Confused? Check out the glossary here.
1. Spoiler alert:
The numbers love Oklahoma State. When the Football Outsiders Almanac 2013 is released next month, it will project Oklahoma State sixth in the country with a 30 percent chance of winning the Big 12.
It's not hard to see what the numbers like so much, is it? The Cowboys have ranked 11th, third, and 12th in the F/+ rankings the last three years. The offense has ranked in the Off. F/+ top 15 for five of the last six years, the defense has ranked in the Def. F/+ top 25 for each of the last four, and special teams has been top-10 for three straight years. Recruiting is not elite, but it's good enough, and the schedule is favorable, with three of the conference's other four top teams coming to Stillwater.
Mike Gundy has built a wonderfully steady program. OSU took the field in 2012 without its most decorated player ever (two-time Biletnikoff winner Justin Blackmon) and its most successful quarterback ever (Brandon Weeden) but still ranked in the F/+ top 15, prevented only by three tight losses from reaching double-digit wins for the third straight year. The offense has survived multiple coordinator changes, and Gundy places as much pure speed on the field as any Big 12 team this side of Waco.
This is a rock-solid program, built for the long haul by a coach with attitude, smarts, great hair, and, as we've seen this offseason, outright ruthlessness. Gundy began the offseason by first flirting openly with a couple of SEC jobs, then cutting ties with successful defensive coordinator Bill Young, an OSU grad who'd inherited a mediocre unit and turned it into a consistent set of bend-don't-break ballhawks. He did so because Young is old, and because the top 25 is not good enough for his defense; he wants the top 10, which Young achieved in Def. F/+ only once.
Gundy also began the summer by severely restricting the list of schools to which quarterback Wes Lunt, last year's season-opening starter, could transfer, then by easing the restrictions when it was too late to matter.
Gundy's moves have been perfectly within the rules assigned to his profession, but if karma is a thing, OSU could be in trouble this year. Gundy has not won many friends and has not shown the desire to care about such a thing. But he wasn't hired to be a nice guy, and he hasn't brought unprecedented success to Stillwater (49 wins in five years) with empathy or a politician's penchant for baby-kissing.
He's here to win, and he's not afraid to offend. So far, it's worked. Will it in 2013?
2012 Schedule & Results
|Record: 8-5 | Adj. Record: 12-1 | Final F/+ Rk: 12|
|Date||Opponent||Score||W-L||Adj. Score||Adj. W-L|
|1-Sep||Savannah State||84-0||W||39.8 - 8.6||W|
|8-Sep||at Arizona||38-59||L||33.6 - 25.1||W|
|15-Sep||UL-Lafayette||65-24||W||45.8 - 22.7||W|
|29-Sep||Texas||36-41||L||46.1 - 26.5||W|
|13-Oct||at Kansas||20-14||W||15.3 - 24.1||L|
|20-Oct||Iowa State||31-10||W||38.6 - 25.1||W|
|27-Oct||TCU||36-14||W||40.1 - 22.6||W|
|3-Nov||at Kansas State||30-44||L||38.5 - 30.4||W|
|10-Nov||West Virginia||55-34||W||30.1 - 20.1||W|
|17-Nov||Texas Tech||59-21||W||46.0 - 19.8||W|
|24-Nov||at Oklahoma||48-51||L||38.1 - 27.9||W|
|1-Dec||at Baylor||34-41||L||28.8 - 27.6||W|
|1-Jan||vs. Purdue||58-14||W||39.0 - 23.4||W|
|Points Per Game||45.7||3||28.2||64|
|Adj. Points Per Game||36.9||9||23.4||25|
2. Plug-and-play, in the booth and on the field
It certainly looked a little strange. In last year's F/+ rankings, 11-2 Clemson came in at 22nd, 12-0 Ohio State ranked 14th, 11-2 South Carolina placed 13th ... and there Oklahoma State was, with five losses, sitting at 12th, just a few decimal points behind 12-2 Stanford.
