Several seasons ago I felt like a traditional feature that we had used had run its course. For close to 10 seasons I had predicted before the opening game what the Oklahoma State Cowboys statistical numbers would look like for the entire season. Several seasons I got so detailed that I had total turnovers gained and turnovers given up. I would throw in kickoff and punt return averages. It got crazy but it was fun and it was always something you could go back at the end of the season and go beyond predictions of wins and losses and scores to these stat numbers and sometimes they were amazingly close to the mark. A couple of times I was exactly right. More times than not, I was proud of my predictions. Yes, there were some that were downright embarrassing, but I told myself not trying is worse than trying and having dumb picks.
This season we bring it back and this time I have a friend along for the ride. Former Oklahoma State special teams captain and linebacker/safety Deion Imade is doing it with me. We did these picks independently and have not looked at each other's picks. We each have explanations for our predictions. We kept it simple with the average yards per game that the Oklahoma State offense will produce rushing and passing.
On defense we went with the average yards allowed per game by the Cowboys defense in both rushing and passing. As I write this introduction I know my numbers, but not Deion's and I'm really excited to see either how close or how far apart we are. You don't have to wait, just keep reading.
Average Rushing Yards per Game
Deion: Everyone is concerned about the uncertainty of the OSU running game as last year this team averaged 126 yards per game. That level of production was definitely not what Cowboy fans have become accustomed to, and a lot of the trouble running the ball had to do with the poor production of the offense of line. Although the coaching staff did do a good job using what they had, utilizing the abilities of J.W. Walsh at quarterback in the running game and in the red zone allowing the offense to have an extra blocker not available in carries by the running backs, like the passing game with another year of experience and repetition the run game should improve. It also helps that all five starting lineman are coming back, including some experienced backs as well as some pretty good running backs that were added to the fold through transfers and recruiting . Hopefully, one of these guys can get it done and the offensive staff can find a group of linemen that are more than willing to put a hat on some people. My guess is that this year the Pokes will average 146 yards per game rushing the football.
Robert: What I did to come up with my number was to go game-by-game and make my prediction on what the Cowboys would do in each game. For instance, I had Oklahoma State with a season high of 300 rushing yards against Texas Tech. The Tech defense has been bad against the run and while this is coordinator David Gibbs second season and I think the Red Raiders will improve, I believe in a home game with an offensive line and running backs that will have had plenty of time to improve that this game will be the pinnacle (by a bunch) for the season. By the way, my low for the Cowboys this season in rushing yards is the Pitt game at home with just 148 yards against the Panthers stout returning defense and defensive-oriented head coach in Pat Narduzzi. My average is quite an improvement over the 126.8 yards per game of last season as I think a better offensive line with the addition of guards Marcus Keyes and Larry Williams and in the backfield a bigger Jeff Carr, a hungry Barry J. Sanders, and a determined freshman in Justice Hill will average 203 yards a game on the ground. That is a number that head coach Mike Gundy would relish in.
Average Yards Passing per Game
Deion: As we all know Oklahoma State is known for its prolific passing attack and the numbers and stats have always shown that. This year I feel that will continue with the strong play of Mason Rudolph and the number of options he has at wideout, I think the tradition is in good hands. Last year OSU averaged 353 yards passing per game and I think they will improve on that number this year, by going for 370 yards. With repetition in this offense you are going to get better it has been proven with quarterbacks in the past, and I feel that will also take place this year with Mason especially with him being more familiar with his receivers and with this offense.
Robert: Again, I looked at this per game and just for fun my high game in passing for the Oklahoma State offense was only 342 yards. Yes, I know the offense averaged 353.2 yards per game last season. I also believe that the offense will be more balanced with the rushing improvement and that the passing game will be very consistent with only a low of 258 passing yards against West Virginia. I think Tony Gibson of the Mountaineers is one heckuva a defensive coordinator and last year in an overtime Cowboys win in Morgantown held the Pokes to 228 passing yards. I have Rudolph passing for more than 300 yards in eight of the 12 games and close to 300 yards in three games. My average yards per game passing for the Cowboys is 322 yards per contest.
Total Offense Projections: Deion, 496 yards per game / Robert, 525 yards per game.
