WVU opponents: Game 5, Oklahoma State
EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the ninth in a series of previews on West Virginia and Marshall football opponents.
Checking them out
There is an argument to be made that there should be no preseason favorite in the Big 12 this season. After all, in a league in which almost everyone will have a new quarterback - and those who aren't new all have their issues - and parity is already the norm, maybe a coin flip is better.
Still, it is Oklahoma State that is topping many of the polls, and it's a hard point to argue. In the past few years OSU has been as consistently good as anyone else in the league and there's no reason to think this year will be any different.
The Cowboys have two QBs with starting experience, are absolutely loaded at wide receiver and seem able to plug in new parts each year on offense and keep going. Defensively, OSU is likely to be what it has been of late, aggressive enough to get burned sometimes, but also to make things happen and get the ball back.
There are questions, of course, including whether J.W. Walsh or Clint Chelf starts at QB. Mike Gundy insists he doesn't know, but Walsh seems to have the edge. Running back Joseph Randle is gone, but that just means Jeremy Smith can come out of the shadows. Josh Stewart, who caught 13 passes against WVU last year, leads the receivers.
The Cowboys have been borderline awful on defense at times, but somehow usually figure out a way to force a turnover or make a big play to get out of trouble. The middle is rock solid at tackle, linebacker and safety, and the ends are young but promising. In fact, perhaps the biggest question mark on defense is the secondary, but there's star power there, too. Cornerback Justin Gilbert had an off year in 2012, but a year earlier he intercepted Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Landry Jones and Ryan Tannehill, all now in the NFL.
Maybe the biggest task facing the Cowboys is replacing Quinn Sharp, one of the best combination punter-kickers in college football history the last three years. That might be balanced out, though, by a return game that will be plenty good with Gilbert running back kicks.
If it appears odd or unusual that Oklahoma State would be playing on the road at a school like Texas-San Antonio, well, it is in a way. UTSA is only in its third year of football and its first as a full FBS program. But the Roadrunners, led by former Miami coach Larry Coker, don't have much trouble finding power teams to play in San Antonio. They are usually 2-for-1 deals and the big school gets a game at the Alamodome in a recruiting hotbed. Arizona, Arizona State, Kansas State and Baylor are all going there in the next five years. ... The league schedule certainly breaks right for Gundy's team. The teams immediately behind OSU in the preseason poll were Oklahoma and TCU, and the Cowboys face both of those teams at home after open dates.
Date Opponent 2012
Aug. 31 vs. Miss. St. (at Houston) DNP
Sept. 7 at Texas-San Antonio DNP
Sept. 14 Lamar DNP
Sept. 21 Open
Sept. 28 at West Virginia* W 55-34
Oct. 5 Kansas State* L 30-44
Oct. 12 Open
Oct. 19 TCU* W 36-14
Oct. 26 at Iowa State* W 31-10
Nov. 2 at Texas Tech* W 59-21
Nov. 9 Kansas* W 20-14
Nov. 16 at Texas* L 36-41
Nov. 23 Baylor* L 34-41
Nov. 30 Open
Dec. 7 Oklahoma* L 48-51 (ot)
* Big 12 Conference games