Both pieces of the F/+ rankings -- my S&P+ rankings (10th) and Brian Fremeau's FEI (15th) -- loved what the 'Pokes brought to the table and saw how close they were to a much brighter season. They outgained Arizona by 135 yards in a turnovers-and-penalties loss to the Wildcats. They outgained Texas by 136 yards but had to settle for too many field goals in a five-point loss. They outgained KSU by 20 yards despite switching quarterbacks midgame, but bounces and turnovers doomed them. And they led Oklahoma for almost the entire game in Norman before allowing the tying score with four seconds left and falling in overtime.
OSU was not quite mature enough to avoid key mistakes or overcome bad breaks in 2012, but the Cowboys proved the foundation was strong. (And here's where I point out that Texas A&M and Notre Dame looked similarly out of place in the 2011 rankings; they turned out alright in 2012.) That they could play at such a high level on offense, not only without Weeden and Blackmon, but without any stability at the quarterback position, was amazing.
Lunt, then a true freshman, began the season as the starter but missed time with knee and head injuries. Redshirt freshman J.W. Walsh filled in capably for Lunt but went down with a knee injury. So Clint Chelf, Weeden's backup who began the season as a third-stringer, came in, completed 62 percent of his passes, and finished the season atop the depth chart.
Shuffling from quarterback to quarterback did almost nothing to damage OSU's offensive prowess:
Adj. Points Per Game with West Lunt (3.5 games): 37.9
Adj. Points Per Game with J.W. Walsh (4 games): 36.5
Adj. Points Per Game with Clint Chelf (5.5 games): 36.6
Similarly, Gundy has seen success no matter who is filling the offensive coordinator chair.
With Gunter Brewer in 2007-08, OSU ranked ninth and sixth, respectively, in Off. F/+; but following an injury-filled slump in 2009 (OSU fell to 66th), Gundy brought in Dana Holgorsen and watched the 'Pokes surge to 15th. Holgorsen left for West Virginia, so Gundy hired Todd Monken; the results: fourth in 2011, 12th in 2012. Monken is now the head coach of Southern Miss, so Gundy, never conventional, went after Shippensburg offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich. The Division II squad averaged 530 yards of offense (388 passing, 142 rushing) last season, and that was good enough for Gundy.
No matter the quarterback, no matter the coordinator, OSU's offense has been great for most of recent history. But every time you make another change, of course, you risk veering off-course.
|Q1 Rk||12||1st Down Rk||14|
|Q2 Rk||38||2nd Down Rk||29|
|Q3 Rk||16||3rd Down Rk||31|
3. Musical chairs at coordinator can catch up to you, Part I
It really is easy to simply assume that Yurcich will keep the offensive ship sailing at OSU. He improved Shippensburg's offense by 46 percent in two years, Gundy usually makes great hires, Gundy (a former quarterback and offensive coordinator himself) is around to keep things steady and keep the identity in place, and the personnel is experienced, deep, and amenable to the type of system Yurcich will run.
But nobody makes good hires 100 percent of the time. A decade or so ago, two stalwart programs, Florida State and Kansas State, each ran aground in part because of the number of times Bobby Bowden and Bill Snyder had to replace top assistants. We assume the odds are in Gundy's favor here, especially now that the culture he wanted to build has fully taken hold, but it's never a given.
Note: players in bold below are 2013 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.
|Clint Chelf||6'1, 210||Sr.||*** (5.5)||119||197||1,588||60.4%||15||6||7||3.4%||7.6|
|J.W. Walsh||6'2, 205||So.||**** (5.9)||109||163||1,564||66.9%||13||3||4||2.4%||9.2|
4. Wanted: passing downs magic
I've long held the theory that standard downs are the game-planning and execution downs, and passing downs are the "Hey quarterback, go make a play" downs.
Last year's top 10 in Standard Downs S&P+ (Georgia, Oregon, Arkansas, Nebraska, Florida State, Tennessee, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Alabama, Texas A&M) featured some of the better offensive coordinators/play-callers in the country. Meanwhile, the Passing Downs S&P+ list (Texas A&M, Clemson, Alabama, Arizona, Baylor, Georgia, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Oregon, USC) featured some of the best quarterbacks. Yes, there is plenty overlap there, and no, this is not meant as some black-and-white, rigid truism. But you can't play-call your way out of second- or third-and-long -- somebody has to make a play.
