The 2011 Cowboys were ever so close to a national championship appearance before they lost in devastating fashion to the Iowa State Cyclones in double overtime. Despite this loss, Oklahoma State finished with a 12-1 record, won the Big 12 conference and beat No. 4 Stanford in the 2012 Fiesta Bowl.
The Cowboys lost many top players to both graduation and the 2012 NFL draft. Most notably the talented offensive duo of quarterback Brandon Weeden and wide receiver Justin Blackmon who went numbers 22 and three respectively in the draft.
Blackmon won the Biletnikoff award for the second straight year in 2011, only the second player in the awards history to do so along with former Texas Tech standout receiver Michael Crabtree in 2007 and 2008. Blackmon went for an impressive 1522 receiving yards with 18 receiving touchdowns last year.
Weeden threw for 4727 yards and tossed 37 touchdowns in 2011. Weeden is the oldest play to ever be drafted in the first round of the NFL draft at 28 years old.
The Cowboys also lost the leader of their defense, safety Markelle Martin as he went to the Tennessee Titans as the 190th pick of the 2012 NFL draft. Martin, a three year starter for the Cowboys and had an impressive senior season with 74 tackles, 11 pass breakups and two forced fumbles. He was also selected as a first team All-American in 2011.
Senior wide receiver Josh Cooper signed with the Cleveland Browns as an undrafted free-agent. Cooper had 715 receiving yards on 71 receptions and three touchdowns in 2011.
Key returning players for Oklahoma State include the leading rusher from last year, Junior Joseph Randle who rushed for 1216 yards and 24 touchdowns. Junior wide receiver Tracy Moore had 672 yards receiving and will be key for the Cowboys aerial attack. The Cowboys also return junior kicker who went 22 for 25 in field goal attempts and scored 145 points.
Losing these playmakers from last year will hurt the Cowboys without a doubt, but head coach Mike Gundy reeled in a nice 2012 recruiting class.
This class includes a lot of offensive talent, which will be needed for next year. On offense, the Cowboys signed four-star offensive tackle Michael Wilson (Aledo, TX), four-star wide receiver Brandon Sheperd (Chesterfield, MO), four-star tight end Blake Jackson (Scottsdale, AZ) and four-star offensive guard Greg Brantley (Carthage, TX). On defense they signed four-star outside linebacker Seth Jacobs (Arroyo Grande, CA) and three-star safety Ashton Lampkin (Fort Worth, TX). The Cowboys 2012 recruiting class ranked 30th in the country according to scout.com.
It won't surprise many if the Cowboys come back down to earth after the best year in school history. Mike Gundy has stated that true freshman quarterback Wes Lunt will be the starting quarterback in 2012. Oklahoma State should expect some growing pains in a season with a true freshman quarterback and the loss of their leading receiver, but should still have a solid running game and a serviceable defense to keep them competitive throughout the season.
Big 12 season record predictions:
Given wins: Savannah State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Kansas, Iowa State
Probable Losses: West Virginia, Oklahoma
My prediction: 7-5