With conference realignment ringing off the hook all offseason, it hardly feels true but: It’s game week for Oklahoma State. The Pokes open their 2021 season on Saturday with a home tilt against Missouri State.
Ahead of the start of the season, our team, as we do, has laid out preseason predictions for how we think 2021 will unfold. Those predictions are below. Some of us, as is typically the case, are more optimistic than others. But we all are predicting a winning record and some fun football ahead.
Let’s jump right in.
Marshall Scott: Spencer Sanders. Picking the quarterback to be a team’s offensive MVP is always safe, but I think it’ll hold true because of the depth at the other skill positions. With four capable running backs, it’s hard to say any will warrant an MVP selection, and I also expect Tay Martin and Brennan Presley to split the receiving yards more equally than in the past. And who benefits from all of this? A more experienced Sanders.
Kyle Boone: Spencer Sanders. This wasn’t my response when I answered this question very recently, but if OSU’s offense is as good — or even close to as good — as we think it could be, it’ll be because QB1 makes a leap this season.
Kyle Cox: I feel pressure to pick someone other than Spencer Sanders, but it’s hard to not pick the third-year returning quarterback who will be replacing his top two playmakers from a year ago in Chuba Hubbard and Tylan Wallace. So, yeah I’ll fall in line.
Marshall Scott: Devin Harper. Here’s something that might be a little out there. Harper replaces Amen Ogbongbemiga at OSU’s Mike linebacker position. That position’s starter has been at least Top 2 in tackles for the Cowboys’ since Jim Knowles got to OSU ahead of the 2018 season. Injuries and solid depth have lessened Harper’s role until this point, but when he is on the field, he makes plays. He already has two career INTs, one of which he returned for a touchdown.
Kyle Boone: Trace Ford. Coming off an ACL tear, I’ve been hesitant to be too bullish on his 2021 prospects. But he’s the most talented player on defense playing what I think could be the most impactful position (LEO) in 2021. Even with an experienced secondary I think he leads the way for a top-15 defensive unit this season.
Kyle Cox: I think I picked Ford when asked recently, but for the sake of variety, give me all the KHP stock you’re selling. Not enough has been spoken or written about the former back-to-back all-conference honoree. He’s a bonafide baller who impacts on the game whenever he is on the field, whether a team goes to the ground (over half of his tackles were on ball carriers) or through the air. OSU may be stacked at safety, but he’s the best of the bunch.
Who leads the team in rushing?
Marshall Scott: LD Brown. Back to playing it safe. Brown has bided his time, watching Chris Carson, Justice Hill and Chuba Hubbard get drafted. He should be the leader among the Pokes’ backs entering his sixth college season. I wouldn’t count out Utah State transfer Jaylen Warren, though.
Kyle Boone: LD Brown. It seems like OSU is determined to take a committee approach to this backfield, but LD gets the edge for me. He’s likely to be the No. 1 option of the committee and last season he showed he’s much more than a speedster/scatback. If he gets 10-12 touches a game he has the potential to be an insanely efficient rusher who leads the team as a super senior.
Kyle Cox: Dezmon Jackson. I fully expect LD Brown to be RB1 on Saturday but a lot can change over the course of a season and I think Jackson is the most exciting, and the most ready to carry an offense. It will be RB-by-committee, but Gundy has said he’ll ride the hot hand. And his Jackson-Keith Toston comparison is not leaving my memory any time soon. If he can stay healthy, I think Dez is the guy.
Predict the yards and TDs for Spencer Sanders
Marshall Scott: In his first two years as a starter, Sanders eerily had the same completions and attempts (155-for-247). This year, I say he bests his freshman and sophomore seasons, going 162-for-255 with 2,250 passing yards and 20 touchdowns. On the ground, give me 95 attempts for 450 yards.
Kyle Boone: Sanders goes 175-for-280 passing (62.5%) for 2,400 yards and 20 touchdowns, all (save for the completion rate) finishing as career-bests. He also adds 110 rushing attempts for 405 yards on the ground and four rushing scores.
Kyle Cox: I think at this point you have to go with 155-for-247, right? But seriously, I think Sanders takes a big step forward this year. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,500 yards and 20 touchdowns through the air seems right for a QB that’s going to lead OSU to Arlington (in addition to his ground game contributions).
Who leads the team in receiving?
Marshall Scott: Tay Martin. Slotting in at OSU’s coveted Z spot, this just makes sense until proven otherwise. I’ll say 900 yards and eight touchdowns.
Kyle Boone: Tay Martin. I think he finishes just shy of 1,000 yards receiving and gets, say, six receiving touchdowns on the year.
Kyle Cox: Tay Martin, based largely on his position. If you listen to Mike Gundy, Martin is a different player than he was last year and OSU will need him to be. He’s got some pretty big cleats to fill in that Z spot vacated by Tylan Wallace, but he’ll also have plenty of opportunities to put up numbers.
Who finishes the season second in receiving?
Marshall Scott: Brennan Presley. I could realistically see Presley having a Josh Stewart-esque sophomore season, but I’ll stay somewhat reserved for now, saying he finishes with 800 yards and seven scores.
Kyle Boone: Brennan Presley. I feel like it’s going to be a WR1A and WR1B approach this season so Presley will finish just shy of 1,000 yards receiving as well with a dozen scores of his own.
Kyle Cox: Boring, but true. Brennan Presley looked like an all-conference player in the bowl game. I don’t expect him to necessarily bring down triple digits and triple TDs every outing, but he’s only going to get better. He’ll be exciting to watch this fall.
Freshman of the Year
Marshall Scott: I think it’s going to have to be Blaine Green. With guys getting an extra year because of the pandemic, OSU won’t lean on a ton of young guys, and Green is the early starter at OSU’s X receiver.
Kyle Boone: Blaine Green. Green earned a starting slot at receiver after a strong camp and figures to be an explosive option for OSU in the passing game right away this season.
Kyle Cox: Collin Oliver. I think Green is going to be impactful, but he’s not the true frosh who will get the most pub in 2021. The four-star pass rusher has garnered plenty of praise during fall camp and Gundy recently said that he’s “gonna get to play a lot.” If you’ve earned that much praise and confidence from your head coach before your 19th birthday, it’s got to mean something.
Marshall Scott: Devin Harper. If he’s going to be the Defensive MVP as I predict, I assume this will be his spot to hold. I’ll predict a nice, even 100 tackles.
Kyle Boone: Malcolm Rodriguez. Led the team in tackles last season and figures to repeat as the Caleb Lavey-like presence of the defense this season.
Kyle Cox: Rodriguez has been the Cowboys’ tackle leader the last two seasons and was No. 2 three years ago. My money’s on the incumbent.
Marshall Scott: Trace Ford. Ford is the Cowboys’ leading returner in sacks from a season ago. Depending on how slow OSU takes his return from his ACL tear, I think Ford will do some damage this year in opposing backfields.
Kyle Boone: I’ll go Tyler Lacy here. Trace Ford is going to lead the team in quarterback hurries and forced errors but Lacy has a chance to double his sacks from last season and push for a potential double-digit sack season. Breakout year incoming.
Kyle Cox: Trace Ford. Let’s not make this complicated. If he’s healthy, which all signs seem to indicate he is, Ford’s the best QB hunter on the roster and he should be set for a big year with the opportunity to have an All-Big 12 First Team-worthy campaign.
Marshall Scott: Kolby Harvell-Peel. Harvell-Peel didn’t get thrown at a ton last season, but he still tied the team lead in picks. I think he builds on that this year.
Kyle Boone: I’ll go Tre Sterling. He was a breakout star last season hawking the back end of the OSU defense, including one INT he housed for a TD. I think he’s probably ready to prove in 2021 that 2020 was no fluke, and he has, for my money, the best hands of any OSU player in the secondary. (Kolby Harvell-Peel coming in as a close second.)
Kyle Cox: Kolby Harvell-Peel. As stated above, I think KHP has a bag year in 2021 and that includes ramping up his disruption in the passing game. He’s coming off five and two INTs the last two years. The last Cowboy to have multiple picks in consecutive years was Ramon Richards (four-straight!). I think KHP makes it three in a row.
Surprise of the year
Marshall Scott: Tyler Lacy. Lacy isn’t quite a household name yet, but he has oodles of potential. At 6-foot-4, 295 pounds, Lacy could move around on the Pokes’ defensive line, and I think he could be a guy whose stock soars this season.
Kyle Boone: OSU wins two games as underdogs. This would track, given OSU’s remarkable track record as a dog under Mike Gundy. Best early guesses are: Texas and Iowa State. OSU likely to be a dog against OU as well, but could be favored in every other game this season. Winning 66.6% of games as a dog would be an accomplishment (if it can win the others!)
Kyle Cox: OSU wins one version of Bedlam. I think the Cowboys are getting slept on a bit, and for good reason, but the O-line’s improvement and depth at running back will be a boon for Spencer Sanders and the offense. I will not say which episode of Bedlam they win, but I am (obviously) predicting a trip to Arlington.
Big 12 record and placing
Marshall Scott: 6-3 and in some strange tie for second or third
Kyle Boone: 6-3 and third place
Kyle Cox: 7-2 and in second place
Final record (including bowl)
Marshall Scott: 10-3
Kyle Boone: 10-3
Kyle Cox: 11-2
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