Early Returns Show Cowboys Are Underrated

I've told many on Go Pokes, as well as many more on my daily radio show, that I am a preseason college football magazine-aholic. It drives my wife crazy because I have preseason college football magazines stuffed in all kinds of boxes, under beds and in the garage. Most of them aren't worth the paper used to bring them to life but it's my way of getting excited about the upcoming season.

I know that in late May and early June when the first covers begin appearing on the shelf with an OSU helmet and/or helmets of their rivals that we are getting closer to the opening kickoff.

At this time, the players begin to make their way back to campus. The newcomers began arriving Tuesday for orientation and moving in; Chris Carson among them. The returning players will be back at some point this weekend with summer school and workouts beginning on Monday.

The early magazine returns indicate that the Cowboys may be working out this summer with a chip on the shoulder.

All the optimism coming out of the last three games of 2014 with the close call with Baylor in the rain, the Bedlam win over Oklahoma in overtime, and the Cactus Bowl win in Tempe over Washington didn't seem to sway many of the magazine editors or writers.

"It's funny how quickly perceptions can change and I think they did for Oklahoma State because of those two outcomes (wins over Oklahoma and Washington)," Kansas City Star newspaper columnist and Big 12 expert Blair Kerkhoff said. "That happened as much for any program in the Big 12 for them, a team that felt good about the end of their season that will carry that feeling into this coming season."

The bright sunshine of head coach Mike Gundy's exuberant and highly positive opinion of his team coming out of spring practice also seemed to miss the magazine industry. Maybe they can be excused for that because some of those deadlines predate the end of spring practice or come very close to the end of spring football.

That said of the early magazines, and I have my hands on three -- Lindy's, The Sporting News and Athlon's -- with a peek at Phil Steele's All-American and All-Big 12 teams through his website.

As for Oklahoma State as a team, Lindy's like the Cowboys the best as the magazine ranked them 18th in their preseason Top 25, and they liked the Cowboys third in the Big 12 right behind preseason favorites and top two finishers last season Baylor and TCU.

Athlon's has the Cowboys outside their Top 25 but not far at 28th, and they picked the Cowboys fourth in the Big 12. The Sporting News is the doom and gloom with a sixth-place finish projected in the Big 12 behind not only TCU and Baylor but OU, Texas, and Kansas State.

The All-American and all-conference projections are, in my opinion, even worse. Now, I'm trying to avoid a "homer" showing here, but ESPN and Todd McShay on his early 2016 mock draft had Oklahoma State defensive end and last season's Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year and sack leader (with 11) Emmanuel Ogbah being picked fifth in the 2016 NFL Draft. The opinions on Ogbah from the national magazine people is ridiculous.

Here are the Cowboys players and how they faired in preseason magazine accolades.

Emmanuel Ogbah, DE: 2nd Team All-American in Lindy's, 3rd Team All-American in Athlon's and Phil Steele; 1st Team All-Big 12 in The Sporting News, Athlon's, and Phil Steele; 2nd Team All-Big 12 in Lindy's

Jimmy Bean, DE: 2nd Team All-Big 12 in Lindy's, 3rd Team All-Big 12 in Phil Steele

Ryan Simmons, LB; 1st Team All-Big 12 in Athlon's, 2nd Team All-Big 12 in Lindy's

Seth Jacobs, LB: 2nd Team All-Big 12 in Lindy's and Phil Steele, 3rd Team All-Big 12 in Athlon's

Kevin Peterson, CB: 2nd Team All-Big 12 in Lindy's, Athlon's, and Phil Steele

Jordan Sterns, Saf; 2nd Team All-Big 12 in Lindy's, 3rd Team All-Big 12 in Athlon's, and 4th Team All-Big 12 in Phil Steele

Mason Rudolph, QB; 2nd Team All-Big 12 in Lindy's and Athlon's, 4th Team All-Big 12 in Phil Steele

Brandon Sheperd, WR: 2nd Team All-Big 12 in Athlon's, 3rd Team All-Big 12 in Phil Steele

Vincent Taylor, DT: 3rd Team All-Big 12 in Athlon's and 4th Team All-Big 12 in Phil Steele

Zach Crabtree, OT: 2nd Team All-Big 12 in Athlon's

Todd Mays, Athlete: 2nd Team All-Big 12 in Lindy's

Ben Grogan, K: 4th Team All-Big 12 in Phil Steele

That's a lot of names but when there are as many as three and four teams then there are lots of slots to fill. Ogbah should be a unanimous preseason All-American and first team All-Big 12.

On offense, Rudolph should be across the board as second-team quarterback in the Big 12, and he needs to be joined by Sheperd, and I'd like to see James Washington get some mention. I don't expect the media to know it yet but the Cowboys offensive tackles in Zach Crabtree and UAB transfer Victor Salako may be their best pair of tackles that I've seen in a long time. I think both have NFL possibilities.

On defense, I sure think that Ryan Simmons at linebacker and Jordan Sterns at safety should get more and higher mention. It's a shame that the media doesn't understand just how good Kevin Peterson truly is at cornerback.

You know, it's okay because they will play the season. It's also possibly the best scenario that Gundy and his coaching staff could be dealt. Gundy and the staff are high on this team, but the media is slow coming around and picking the Cowboys lower than they see themselves. There comes the chip and the players carrying that chip in the back of their minds.

This team needs no lessons or pep talks in work ethic. It is one of their strong suits and one Gundy loves. The summer magazine people just may have made things harder for the rest of the Big 12 and the Cowboys non-conference opponents.

"I think that might be the case," Oklahoman beat writer and Athlon's contributor John Helsley said. "I have no doubt that Mike Gundy and the players would use that because they are being undersold so far in the preseason rankings. If Sporting News has them sixth then they have them too low."

Helsley doesn't get to pick the teams, just give an opinion.

"I tried to tell the editors at end of the spring and let you send the final version (at Athlon's) right when spring is over in a lot of cases and when I sent that in I told them you might to pick Oklahoma State higher (fourth) than you already have," Helsley said of his exchange with the editors at Athlon's. Helsley writes the Oklahoma State and Oklahoma previews and this year wrote a feature examining Big 12 recruiting.

"They said it was really kind of too late, but they did say they would take not of that (his suggestion that Oklahoma State should be picked higher)." added Helsley.

Kerkhoff is quoted above about the Oklahoma State optimism building from the end of last season and he stays on top of this league and on top of attitudes like that. However, in his writing of the previews of the Big 12 in The Sporting News he gives his opinions on the picks, but the editors make those decisions.

"What I write is the previews on each of the 10 teams. I write all those and all 10 teams and I'm having a lot of back and forth with all the sports information offices. All that is happening in late March and all the copy is due the first week in April. I do get to pick the All-Big 12 team, but the picks is done by the editors of the magazine and they do that so it matches what they have nationally. I will tell them when I think they are really off on something."

Moral to the story might be read the previews and on the picks, either ignore or try to read through the lines.

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