It probably should have been predictable, then, that an offense that was struggling to keep a healthy quarterback on the field would also be struggling to convert on passing downs. OSU ranked a healthy 16th on standard downs, with a nearly 50-50 split between rushing and passing and plenty of big plays, but the Cowboys were actually rather conservative on passing downs, choosing to either run or dump off to the running back quite a bit. Monken justifiably didn't trust the quarterbacks enough to just let loose. We'll see what changes Yurcich brings to the table in that regard, especially now that Chelf and Walsh are both quite a bit more experienced than they were a year ago.
(It also bears mentioning that Yurcich's system and Shippensburg utilized mobile quarterbacks to an extent, so the nimble Walsh will probably have a role to play in the offense whether he's the full-time starter or not.)
|Jeremy Smith||RB||5'10, 208||Sr.||**** (5.8)||70||371||5.3||4.2||8||+7.2|
|J.W. Walsh||QB||6'2, 205||So.||**** (5.9)||46||311||6.8||7.3||7||+6.7|
|Desmond Roland||RB||6'2, 210||Jr.||*** (5.5)||46||301||6.5||6.6||4||+6.5|
|Clint Chelf||QB||6'1, 210||Sr.||*** (5.5)||24||205||8.5||6.4||0||+7.9|
|Caleb Muncrief||RB||5'8, 190||So.||** (5.4)||14||57||4.1||2.4||0||-1.5|
|Corey Bennett||RB||5'9, 190||So.||NR||12||91||7.6||3.4||1||+1.1|
|Josh Stewart||IR||5'10, 185||Jr.||*** (5.7)||8||120||15.0||14.8||1||+6.6|
|Josh Stewart||IR||5'10, 185||Jr.||*** (5.7)||135||101||1214||74.8%||9.0||28.4%||67.4%||8.9||155.0|
|Charlie Moore||WR||6'2, 202||Sr.||** (5.4)||69||35||509||50.7%||7.4||14.5%||69.6%||7.1||65.0|
|Blake Jackson||IR||6'3, 235||Sr.||*** (5.7)||45||29||598||64.4%||13.3||9.5%||64.4%||13.0||76.4|
|Austin Hays||IR||6'2, 185||So.||** (5.2)||42||29||394||69.0%||9.4||8.8%||73.8%||8.5||50.3|
|Tracy Moore||WR||6'2, 215||Sr.||*** (5.7)||31||20||283||64.5%||9.1||6.5%||61.3%||9.2||36.1|
|Blake Webb||IR||5'11, 190||So.||*** (5.5)||19||14||218||73.7%||11.5||4.0%||57.9%||11.8||27.8|
|Kye Staley||FB||5'10, 236||Sr.||**** (5.9)||13||12||166||92.3%||12.8||2.7%||69.2%||12.2||21.2|
|John Goodlett||WR||5'10, 190||Sr.||NR||8||5||81||62.5%||10.1||1.7%||50.0%||10.7||10.3|
|Jeremy Smith||RB||5'10, 208||Sr.||**** (5.8)||6||3||32||50.0%||5.3||1.3%||83.3%||3.9||4.1|
|C.J. Curry||IR||6'2, 205||RSFr.||**** (5.8)||4||2||33||50.0%||8.3||0.8%||75.0%||6.7||4.2|
|Brandon Sheperd||WR||6'1, 195||So.||*** (5.6)||4||1||1||25.0%||0.3||0.8%||100.0%||0.2||0.1|
|Jhajuan Seales||WR||6'2, 185||RSFr.||** (5.4)|
|Marcell Ateman||WR||6'4, 189||Fr.||**** (5.8)|
|Ra'Shaad Samples||WR||6'0, 170||Fr.||**** (5.8)|
5. Wanted: consistency at wide receiver
We basiaclly know what we're getting from the OSU running game. If he can stay healthy, Jeremy Smith brings a nice combination of power and speed to the table (he proved that more in previous years than he did in 2012), Desmond Roland showed exciting explosiveness last season, and despite some short-yardage glitches last year, the OSU offensive line will really never be a concern for me as long as phenomenal OL coach Joe Wickline is still around.
