Oregon State vs Oklahoma State . . . can the Beavers win?

2019.Okla St.coach Gundy
Coach Mike Gundy of Oklahoma State is second only to Kirk Ferentz of Iowa and TCU’s Gary Patterson as the longest-tenured coach in college football.

After posting three consecutive 10-win seasons, Oklahoma State finished the 2018 regular season just 6-6. Only with a 38-33 win over Missouri in the Auto Zone Liberty Bowl did the Cowboys attain their 14th-straight winning season since coach Mike Gundy was hired in 2005.

Oklahoma State’s schedule is favorable for a return to double-digit wins since seven opponents didn’t have winning FBS records in 2018 and five have new coaches.

The Cowboys finished 10th in FBS offense and they return two of their top three receivers along with three running backs who combined for more than 2000 yards.

Despite all of that, we’re going to see if we can find reasons to think Oregon State could win its opener against the Cowboys in Corvallis on Friday, August 30th.

While the Beavers ranked much lower in offensive production, they nearly match the Pokes in the percentage of returning effective player production and they also match in returning two of their top three receivers along with three running backs who, like the Cowboys, also combined for more than 2000 yards.

Oregon State has two-year starter Jake Luton at quarterback while Oklahoma State has not yet decided on its new starter. Hawai’i transfer Dru Brown has experience but redshirt freshman Spencer Sanders is electric and probably the future of the program. We don’t know yet what Sanders can do at the FBS level but if we compare Luton to Brown we find the Beaver senior had a slightly higher completion percentage and a lower interception rate.  Cowboy coaches cited both Brown and Sanders as being “too careless with the ball” in spring drills.

Both teams return weak offensive lines with neither higher than the bottom-third nationally for stopping quarterback sacks or from keeping running backs from being tackled in their own backfields.

The Beavers might find some advantage in offensive continuity since they return offensive coordinator Brian Lingren and the Cowboys hired a new one in Sean Gleeson. Gleeson may be new but he comes with a reputation as an offensive firebrand who head coached Princeton to an undefeated season in 2018 while scoring 47 points per game. He is also credited with the audacious and surprising signing of Alabama quarterback recruit Brevin Knight.

Expect turnovers. Neither team finished higher than 115th nationally in turnover margin. The team that wins turnovers might also be the one that wins the game.

The Cowboy defense has been in decline for three years. In 2016, the Stillwater defenders yielded 26.5 ppg, then 29.4 in 2017 and, under a new defensive coordinator (who is still there), 38.4 last season. If that trend continues, the Beavers might find it easier than expected to move the ball.

Oklahoma State’s ability to pressure quarterbacks will be less potent than a year ago after Jordan Brailford declared for the NFL and five other pressure leaders graduated. The Cowboys now must replace 23 of 30.5 sacks from six of last year’s top nine pressure players.

Although Oregon State could only dream of posting 30 sacks, the Beavers only need to replace one half of one sack and that heralds at least some increase in pressure over last year.

Oregon State has an advantage in penalties which is considered by some as a measure of player discipline. Last year, coach Jonathan Smith and his staff pushed a two-win team into 37th in the nation for fewest penalties.

Oklahoma State was 97th.

This week on the Jim Rome show, Gundy admitted that his own disciplines had taken a step back and this season would be different.

Recruiting has fallen off for Oklahoma State. In Gundy’s 14-year recruiting run, his first nine classes ranked near the top-30 (30.8). In the five years since, that average dropped to 38th. The 29% recruiting drop is commensurate with last year’s 30% drop in wins and three-year decline in scoring defense.

So, be hopeful Beaver fans. The Cowboys have a few hitches in their britches—a new offensive coordinator, a new quarterback, a history of turnovers and penalties, and a declining defense that might not bring a lot of pressure.

Of course, they still have to be favored what with their racehorse style and all.  But maybe—just maybe—you all will expose some stirrin’ in that Stillwater coral ‘cuz nowadays, it’s looking like they might have theirselves a few more ponies and a few less horses. So maybe—just maybe—these here Cowboys of today just ain’t nearly as strappin’ or punchin’ as they all use to was.