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College Football Analysis: What Sort of Year Will Oklahoma State Have in 2012?

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Analyzing Oklahoma State’s 2012 college football win totals is tough for me because as an OU fan who hates that other state school, whether I like to admit it or not, I know this is no longer the old OSU. Since T Boone Pickens has been pouring money into this program, the Pokes have been on an upward cycle for several years now. Like the Texas Tech teams under Mike Leach, they now work out of a system. And a very good one at that.

OSU has quieted the critics for two straight years. When they had just 8 starters returning in 2010, Phil Steele picked them to have a losing season. They then went on to post an 11-2 record. Last year  they were picked to finish no higher than 4th in the conference. They are now the defending Big 12 Champs. The million dollar question (or in T Boone’s case, the billion dollar question) is can they sustain their high level of play?

The Pokes lose two big time playmakers on offense

Many of the faces that made this program successful the last 3 years are missing. With the two biggest being QB Brandon Weeden and WR Justin Blackmon. HC Mike Gundy will not only be dealing with a diaper dandy in new freshman QB Lunt, he’ll also have to replace one of the most dominant WR’s this conference has seen in years.

So there is no doubt whatsoever there will be growing pains with this new skill set on offense. The problem is they won’t have much time to grow into their system with some of the good teams they’ll be facing this season, including newcomers West Virginia and TCU.

The turnover factor

One of the problems that I feel the Pokes will run into in 2012 is the turnover factor. OSU has gone +12 and +21 in turnover margin the last two years. Keep in mind that in conference play, when you win the turnover margin battle, you win 80% of your games.

OSU has been very fortunate the past few years to say the least. I’m not taking away from the great job that DC Bill Young and this defense has done in creating and taking advantage of mistakes. But remember that many of those turnovers were caused because OSU has had such a prolific offense the past two years. They’ve manged to get big early leads on their opponents, which leads to turnovers when the opposition has to resort to the passing game to catch up.

But what happens if the offense can no longer put up those early points? What it does is put more added pressure on the defensive unit. Even though they were a good red zone defense that caused 41 takeawys last year, OSU still gave up a whopping 446 ypg.

Good fortune doesn’t last forever

With 8 returning starters I do expect the defense to improve this year. But it needs to be a pretty sizeable improvement. We also have to consider the fact that the defense will be out on the field longer this season since their opponents won’t have to endure the OSU offensive onslaught of the past two years.

It could lead to depth problems for the Pokes as the year wears on. Having your first units on the field longer can also lead to injures. Something OSU has been virtually free of for the last two years.

But we all know that good fortune like that doesn’t last forever. Eventually Gundy will have to deal with injures. This is such an important issue for a team like OSU, who isn’t as deep as a Texas or OU. OSU’s team chemistry has been so good because it’s been virtually the same lineup for the entire season in each of the past two years.

Favorable Schedule

Now that I’ve given the negatives, there are some positives coming into this season. For one, just having 4 conference road games should help their young QB get assimilated to Divison 1 football from the comforts of home. And 3 of their 5 road games against Arizona, Kansas and Baylor are very winnable.

Each team in the Big 12 has weaknesses

There will be a fair share of teams in the Big 12 who will have issues of their own. TCU is trying to replace a number of starters from a defense that wasn’t up to standards last year.

Texas still has an average O-Line, QB questions and unless Shipley breaks out, no true threat at the WR position. Plus they have to visit Stillwater this year.

KSU is replacing much of their offensive line, and could be starting a pair of redshirt freshmen there, and the Cats are still far from having a dominant defense.

Baylor is obviously replacing the best player in school history, along with some offensive linemen and the best WR to come through Waco in a long time.

Even OU has massive questions at WR. The Sooners actually have fewer combined starts than the inexperienced OSU WR corp.

The non-conference game against Arizona is in Tucson, but the Wildcats will be learning a completely new offensive and defensive system, as well as not having a lot of talent on hand. Very much a game OSU should win.

Schedule Analysis

So in determining 2012 college football win totals, we always have to look at the schedule first. Which in my opinion is favorable since they get the two newcomers to the Big 12, plus Texas in Stillwater.

Of course none of us know for sure how well West Virginia and TCU are going to adjust to a new conference. But I think they are a pretty even tradeoff to the teams we lost last year. And OSU defeated both of those teams (Missouri, Texas A&M) on the road.

So the homefield advantage could be huge here. Especially given that OSU won’t have to play West Virginia or TCU until late October. By then Gundy should have a pretty good idea of who he is dealing with when the Mountaineers and the Frogs come to town.

As of right now, these are the percentages I give OSU to win each of the games on their schedule:

Savanna State (100%)
@ Arizona (70%)
Louisiana-Lafayette (90%)
Texas (40%)
@Kansas (80%)
Iowa State (70%)
TCU (50%)
@Kansas State (40%)
West Virginia (50%)
Texas Tech (70%)
@Oklahoma (30%)
@Baylor (60%)

There will be several borderline games for OSU. Mainly because of having a freshman QB. I actually give Texas a pretty good chance of knocking them off because they are getting that young QB so early in the season.

I believe the weakest part of the OSU defense will be the rushing D. And Texas, K-State and TCU were all around 200 ypg rushing teams last year.

With Texas’ superior defense, they will especially be a tough early season opponent for the Pokes in what should be an ugly low scoring game.

Another danger spot for this team could also be Baylor the week after they play OU. Bedlam is always an emotional game. Especially this year with the game going back to Norman for the first time in two years, and the Sooners coming off a 34 point loss to OSU. The Pokes will have to watch themselves that they don’t have a letdown after that game or Baylor could surprise them the following week.

Oklahoma State’s projected 2012 college football win totals

Right now my general feeling about OSU is they’ll get to around the 8 win mark. With the young offense, they’ll probably lose a game they are suppose to win, and win a game they are suppose to lose.

I think it all adds up to about an 8-4 season. Possibly more if their young QB is extra special. But given how much of a dogfight the QB battle was this spring, I doubt if we’re looking at anything like an Andrew Luck, especially since Lunt is a true freshman who will only be a few months removed from high school.

They could have less than 8 wins if Lunt struggles and Gundy starts playing musical chairs with his QB’s. For this reason alone it makes it a tough call on OSU. Especially given that they are in a conference that is going through yet another transisiton this season.

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Get more great college football analysis over at Saturday Edge.