But while the quarterback position was in flux last season, the receiving corps never totally gelled either. Josh Stewart was a perfectly strong possession receiver, with a 75 percent catch rate at only 12.0 yards per catch, while big targets like Blake Jackson and Tracy Moore proved to be matchup nightmares (with potentially iffy hands) when healthy (in Moore's case).
But there was no star, and there was only so much reliability. It further emphasizes how impressive this system is that OSU could provide such strong results with issues at quarterback and receiver (and with a shakier line than normal), but here we are. OSU is all but guaranteed to have a good offense, but receivers will need to step up to get OSU back in the Off. F/+ top five or so.
Blake Jackson. Richard Rowe, US Presswire.
|Lane Taylor||RG||47 career starts; 2012 1st All-Big 12|
|Jonathan Rush||LG||24 career starts|
|Parker Graham||RG||6'7, 315||Sr.||** (5.2)||18 career starts|
|Evan Epstein||C||12 career starts|
|Daniel Koenig||RT||6'6, 310||Jr.||*** (5.6)||12 career starts|
|Brandon Webb||LG||6'3, 326||Sr.||**** (5.8)||5 career starts|
|Devin Davis||LT||6'5, 298||So.||*** (5.7)||1 career start|
|Jake Jenkins||C||6'3, 298||Jr.||*** (5.5)||1 career start|
|Eli Dickerson||RG||6'6, 310||Jr.||*** (5.6)|
|Chris Grisbhy||RG||6'5, 325||Jr.||*** (5.6)|
|Brandon Garrett||RT||6'5, 295||Jr.||** (5.4)|
|Michael Wilson||LT||6'6, 290||RSFr.||*** (5.7)|
|Paul Lewis||LG||6'3, 295||RSFr.||*** (5.5)|
|Zac Veatch||C||6'4, 290||RSFr.||*** (5.6)|
|Q1 Rk||42||1st Down Rk||41|
|Q2 Rk||13||2nd Down Rk||15|
|Q3 Rk||17||3rd Down Rk||16|
6. Musical chairs at coordinator can catch up to you, Part II
You can't control an offensive coordinator leaving to take a head coaching job. That type of attrition can certainly catch up to you, as referenced above, but it is still a sign of success overall. Willingly giving up on a good defensive coordinator, however, is incredibly risky.
That Mike Gundy gave up on Bill Young after four straight seasons of top-25 defense (according to Def. F/+) proves how high Gundy is aiming for his program. That's fine. But risk is not always associated with reward.
OSU's 2012 defense regressed in comparison to the bend-don't-break masterpiece of 2011, but the components of the D were still pretty strong. The Cowboys were strong at preventing big plays, shut drives down beautifully on passing downs, and played rather stiff defense in the red zone. They struggled on standard downs more than they had recently, and they were less lucky in fumble recoveries (they recovered 20 of 27 opponent fumbles in 2011 but only 11 of 22 in 2012) and turning passes broken up into interceptions (17 percent of their passes defensed were interceptions in 2012 after an unsustainably high 28 percent in 2011; national average is around 21 percent). But this was still a pretty successful defense overall, and giving up on good in the quest for great can backfire.
