Oklahoma State’s football schedule will look quite a bit different in 2023. The Big 12 is adding four new teams, and the Cowboys will face each of them this fall. But before we drill down into the conference slate, let’s take a look at OSU’s first three weeks of the season.
The Cowboys’ strength of schedule is ranked 12th out of 14 Big 12 teams, and these first three games are a big reason why. You’ve got an FCS school to start before a road trip to a hapless, albeit Power Five opponent, in Arizona State. The most intriguing game in the nonconference is a visit from Southern Alabama, fresh off a record season and with most of its pieces coming back. If nothing else, it will give OSU’s new pieces some time to gel before conference play kicks off.
Let’s dig in.
Week 1: Central Arkansas | Sept. 2 | Stillwater, Okla.
Series history: 1-0
Last meeting: The Cowboys have only faced the Bears once, a 32-8 win against in Week 2 in 2015. Mason Rudolph reached 400 yards for the first time, and David Glidden logged a career-best 145 receiving yards and two touchdowns.
Central Arkansas in 2022: The Bears are coming off a 5-6 season but went 3-2 in their first season in the ASUN Conference, earning co-champ honors.
Central Arkansas in 2023: UCA returns senior quarterback Will McElvain who threw for 2,500 yards and 18 touchdowns a year ago. Two weeks after their trip to Stillwater, the Bears head to Fargo to face FCS power North Dakota State.
Of note: What much is there to say. It’s another FCS opponent filling the schedule, but football will be back. Also, I was somehow certain that OSU had played Central Arkansas more than once.
Week 2: Arizona State | Sept. 9 | Tempe, Ariz.
Series history: 2-2
Last meeting: The Cowboys hosted the Sun Devils in Week 2 last year, earning a 34-17 win and pushing them to No. 8 nationally. Spencer Sanders threw two touchdowns and rushed for a third while Dominic Richardson racked up 131 yards and a score.
Arizona State in 2022: The Sun Devils limped to a 3-9 finish which saw the school part ways with Herm Edwards after five seasons.
Arizona State in 2023: ASU hired 32-year-old Kenny Dillingham, the former Oregon OC. It’ll be a new-look Sun Devil squad, as ASU has brought in 28 players from the transfer portal this offseason to pair with their 20 traditional signees.
Of note: Dillingham hired former OSU wide receiver Ra’Shaad Samples as his WR coach/passing game coordinator. Last season, Samples was the NFL’s youngest position coach, leading the Los Angeles Rams’ running back room.
Week 3: South Alabama | Sept. 16 | Stillwater, Okla.
Series history: 2-0
Last meeting: OSU topped Southern Alabama 55-13 in Week 2 in 2018. Taylor Cornelius reached 400 passing yards for the first time but threw two picks to one TD. Justice Hill only needed nine carries to log two rushing TDs, and the Pokes cruised to an easy win.
South Alabama in 2022: The Jaguars went 10-3 last year in Kane Wommack’s second year at the helm. That followed a 5-7 season. USA ended 2022 on a rough note, falling to Western Kentucky 44-23 in the New Orleans Bowl.
South Alabama in 2023: USA will look to build off that big year. The Jags return practically everyone on offense, including quarterback Carter Bradley, who threw for 3,334 yards and 28 touchdowns, and 1,000-yard rusher La’Damian Webb.
Of note: Last year’s 10 wins were the most ever at Southern Alabama. In 11 seasons since joining the FBS, the Jags had not won more than six games.