An oldie and a goodie is back with our key matchups and predictions for week one and the Cowboys home tilt with Southeastern Louisiana and the first week of the Big 12 season. You guys that listen to me on the radio know that I'm pretty sharp on these games and I was touting a much closer than expected game in Knoxville, Tenn., and low and behold, Appalachian State made it tough before doing some really stupid stuff on its last possession in regulation to keep them from having a late try at a winning field goal and then the ninth-ranked Vols survived in overtime 20-13.
I am not picking it to be a surprisingly close affair at Boone Pickens Stadium on Saturday. Some may be scared with four Division I-caliber players inputted on the Southeastern Louisiana defense, but I like the Cowboys to make a positive statement in the opener. There are, however, some really good matchups to watch that could set a tone or serve as a predictor on how those players or facets of the Cowboys game will go this season.
For Oklahoma State it is a stair-step nonconference schedule that gets more difficult each week and concludes with a really difficult game against ACC Division contender and what should be a top 25 team in Pittsburgh.
Here goes with week number one.
Key Matchups for Southeastern Louisiana at No. 19 Oklahoma State
OSU Center #71 Brad Lundblade
vs. SE Louisiana NG #90 Jon Taylor
Last season Lundblade struggled some, especially in blocking the run game, but he was facing some really tough competition in nose guards like Baylor's Andre Billings, West Virginia's Kyle Rose, TCU's Davion Pierson, and Texas' Poona Ford. Lundblade simply wasn't big and strong enough to handle effectively those girthy inside defensive linemen. He worked hard with strength and conditioning chief Rob Glass and he is now listed at 6-3, 300 pounds. Lundblade looks stronger and he'll need to be as he faces Lions nose guard Jon Taylor.
The 6-6, 340-pound Taylor might be rusty as he sat out last season following playing at Copiah-Lincoln Community College after an aggravated sexual assault arrest (still currently pending) at Georgia that caused the Bulldogs to boot him out of school. After playing at Co-Lin, he transferred to Alabama in January of 2015. By the end of the spring semester he was accused of another sexual assault and pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge and was kicked out of Bama. He ended up at SELU in August and sat out last season.
This will be a good test for Lundblade and I think he might even fare better against the taller Taylor as Lundblade ought to be able to get pad low with Taylor and have a leverage advantage in blocking the taller target. We'll see. The run game hinges on getting better push in the middle and keeping defensive tackles out of the backfield where they spent way too much time in last season.
My Call: Too close.
OSU Wide Receivers #28 James Washington and #81 Jhajuan Seales
vs. SE Louisiana Cornerbacks #7 Torrance Mosley and #23 Will Hines
Mosley and Hines are Division I transfers. Mosley has seen the Cowboys receivers before while playing and starting some games at TCU for Gary Patterson, and Hines has seen good talent as a starter at one time at Arkansas. The Lions list Mosley as the left corner and Hines as the right corner, but they may want to stay with receivers as Hines is 6-1 and might be a better match with Washington and Mosley might be the better match to go with the ultra-speedy Seales.
Personally, I don't think it matters. I think the Oklahoma State receivers will eat up the often times used cover one and cover four coverages. Washington is one of the best receivers in the nation and has a great feel for quarterback Mason Rudolph and vice versa. Seales has matured and overcome off-the-field issues and is sitting on a huge season after a very good camp. If the Lions want to stop the pass they will need to help and support those corners, but their MO shows they want the safeties playing downhill and they will be run stop on defense, first.
My Call: Cowboys Washington and Seales have big nights against the Lions' transfer corners.
OSU Defensive Tackles #96 Vincent Taylor and #90 Motekiai Maile
vs. SE Louisiana Center #53 Shaq McClain, Right Guard #59 Michael Vick, and Left Guard #68 Travis Romero
Taylor and Maile have had a strong preseason camp and they have a lot of friends with D.Q. Osborne, Vili Leveni, Darrion Daniels, Eric Davis and Taaj Bakari all looking like they can help. Taylor and Maile are both stronger and very physical with Taylor at 6-3, 310 pounds and Maile at a deceiving by looks 6-3, 315 pounds. By contrast Vick is 6-0, 290, McClain is 6-2, 285 pounds, and Romero is 6-3, 320 pounds. Between the strength of the starters and the ability of defensive line coach Joe Bob Clements to rotate those guys and keep fresh legs attacking the middle of the Southeastern Louisiana offensive front, I really project Oklahoma State to dominate the Lions. Now, the Lions can certainly avoid the middle and run outside with lots of perimeter pitch action with their triple option or roll with the option and use the pass as the third option going to an RPO scheme and staying with triple option. Just remember, penetration up the middle hurts all offensive schemes.
My Call: The Cowboys jumbo defenders up front have as much fun as defensive tackles can have against the option.
Oklahoma State-Southeastern Louisiana Prediction
Let's start with the defense where the Cowboys are too big, too strong and too athletic for the Lions. I really think this Oklahoma State defense has the ingredients to be special and I think they are disciplined enough to do a good job on the option. I really think they will enjoy going against it. SE Louisiana is in trouble if they get behind because they have neither the talent or the scheme to play catch up. Passing is limited for this offense. I don't know if Oklahoma State will be able to run conventionally all season. I don't know how well they will run against this crew, which will likely sell out to stop the run. If they do as expected and play lots of man coverage then Mason Rudolph will be dropping "dimes" all over the field at BPS.
OSU 52, Southeastern Louisiana 6
Big 12 Predictions - Week #1
Record: SU 0-0 ATS 0-0
Northwestern State (La) 20, @ #21 Baylor 34
The Bears are weak at the line of scrimmage (LOS) and it will show.
Kansas State 26, @ #7 Stanford 35
Bill Snyder always has options and he shows a few slick ones to make it competitive against the Cardinal.
#3 Oklahoma 38, #13 Houston 28 (@ NRG Stadium, Houston)
Big 12 really needs Oklahoma to win for the sake of the conference and playoff hopes.
Missouri 13, @ West Virginia 42
Missouri has changed a lot in the last nine months; West Virginia is my sleeper team this season.
Rhode Island 14, @ Kansas 31
Kansas is truly improved and will win at least one more game.
Northern Iowa 26, @ Iowa State 27
As close as I can predict without picking an upset, but this game is all kinds of dangerous for the Cyclones and the way they launch the Matt Campbell era.
Stephen F. Austin 23, @ Texas Tech 56
This is keeping the score down in Lubbock.
South Dakota State 17, @ #14 TCU 41
Solid start for the Horned Frogs.
#9 Notre Dame 41, @ Texas 20
Another rough start for Charlie Strong and company.