Three Burning Questions Ahead of Oklahoma State’s Season Opener against Central Michigan

The Cowboys will kick off their highly anticipated 2022 season against a familiar foe, or at least one that’s taken up a lot of real estate in the minds of Cowboys fans and coaches since they last met in 2016.

Central Michigan is coming off a strong finish in 2021. The Chippewas won their last five games, and seven of their last eight, including a 24-21 Sun Bowl win over Washington State. So they’ve got some offseason momentum — if there is such a thing.

Let’s take a look at three questions about OSU-Central Michigan that will likely determine whether or not the Cowboys take care of business or put themselves in the position to potentially revisit the ghosts of their late-game drama from the teams’ last meeting.

How to Slow Down Lew Nichols III?

The Chippewas return the nation’s leading rusher from last year and the majority of their reps at the interior of their offensive line. So expect Lew Nichols III to pick up right where he left off.

Nichols racked up more than 1,800 yards and 16 touchdowns last year, rattling off seven-straight games of at least 100 yards down the stretch. He also hauled in 40 catches for 338 yards and two more scores. Look for No. 7 and, more times than not, you’ll find the football.

Who Makes Plays on the Outside for CMU?

Central Michigan faced the unenviable task of replacing two all-conference wide receivers from last year. The Chippewas will be without leading receiver Kalil Pimpleton (62 catches and 960 yards last year) and JaCorey Sullivan (49 catches for 687 yards and 10 TDs). That’s a lot of playmaking and production to lose in one offseason, especially when your WR depth chart is as shallow as CMU’s.

The Chippewas do return Dallas Dixon, who ranked second on the team in both yards and touchdowns, but there are a lot of questions marks after him. And there’s reason to think quarterback Daniel Richardson might have to get rid of the ball quickly on Thursday night.

Paper or Plastic?

One of the most interesting — if not most one-sided — matchups for this game will feature Oklahoma State’s two-deep rotation of defensive ends that includes a Freshman All-American, an all-conference first-teamer and two All-Big 12 honorable mentions. And they’ll be facing a Central Michigan offensive line that must replace both starters at tackle.

The Chippewas offensive line is deep and experienced inside the tackles, but it lost both of its starting OTs to the NFL from last season. And the strength of OSU’s defense is undoubtedly its front, with stars Collin Oliver, Brock Martin, Trace Ford and Tyler Lacy headhunting off the edge. That’s a lot to lay on the shoulders of newly named starters. Expect the Cowboys’ edge rushers to feast.