon and Joseph Randle set the Big 12 ablaze in 2010 and then they came back for more. OSU went 11-2 with its only losses to ranked Nebraska and Oklahoma teams and led the conference (third nationally) scoring 44.2 points per game.

When this group ran it back, they ran it back, and then ran over the rest of the league. OSU’s 48.7 points per game was second nationally and is still a school record. All the wins and accolades. If it weren’t for a wabbly goal post in Ames, OSU may very well have brought a crystal trophy home that year. As a consolation, OSU fans had to settle for a big Bedlam win at home and a Fiesta Bowl win.

Bowman-Presley-Gordon (2023-24)

That brings us to this fall. Can an established star trio have its way with the new-look Big 12?

Coming off a 10-win season, a trip to Arlington and another Bedlam win, this Big 3 will look to etch itself next to the above three. Last year’s team wasn’t the offensive juggernaut like the best we saw above. OSU ranked eighth in the league in scoring offense at 29.6 points per game and dropped a head-scratching 3-piece in the loss to UCF. The Cowboys have the pieces to take a big step forward but also several questions.

Will another year in the system help steady Alan Bowman in the offense? Will the returning offensive line and a full year of trusting Ollie allow the Cowboys to run teams over better than they did last year? Will the defense take a much-needed step in Year 2 under Bryan Nardo?

In terms of OSU trios, Bowman, Gordon and Presley may not have risen to heights of the Weeden-Blackmon-Randles or Rudy-Wash-Hills yet, but they’ve got an opportunity to leave Stillwater with comparable fanfare. IF everything else falls into place.

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