|Rivals||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Calvin Barnett||DT||6'2, 300||Sr.||*** (5.7)||13||27.0||3.3%||8.5||1||0||1||0||0|
|James Castleman||DT||6'2, 296||Jr.||*** (5.7)||12||26.0||3.2%||6.5||1||1||3||0||0|
|Tyler Johnson||DE||6'1, 245||Sr.||** (5.4)||11||25.5||3.2%||6||4||1||1||2||1|
|Anthony Rogers||DT||6'3, 293||Sr.||*** (5.6)||13||9.5||1.2%||3||0||0||0||0||0|
|Davidell Collins||DT||6'5, 275||Sr.||*** (5.6)||13||9.0||1.1%||1||0||0||2||0||1|
|Trace Clark||DE||6'4, 250||So.||*** (5.7)||8||4.5||0.6%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Taylor May||DE||6'2, 240||So.||NR||3||2.0||0.2%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Jimmy Bean||DE||6'5, 245||So.||*** (5.7)|
|Eric Davis||DE||6'3, 275||RSFr.||*** (5.7)|
|Jeremiah Tshimanga||DE||6'2, 230||RSFr.||*** (5.7)|
|Emmanuel Ogbah||DE||6'4, 270||RSFr.||*** (5.6)|
|Victor Irokansi||DE||6'3, 240||RSFr.||*** (5.6)|
|Sam Wren||DE||6'2, 255||Jr.||*** (5.6)|
|Naim Mustafaa||DE||6'3, 230||Fr.||*** (5.7)|
|Vincent Taylor||DT||6'3, 277||Fr.||*** (5.7)|
|Rivals||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Shaun Lewis||SLB||5'11, 225||Sr.||**** (5.8)||13||54.0||6.7%||7.5||2.5||0||4||1||1|
|Caleb Lavey||MLB||6'3, 235||Sr.||*** (5.7)||13||49.0||6.1%||7||1.5||0||0||1||0|
|Joe Mitchell||SLB||6'3, 225||Sr.||*** (5.5)||13||21.5||2.7%||4.5||2.5||0||1||0||2|
|Ryan Simmons||WLB||6'0, 242||So.||*** (5.7)||13||21.0||2.6%||4.5||0.5||0||1||1||0|
|Kris Catlin||WLB||6'1, 225||So.||*** (5.7)||12||8.5||1.1%||1||0||0||0||1||0|
|DeMarcus Sherod||MLB||6'0, 225||So.||*** (5.7)||12||6.0||0.7%||1.5||0||0||0||0||0|
|Seth Jacobs||SLB||6'2, 220||RSFr.||**** (5.8)|
7. Playmaking in the front…
New defensive coordinator (and current and former linebackers coach) Glenn Spencer has promised a more aggressive style of play, complete with attacking, blitzing defense. He certainly has some potentially exciting personnel for this, with four returning linebackers who logged at least 4.5 tackles for loss in 2012 and a nice pair of tackles in Calvin Barnett and James Castleman. The end position is quite green, but there is a lot of speed here.
(Spencer, by the way, used the word "aggressive" like he had an endorsement deal with it this spring, promising a "return" to the aggressive success of 2011. But a lot of the difference between 2011 and 2012 was simple luck in the number of bouncing balls that landed in defenders' hands. OSU's sack rate actually improved by quite a bit in 2012, and the run defense was equal in 2011 and 2012. Plus, the biggest dropoff in 2012 came in defending the pass on standard downs. You can't really blitz more on standard downs without risking getting gashed by the run, so it's not entirely clear to me what increased aggression will do to solve OSU's problems, as they were, from 2012.)
|Rivals||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Daytawion Lowe||FS||5'11, 205||Sr.||**** (5.8)||13||66.5||8.2%||3||1||2||4||1||1|
|Shamiel Gary||SS||6'0, 210||Sr.||** (5.1)||13||66.0||8.2%||1||0||2||4||1||0|
|CB||5'11, 170||Sr.||*** (5.6)||12||55.0||8.1%||4||1||3||8||0||0|
|Justin Gilbert||CB||6'0, 200||Sr.||**** (5.8)||13||58.5||7.2%||2||0||0||9||1||0|
|Lyndell Johnson||SS||6'3, 215||Jr.||*** (5.7)||9||26.0||3.2%||6.5||2||2||1||1||1|
|Ashton Lampkin||CB||5'11, 180||So.||*** (5.7)||13||18.0||2.2%||0||0||1||0||0||0|
|Kevin Peterson||CB||5'11, 185||So.||*** (5.6)||13||18.0||2.2%||0||0||0||2||0||0|
|Larry Stephens||FS||5'10, 185||Sr.||*** (5.6)||13||13.5||1.7%||1||0||0||0||0||0|
|Zack Craig||SS||6'1, 200||Sr.||*** (5.5)||13||12.5||1.5%||2||1||1||4||0||0|
|Deion Imade||FS||5'11, 205||Sr.||*** (5.5)||11||4.0||0.5%||0||0||0||1||0||0|
|Miketavius Jones||CB||5'10, 175||So.||*** (5.5)||10||3.0||0.4%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Jerell Morrow||CB||5'11, 180||Fr.||**** (5.8)|
|Darius Curry||DB||6'1, 190||Fr.||*** (5.7)|
|Deric Robertson||DB||6'2, 195||Fr.||*** (5.7)|
8. …play-prevention in the back
OSU wasn't quite as elite in preventing big plays in 2012, but it was still an area of strength. Daytawion Lowe is one of the nation's best safeties, and despite being a little leaky on standard downs, OSU got mostly strong coverage from corners Justin Gilbert and Brodrick Brown.
