State of the Big 12: Oklahoma State

Joshua Koch has started to go through all of the quotes from Big 12 Media Days and is breaking down the team that is picked to win it all in 2013 - Oklahoma State.

For eight years Mike Gundy has roamed the sidelines at Oklahoma State trying to turn his alma mater into a year-in and year-out contender for a Big 12 Conference Championship.

Mission accomplished.

The past two seasons, including the 2011 campaign where the Cowboys finished atop the Big 12 with a 12-1 overall record and 8-1 mark in conference, Gundy has done just that.

Now after an 8-5 finish in 2012, the expectations are high in Stillwater as the Cowboys, with 15 first place votes, were picked to win the Big 12 ahead of Oklahoma, TCU and Texas, respectively.

"There's been a number of situations that gave us the opportunity to have success at Oklahoma State, and they've taken advantage of it," Gundy said at Big 12 Media Days. "And the young men that are on this team right now worked extremely hard. We all know -- I don't know what the exact number of years to go back, but being picked No. 1 certainly doesn't guarantee you the conference championship, we all know that.

"We'll mention that to our players and be very vanilla, they've still got a lot of work ahead of them, but we're very proud of how far they've come and that they have the opportunity. They've got to go out and play well."

Experience will be the key to success, as it is every year, but especially this upcoming season in the Big 12.

2013 will definitely, at least going in, not be considered the year of the quarterback. Many have actually characterized it as the year of the running back considering the depth at that position around the league.

The losses at the quarterback position are immense when taking into account Colin Klein, Nick Florence, Geno Smith, Landry Jones and Seth Doege are gone from the league and off to new adventures.

But the teams that do bring experience to that position are Texas and Oklahoma State.

The Cowboys have four gunslingers listed on their pre-fall roster, but only two that are going to be vying for the job – Clint Chelf and J.W. Walsh.

With Wes Lunt gone from the program, Chelf and Walsh are the two experienced choices to go with.

When comparing the numbers it's hard to choose from just that.

Both quarterbacks threw for more than 1,500 yards, threw for more than 10 touchdowns and each completed more than 60 percent of their passes.

To say picking the starter is a hard choice is an understatement, but one thing is for sure and that is Oklahoma State has the potential to have a very special duo under center.

"We've got two young men that we feel very comfortable with, and they've worked, and they're extremely dedicated to our program," Gundy said about the quarterback battle. "They're great team players. They'll get equal reps. The one advantage we have in our offense is in practice and even in games we get a number of reps because of our tempo. We expect to play very fast this year. So we'll work both guys. We feel very comfortable with them."

When looking at the quarterbacks there is no mystery that it will be a very high-octane offense in Stillwater this year and those types of offenses are starting to bother some coaches around the country, a.k.a Nick Saban.

Saban has come out publicly and voiced his concerns when it comes to player safety playing in or against this type of system, but Gundy said his type of offense and the one many teams in the Big 12 run brings a lot of excitement to the game.

"Well, in my opinion, high tempo and spread offenses have been the single thing that's created parity in college football," he said. "And over the last eight or ten years, when coaches have essentially started playing basketball on grass is really what we're playing now by spreading the court and getting the ball to young men that years ago wouldn't have an opportunity to play because they weren't maybe as big or as strong or as fast, and maybe even a Josh Stewart, if you were in a traditional style of offense, where does he play? Even though he's a really, really good player, does he get 100 catches, and do we know who he is across the country? I would say no."

Going on the topic of Saban, a man who won a National Championship at LSU, broke loose to the NFL and then left the pros to only return to the college ranks to now have won three National Championships in the last four years, Gundy has gotten his fair share of phone calls as well.

Over the years many high-profile jobs have come open across the country and Gundy's name has surfaced when rumors come out about possible coaching candidates.

But the simple fact of the matter is Gundy is at his alma mater and life is good in Stillwater, Oklahoma right now.

"I'm very happy, always been very happy in Stillwater," Gundy said. "And the honest answer is that from day one when we took this over, our coaching staff going into nine years now, we felt like the most important thing that we could do for the players on our team is make a commitment to them, if they would buy in, that we would have a chance to have success."

Now looking towards the 2013 season it doesn't start off with some "cupcake" team that the Cowboys could just steamroll with their second team offense and defense.

Oklahoma State will trade in the friendly confines of Boone Pickens Stadium for Reliant Stadium in Houston on August 31.

There has been a lot of smack talk between the Big 12 and the SEC over the last few months and years, but it starting to be changed from just talk to action.

Oklahoma State plays Mississippi State in the first game of the season and Gundy knows it will take a different mindset heading into the opener in 2013.

"Well, it certainly changes our approach as a coaching staff," Gundy said. "The truth of the matter is we know that, when you play an opponent that on paper is going to have as good a players -- we could debate SEC versus Big 12, and we could start lining them up and going head to head on paper, but we all know the parity that's in the Big 12 and the SEC that when you play an opponent that's in the category that Oklahoma State's in and Mississippi State's in, that you have to play well in the first game to win. I think we would all agree on that."

"My concern is whether that affects us in November because we really need to be strong in the last week of October and up through November to make that run."


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