The Oklahoma State Cowboys are coming off one of their better seasons in recent memory so they are setting their sights high for a BCS bowl bid in 2009. This game could be a big one for both teams this season as each of them could be looking to make a statement to the rest of the Big XII with a big win. Last season, the Cowboys came into Columbia and got their signature win of the season, a 28-23 nail biter over the Tigers. Will the story be any different this year?
Zac Robinson returns for his senior season after having two pretty impressive seasons starting for the Cowboys at QB. The 6-3 Littleton, Colorado product passed for nearly 6,000 yards and 48 touchdowns in his sophomore and junior seasons so Oklahoma State fans are expecting a lot from him through the air this year. Along with being a great "general type" leader of one of the best offenses in college football, Robinson can pull the ball down and rush the ball when he needs to (562 yards last season), so defenses must be on the alert. Robinson has been receiving a lot of hype from the national media as a possible Heisman candidate in 2009 because of these skills, so it will be interesting to see if he can handle the pressure week in and week out. Even if he can't live up to the Heisman hopes, the Cowboys are set at this position for 2009 and Robinson will likely give Mizzou fits in October.
Oklahoma State boasted the 8th best running game in the nation last season and they return each of their top 4 rushers from a year ago. Missouri fans got a taste of what Kendall Hunter could do last season when Oklahoma State came to Columbia on a Saturday night in October. The sophomore running back ran for 154 yards and 1 touchdown, leading the Cowboys to a stunning victory over the Tigers. The 5-8 speedster returns for his junior season looking to improve on his 1,500 yard season in 2008. Keith Toston will back up Hunter again this year after averaging 6.7 yards per carry last year, so the rushing game of the Cowboys will most likely be just as lethal as they were last year.
Dez Bryant had his breakout year last season, catching 87 balls for 1,480 yards and 19 touchdowns and emerging as one of the best receivers in college football. His 6-2, 215-pound frame is very imposing to opposing defensive backs and his leaping ability gives him the chance to make a play on any ball anywhere in the general vicinity of his route. Past Bryant, there is literally no other returning wide receiver that caught more than 3 passes last season. DeMarcus Connor will be the only senior of the bunch, but he has not done anything of note in his college career. Redshirt freshman include Justin Blackmon (possible star), Isaiah Anderson and Adrian Richards, but who knows what you are going to get from them? In other words, Bryant will be one of the best targets in college football again this season, but the question will be can he get open enough record respectable stats and help the offense succeed? An unknown target must arise a legitimate threat for that to happen this season.
Oklahoma State must be feeling good about their chances this season if not only because their offensive line could be one of the best in the country in 2009. The line is anchored by a possible top-10 pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, left tackle Russell Okung. The 6-6, 305-pound senior can do it all and is a big reason for Oklahoma State's offensive success in the past couple of years. Past Okung, the Cowboys will start three other seniors and one junior (or sophomore). For a unit where experience and cohesiveness is everything, it seems like the Cowboys have the perfect storm this year for forming a great offensive line. Even if the "talent" positions don't perform up to their capabilities this season, the offense of Oklahoma State will still be solid because of their offensive line.
Oklahoma State alum Bill Young will return to Stillwater in 2009 to become the Cowboys' new defensive coordinator. His biggest job will be piecing together a good enough defensive line to compete with the juggernaut offenses of the Big XII South. Defensive lineman Ugo Chinasa and Derek Burton are former top recruits for Oklahoma State, but they haven't been the top pass rushers that the Cowboys thought they were getting. Chinasa and Burton must break through this season and perform up to their expectations as legitimate pass rushers in order to improve the overall performance of the defense. Burton may move inside this year to take advantage of his size, but the need for more constant pressure on the quarterback is still there. Richetti Jones is recovering from a hip injury, but if healthy could provide the spark that they need at defensive end.
Patrick Lavine has been all over the field in his first 3 seasons at Oklahoma State, recording 221 tackles (including 19 tackles for loss) and 13 pass breakups from 2006-2008. Lavine should continue that success into his senior season. Although he is undersized, Andre Sexton will probably be the most solid member of the Cowboy front 7 in 2009. Sexton will be a tackling machine on the outside this season, something every defense needs to be successful. Starting on the inside will be senior Orie Lemon. This 6-1, 250-pounder has put on weight over his whole college career and will be looking to use his extra pounds to make him a better tackler in his senior season. Overall, this group will be solid, but probably not too spectacular. The Cowboys must have some overachievers in their front 7 this season and they must learn how to contain top running backs if they want to be able to stop the top Big XII offenses.
Perrish Cox is known for being a pretty good kick returner for the Cowboys, but he wants to be able to make his name at cornerback this season. The 6-0 senior started every game last season, but wasn't too spectacular, recording 2 interceptions and 8 broken up passes. He has the potential to be pretty good this year, so if he can improve the Cowboys secondary could take an important step forward. Yet another senior, Terrance Anderson, will start at the other cornerback spot. Anderson has been solid but not spectacular (seems to be the common theme of the defense) in his time at Oklahoma State, and he will no doubt continue that into his final year in Stillwater. Senior safety Lucien Antoine will be the star of the group because of his hard-hitting ability, but he is also solid in all other aspects of his position.
So all in all, this seams to be Oklahoma State's year to go for it all because of all of the experience on both sides of the ball. The Tigers will catch them on the road this year and if the Cowboys are still undefeated when Mizzou comes to town, expect Stillwater to be buzzing with excitement. This game will be the perfect opportunity for Mizzou to show that they are legit contenders in the Big XII. Or, Oklahoma State could show that they are legitimate national title contenders by beating up on the Tigers. Oklahoma State will probably have a top 5 offense in college football, but all their hopes will probably lay on how well the defense progresses from last season to this season. Whatever happens, it should be a fun season for the Cowboys and a fun matchup against the Tigers.