Why Oklahoma State Will Win the Big 12 Championship This Year

In 2017, Oklahoma State had one of the top offenses in college football. They had an unstoppable quartet of Mason Rudolph, Justice Hill, James Washington, and Marcel Ateman. The Cowboys were lead by coach Mike Gundy who has coached at Oklahoma State since 2001 and has been the head coach since 2005. Gundy has always had great offenses at Oklahoma State, but that year was one of the best offenses he's ever had. Mason Rudolph passed for 4904 yards, 37 touchdowns, and only had 9 interceptions. Justice Hill had 268 carries for 1467 yards and 15 touchdowns on the ground and 31 receptions for 190 yards and 1 touchdown through the air. James Washington had 74 receptions for 1549 yards and 13 touchdowns. Marcel Ateman caught 59 passes for 1156 yards and 8 touchdowns. This offense lead the Cowboys to a 10-3 record, finishing 14th in the AP poll, winning the Camping World Bowl against Virginia Tech.

Flash forward to today and Rudolph, Hill, Washington, and Ateman are all in the NFL. Rudolph and Washington are on the Steelers. Washington hasn't done much yet and it doesn't look like he will be doing much more if he can't emerge to the top of the depth chart against Juju Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, and rookie Chase Claypool. Mason Rudolph is at the center of controversy because of a fight with Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett. Justice Hill had a solid rookie year, getting 58 carries for 220 yards and 3 touchdowns for the Baltimore Ravens, but is going to have to fight for a roster spot because they just drafted JK Dobbins. Marcel Ateman hasn't gotten on the field much for the Oakland Raiders. In two seasons he has 20 receptions for 270 yards and 1 touchdown.

In 2018, after Mason Rudolph, came a 1 year stint for senior Taylor Cornelius. He had to find a new #1 receiver to throw to after both Washington and Ateman left. Cornelius got just that with Tylan Wallace. In 2018, after a slow start to the year, the sophomore caught 86 passes for 1491 yards and 12 touchdowns. Wallace could not leave for the NFL Draft that year because he was a sophomore and had to come back for another season. This bummed NFL scouts because they were drooling over him. They loved his speed, body control, and the ability to get almost every 50-50 jump ball. Wallace played in 9 games last season and caught 53 passes for 909 yards and 8 touchdowns before his season was cut short to do a torn ACL suffered in practice. Even though he was falling down draft boards, it was still expected he would leave for the NFL. Wallace decided to come back for his senior year to prove he is worthy of a first round draft pick.

After Taylor Cornelius and Justice Hill left, it was time to find a new backfield. The Cowboys switched to a more dual threat style quarterback in freshman Spencer Sanders. Sanders had an average freshman year. He passed for 2065 yards for 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He also ran for 628 yards and 2 touchdowns on 139 attempts. For the running back it was next man up. That next man up was Chuba Hubbard. Chuba shattered expectations and put up video-game like numbers last year. He ran for 2094 yards and 21 touchdowns on 328 attempts. Hubbard was the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year over the likes of Jalen Hurts and was also a consensus All America selection.

Wallace, Chuba, and Spencer Sanders showed a lot of promise last year, leading Oklahoma State to an 8-5 record. While the offense was really good, the defense could've used some work as they allowed 412.8 yards of total offense per game and allowed 26.8 points per game. The Cowboy's defense will most definitely improve this year as they return 10 starters from a young defense that will be a lot more experienced this season. Even though they are in the Big 12, Oklahoma State should get those yards allowed per game and points allowed per game down from what they were last year.

The top three teams in the Big 12 last year were Oklahoma, Baylor, and Texas. To win the Big 12 championship, the Cowboys are going to have to win in Norman and Waco, while they get Texas at home. Oklahoma State is more than capable of beating these three teams. Oklahoma is most likely going to have a down year on offense because of the departures of Jalen Hurts, Trey Sermon, and Ceedee Lamb. The offense will still be one of the top offenses, but it won't be as good as last year. Baylor only returns 3 starters on defense. They lost their coach, Matt Rhule to the NFL and their top receiver, Denzel Mims. Texas will be Oklahoma State's toughest opponent. They return 7 starters on offense and 8 starters on defense. Texas has a big time offense, but most of the people who return are on the offensive line and there are question marks at the skill positions.

Oklahoma State will use a high powered offense and an improved defense to contend for the Big 12 this year. The Cowboys get the benefit of a down year for the Big 12. Opposing defensive coordinators are going to have nightmares trying to stop this offense. Oklahoma State is not only a dark horse in the Big 12, but also for a New Years 6 Bowl Game. They just have to win their big games and with the most returning production in the conference, I don't see why that won't happen. Watch out for the Cowboys this season.

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