The Oklahoma State Cowboys, one of the preseason favorites to win the Big 12 conference championship, open their 2013 season Saturday night against the Mississippi State Bulldogs. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday, with television coverage on ABC and ESPN2.
Oklahoma State replaced both coordinators this offseason. Offensive coordinator Todd Monken became the head coach of Southern Miss, replaced by the former offensive coordinator of Division II Shippensburg, Mike Yurich. Longtime defensive coordinator Bill Young was not so lucky; head coach Mike Gundy fired him after the 2012 season, promoting linebackers coach Glen Spencer to fill the vacancy.
Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen enters his fifth season, having made three straight bowl games in Starkville. Mullen is the first Mississippi State head coach to take the Bulldogs to three consecutive bowls since Jackie Sherrill from 1998 through 2000. Senior Tyler Russell (58.6% completion percentage, 2,897 passing yards, 24 TD, 10 INT in 2012) returns under center.
Rankings and records: Oklahoma State is ranked No. 13 in the AP Poll and No. 14 in the USA Today Coaches Poll. Mississippi State is unranked, though the school did receive votes in the USA Today poll.
Vegas: Oklahoma State is a 12.5-point favorite, with the total set at 60. The line has not moved considerably from its opening, the over/under has dropped six points.
Weather: Saturday is forecast to be sunny and hot in Houston, with a high of 95 degrees.
Three names to know
The story through the entire offseason in Stillwater was the quarterback race between senior Clint Chelf and sophomore J.W. Walsh. It was Walsh who was first off the bench last season when starting quarterback Wes Lunt was injured, but Chelf capably filled in for Walsh after the sophomore suffered an injury of his own. The two players spent spring and fall running side by side for the starting quarterback position. Gundy says both will get playing time Saturday.
On the Mississippi State sideline, keep an eye on running back LaDarius Perkins. He isn't a gamebreaker by any means, but the senior halfback notched 1,025 yards and 8 touchdowns last season. More importantly, he is running behind an offensive line with four returning starters and 95 returning starts.
Two things at stake
Oklahoma State-Mississippi State is one of two SEC-Big 12 matchups on the opening week, and one of only three matchups between the two bordering conferences this season. Bob Stoops' offseason comments about the relative strength of the SEC and Big 12 has raised the stakes of this three-game series, and the Big 12 can win if it simply takes the two games where it is favored.
While Mississippi State isn't considered a top contender in the SEC West, Oklahoma State could possibly sneak into the national championship hunt. The top tier of the Big 12 looks down this season, and Kansas State showed last season that an under-the-radar team can run the table in the Big 12 and rise quickly to the top of the polls. A loss here would almost certainly end that effort before it begins.
How to witness
TV: Television broadcast responsibilities will be handled by ABC and ESPN2.
Radio: Coverage in Oklahoma is available on 96.1 FM KXXY (Oklahoma CIty) and 93.7 FM KSPI (Stillwater). A full list of Oklahoma State radio affiliates is available here. The Mississippi State broadcast is available on 105.9 FM WZNO in Jackson. The list of radio broadcasts is also available through the Mississippi State athletic department.
Online streaming: ESPN provides streaming options through its WatchESPN service.