Brown's gone, but Kansas transfer Tyler Patmon, part of an underrated KU defensive backfield last year, is immediately eligible as a fifth-year transfer, and everybody not named Brown returns. The secondary has been an OSU strength for a while, and it should more than suffice in 2013, It has both depth and a super steady set of safeties in Lowe, Shamiel Gary, and big converted linebacker Lyndell Johnson.
|Bobby Stonebraker||6'0, 175||Jr.||6||53.7||3||50.0%|
|Justin Gilbert||KR||6'0, 200||Sr.||32||25.8||1|
|Jeremy Smith||KR||5'10, 208||Sr.||5||17.6||0|
|Charlie Moore||PR||6'2, 202||Sr.||20||7.2||0|
|David Glidden||PR||5'7, 185||So.||6||4.5||0|
|Special Teams F/+||10|
|Field Goal Pct||19|
|Kick Returns Avg||12|
|Punt Returns Avg||24|
9. Quinn Sharp was a badass
There's no other way to put it. He was an all-conference kicker and punter in 2011 and 2010, an all-conference punter in 2010, an All-American punter in 2010, an All-American kicker in 2011-12, and a semifinalist for both the Ray Guy (punter) and Lou Groza (kicker) awards in his career. OSU rode his leg to a No. 3 ranking in net punting, a No. 4 ranking in touchback percentage, and a No. 11 ranking in net kickoffs, and Sharp didn't miss a kick of under 40 yards all season, either via PAT or shorter field goal. He was absolutely incredible.
And he's now gone. OSU hasn't had kicking problems for a while (Sharp's punting predecessor, Matt Fodge, won the Ray Guy Award), and there's no guarantee that Sharp's replacement(s) will be poor. But there's almost nowhere to go but down for OSU's special teams unit, even with kick returner Justin Gilbert returning.
2013 Schedule & Projection Factors
|31-Aug||vs. Mississippi State||51|
|28-Sep||at West Virginia||41|
|26-Oct||at Iowa State||76|
|2-Nov||at Texas Tech||42|
|Five-Year F/+ Rk||9|
|Two-Year Recruiting Rk||29|
|TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin*||0 / +1.7|
|Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.)||13 (6, 7)|
10. Why can't the 'Pokes start 9-0?
Primarily because of the changes in coordinator and my uncertainty about the defense (the changes we're hearing about aren't necessarily the changes OSU needs), I feel slightly less comfortable about OSU than I do Texas and TCU overall. But I still see the 'Pokes as a top 15 team, and I love their schedule. They should be built to survive early trips to Houston (to face Mississippi State) and Morgantown, and they get Kansas State and TCU at home. They could potentially be favored to win each of their first nine games before a brutal closing set against Texas, Baylor, and Oklahoma. But even then, two of those final three games are in Stillwater.
OSU is not a threat to go undefeated by any means, but the combination of schedule and experience should get them very far in the Big 12 title race. What Mike Gundy lacks in tact, he makes up for with prowess, and for the fourth straight year he will likely be at the reins of a top 15 team.
More from SB Nation: