It’s time for the longest week of the year, and there’s no better way to kill time than to try to predict an unpredictable Oklahoma State football season.
The Cowboys finally kick off their football season Saturday against Central Arkansas. Before things get going and after doing our sitewide predictions last week, here are five more predictions I have left for 2023.
1. Ollie Gordon Emerges as Best RB in Big 12
I’ve talked the talk so hopefully Gordon will walk the walk once Saturday gets here.
I’ve gushed over Gordon all offseason. I picked him to be OSU’s leading rusher and Offensive MVP in our sitewide predictions, but I’ll take it even a step further here. Not only do I think Gordon will rise to the top of OSU’s depth chart at RB, but I think his takeover will extend far beyond the Neon Palms.
The top four rushers in the Big 12 from last season are all gone. Bijan Robinson is now a top fantasy football pick in the NFL. Deuce Vaughn, Kendre Miller and Eric Gray are also all rookies in the league now. The only returning 1,000-yard rusher in the conference is Kansas’ Devin Neal. And give me Gordon over Neal any day.
There’s no top dog in the conference entering this season at the position. With the vacancy there, Ollie Gordon could very likely emerge as the best running back in the Big 12 by season’s end. The talent is there.
The only thing that could hold Gordon back is opportunity while possibly sharing carries with Jaden Nixon and Elijah Collins. Gordon averaged 4.9 yards last season as a freshman while competing for carries then too. Once he finally got double-digit carries, Gordon exploded for 136 yards against West Virginia and was rewarded with his first start in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl.
If Gordon’s talent is rewarded, the Cowboys will reap the benefits.
2. No End of QB Controversy
This QB chatter that has encompassed the entire preseason isn’t going anywhere.
I actually had this prediction ready to go before Gundy doubled down on using multiple QBs, and maybe even long term. Obviously two ORs at the position on the first depth chart of the season only solidifies this thought even more.
But, more times than not, a guy will come out of this multiple-QB situation as the guy. But even when that happens, no matter who it is, the QB controversy will not end there, even if it only continues in our forum.
If Garrett Rangel or Gunnar Gundy win the job, their inexperience will show at times and could even irritate enough to cry out for the veteran. If it’s fifth-year senior Alan Bowman, experience still doesn’t make a player perfect, so in tough times it could seem better to start looking toward the future and go with a young gun.
But, maybe you enjoy the drama of a good QB battle. If that’s the case, you can also look forward to 2024, when Rangel, Gunnar Gundy and Zane Flores will most likely be battling it out again.
3. Cowboys Reach 10 Wins
I already wrote about the real possibility of the Pokes getting to 10 wins in 2023, and I think I actually talked myself into thinking it will really happen.
I’ll be up front, I’m less confident now than I was then. The thought of a multiple-QB system worries me, I have doubts about the defense and I know Squinky is always lurking around the pylon. But my prediction of OSU reaching 10 wins actually has very little to do with the actual team. This is all about that schedule.
Even with its flaws, this OSU roster is still good enough to beat most of the teams on its slate. On paper, the obvious superior teams ahead are OU and K-State, and those games will be at Boone Pickens Stadium. And let’s not forget OU was 6-7 last season.
As I tallied OSU’s predicted record, I even included a Squinky appearance and slip-up along the way. That 10th win would most likely come down to the bowl game.
4. Brennan Presley Scores Receiving, Rushing and Return TD
I remember being enamored by Brennan Presley when covering his last high school football game with Bixby in 2019. He led the Spartans to another state title, finding the end zone via catch and a return.
Considering how easy Presley made that look then, I have confidence he can accomplish the feat again, plus score a rushing TD, during his final collegiate season. He’s actually already tallied a receiving, rushing and return TD in a single season once before as a sophomore. Last season he was missing only the return.
Presley was the Cowboys’ leading receiver last season, catching 67 passes for 813 yards and two TDs. He also added a rushing score last year while carrying the ball only five times. Presley has found the end zone on the ground every season thus far despite minimal opportunities.
Presley again was listed as OSU’s kick and punt returner on the first depth chart of the season. Predicting a special teams TD may be like catching lightning in a bottle, and although I’ve never tried to do either, I imagine trying to catch Presley in open space is just as difficult.
Heck, thinking about some bowl-game fun possibilities, I almost even had Presley throwing a TD this season too.
5. Both Coordinators Return for 2024
This prediction is more bold than it seems at first glance.
Many were gunning for offensive coordinator Kasey Dunn’s job by the end of last season, and others were probably even surprised he kept it. Bryan Nardo is OSU’s third defensive coordinator in as many years.
Nardo is the most likely to stay because Gundy quite literally never gets rid of an assistant, and he definitely never would after only one season. Although Nardo seems like a lock to stick around, I’m sure last preseason most of us assumed Derek Mason would still be in Stillwater. But the fact Gundy won’t give up on Nardo after one season and Nardo presumably doesn’t have enough big-time experience to leave for greener pastures, I plan on Nardo still commanding the 3-3-5 next year.
Then there’s the offense. I keep seeing the chatter about Dunn being on the hot seat. I really don’t think so, though. I did just predict the Cowboys to win 10 games. If a season appears that successful on paper, even it’s in spite of the offense (see 2021), Gundy will try his darndest to keep everything the same. And, by the way, if it is a 10-win campaign, I believe the offense will earn the most credit.
But if things do burn, even on offense, between QB issues and a plethora of turnover, I think there will be enough excuses to keep Dunn around for at least another try.
And with so much constant change everywhere in college football, I’m not so sure even more change within a coaching staff is the answer anywhere.