Oklahoma State

Replacing 28-year-old first-round draft pick Brandon Weeden at the quarterback spot is true freshman Wes Lunt, shown here in the 2012 spring game. (Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman).

Overview: The Cowboys’ offense took everyone for a ride in 2011, but this season Oklahoma State is missing some players that cannot simply be replaced. Freshman Wes Lunt takes the reins at quarterback in the absence of Brandon Weeden, a player a decade older than him who had incredible success for the Cowboys before going 22nd overall in the NFL draft. Weeden’s receiving counterpart, Justin Blackmon, also went in the first round of the draft this year. The man who facilitated the entire offense, center Grant Garner, is gone as well, along with three other starters on the offensive line. That said, the Cowboys still have great talent and experienced players to take on bigger roles. The offense will not be as explosive as last season, but it will be good.

Defensively, Oklahoma State’s biggest question is the line, where only one starter returns. The Cowboys retain all three of their starting linebackers from last season and three of their four defensive backs. Improvement has likely occurred over the summer, but keep in mind this defense ranked seventh in the league and 107th in the nation in 2011.

Schedule: The Cowboys should benefit from a favorable schedule early this season. They start with a home game against Texas, continue with a road game against Kansas, and return to Stillwater to face Iowa State. They could easily be 6-0 when they take on TCU on Oct. 27. From there, the Cowboys play three preseason Top 25 teams – Kansas State, West Virginia and Oklahoma – over their last five games.

Last year against Kansas State: Oklahoma State caused maximum damage in a minimal amount of time while defeating the Wildcats 52-45 in Stillwater a year ago. Kansas State controlled the ball for 40 minutes and 49 seconds, but just under a third of the ball game was all Oklahoma State needed to rack up 575 yards of offense, including 502 yards through the air from Weeden. Though the Wildcats put forth a well-balanced attack (276 rushing yards, 231 passing yards), they ultimately could not keep up with the juggernaut of the Cowboys offense.

Projection: Oklahoma State will be in the top half of the league easily but will not blow people away like they did last season, much less challenge for the national title. They will probably win eight or nine games – a good season, but not a great one.

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