Average Yards Allowed per Game Rushing
Deion: Last year the Oklahoma State defense allowed an average of 186 rushing yards per game, which was really out of the norm from this defense in recent years past. In 2012 they averaged about 142. In 2013 the number stayed pretty much the same 142, and in 2014 that number jumped to 162 yards and then last year the number skyrocketed to the average we just stated of 186 yards. Now some of this can be because of the fact that the Cowboys had an excellent pass rush last year so teams were more willing to rush the ball on first and second downs. Also, there were some injuries in the linebacker corps that could have hindered Oklahoma State from stopping the run as successfully as they had in previous seasons. I want to say that our average will be a lot lower this year, but we all know how math works and in football math, one game can make a big difference in your average. The game that concerns me the most is that third nonconference game hosting Pitt. The Panthers are a team that really loves to run the ball and they have a pretty good running back in their backfield, so if the Cowboys defense can't hold that Pittsburgh downhill rushing attack to a minimum it could really mess up their average. I feel this defense will have a better average that will impress Cowboy fans more than last years. I think that number will be 165 yards per game. My reasoning behind that is the defensive line depth will make it more difficult to wear down this defense and they will be fresher in the fourth quarter when teams are really trying to drive the ball down the field. Hopefully, this is an accurate prediction.
Robert: The Oklahoma State defense this season has flip-flopped. A year ago following the loss of Vili Leveni before the start of fall camp, the coaching staff and fans worried about the defense holding up inside with young and inexperienced defensive tackles. Meanwhile, the veteran ends, Emmanuel Ogbah and Jimmy Bean, were the anchors along with middle linebacker Ryan Simmons. That trio held up through the first seven games, although Simmons was lost for the year in game five. Bean would be lost in the eighth game of the season. With strong ends and perceived weaker tackles, the defense gave up more on the ground but rushed the passer really well with 40 sacks for 231 yards in losses. Now, with Ogbah in the NFL in Cleveland and Leveni back to join Vincent Taylor and all those now experienced defensive tackles, along with former Baylor signee and junior college All-American D.Q. Osborne, the middle is stout. Middle linebacker Chad Whitener grew up last season replacing Simmons in the lineup. I think this defense will eat up the run and they get to start with a heavy spread option attack in Southeastern Louisiana in the first game. I have opponents only averaging 146 rushing yards a game this season. I have a high of 231 yards allowed against Big 12 favorite Oklahoma and a low of 63 yards allowed against Central Michigan.
Average Yards Allowed per Game Passing
Deion: All over the country the Big 12, as a league, is known for its extraordinary offense, fast pace and pass happy. At Oklahoma State fans know that because the Cowboys are one of the best at playing that way, but to play in this league with those great spread offenses you have to be able to defend the pass as well and that primarily comes down to your secondary. In recent years this coaching staff has been able to put together a secondary that can compete every week in this league. Last year our defensive backs were arguably our deepest position. Last season we allowed an average of 252 passing yards per game. If you're thinking that's a lot of yards here in the Big 12, it's not. That means we had a pretty good passing defense, and that will need to continue this year. I am concerned with some of the stupendous quarterbacks that are coming back to the Big 12 like Patrick Mahomes at Texas Tech and Baker Mayfield at Oklahoma to name a couple. We should be fine with most of our guys coming back as well. I predict that this defense will only allow 245 yards a game and, yes, I said only because, again, I reiterate this is the Big 12.
Robert: You'd like to have your cake and eat it too, but it doesn't work that way. That prowess at defensive end and rushing the passer is now in the hands of Jarrell Owens, Jordan Brailford, Cole Walterscheid and Tralund Webber. Hey, those four are good but not exactly Ogbah and Bean. The strength inside at defensive tackle will help, but 40 sacks this season is not a reasonable expectation. Good coverage is, as I like the corners of Ramon Richards, Ashton Lampkin, Darius Curry, graduate transfer Lenzy Pipkins, and the pups like Madre Harper, A.J. Green, and Rodarius Williams. The safeties are good too with Jordan Sterns, Tre Flowers, Kenneth Edison-McGruder, and Derrick Moncrief. A better run defense does mean offenses are likley to pass a few extra times but I don't have them gaining any extra yards. I actually have opponents averaging 223 passing yards per game. I have the season high of 406 yards given up to Mahomes and Texas Tech and the season low of 94 yards in the opener to a team I expect to pass very little in Southeastern Louisiana.
Total Defense Projections: Deion, 410 yards allowed per game / Robert, 369 yards allowed per game.
Okay, I get the homer of the day award. Deion gets the realism award.