Mike Gundy does what he does. The Cowboys typically line up in a four-wide spread and exploit opponents with tempo and by putting defenders in space. He's comfortable with it. So comfortable, in fact, that when he went looking for an offensive coordinator to replace the departed Todd Monken, Gundy admitted that he looked for a coordinator to come in and call his plays in his system, rather than somebody with their own touch.
By looking at the advanced stats, one would assume that the Cowboys were just fine on that side of the ball again this season. Oklahoma State is averaging 40.7 points per game and 434.7 yards per game. But there are cracks in the alabaster. A big part of the reason Oklahoma State has scored so much has had nothing to do with the offense — the Cowboys rank among the league's best at creating turnovers and are also probably the Big 12's top return team on special teams. Field position has truly helped (when the return game or turnovers haven't led directly to touchdowns). The yardage can also be somewhat attributed to the fact that the Cowboys snap the ball every 20.18 seconds (that's fast), and therefore get 76.2 plays per game.
Instead, look at Oklahoma State's Offensive S&P+ ranking, which has plummeted to 47th this season. That includes a rank of 70th on Standard Downs with a high mark across all categories coming at 18th on Passing Downs. Want perspective? Last year Oklahoma State's OVERALL Offensive S&P+ ranking was 14th nationally.
Other metrics also show the difference between this year's group and last. Oklahoma State's yards per play has dropped by 1.3 yards. And Oklahoma State's team passer rating of 126.2 ranks sixth in the Big 12. Even that's deceptive, thanks to a poor overall year for conference passers. That same passer rating just a year ago would have been eighth in the league, just 4.3 points out of ninth, and a whopping 12.4 points from jumping into seventh. In fact, while utilizing largely the same quarterbacks just a year ago, Oklahoma State had a passer rating of 152.4.
Understandably then, most considered quarterback a stacked position for Oklahoma State, but both Clint Chelf (6-1 210) and J.W. Walsh (6-2 205) have struggled to throw the ball consistently this season.
Chelf is considered more of the thrower, though he has completed just 50.7 percent of his passes for 1,025 yards and nine touchdowns to four interceptions. And he's been better than expected as a runner, rushing 30 times for 230 yards and three scores. He replaced Walsh after Walsh threw two first-half interceptions against TCU and has been the starter since. Walsh is considered to be the better runner of the two.
But just as big of a factor in Oklahoma State's offensive struggles has been the Cowboys' inability to replace the production and versatility of departed running back Joseph Randle. Desmond Roland (6-2 210) leads the team in rushing with 109 carries for 506 yards and 10 touchdowns. But 219 of those yards and four of those scores came in one game, against Iowa State. And in the two games since, he has rushed 47 times for 140 yards, or just 2.98 yards per carry. Jeremy Smith was thought to be the heir apparent to Randle, but he's also struggled to break free, running 91 times for 319 yards (3.5 yards per carry) this season. He does have nine touchdowns to his credit. Freshman Rennie Childs (5-10 180), provides a change of pace. He rushed nine times for 70 yards two games ago against Texas Tech. Oklahoma State doesn't often use a fullback, with Kye Staley (5-10 236) serving almost exclusively as a blocker.
The Cowboys have had some injuries at the receiver position, including an ankle injury to Josh Stewart (5-10 185), one of the Big 12's top wideouts. Stewart is hugely important to the Cowboy attack, and it's a question whether he'll play against Texas. Oklahoma State is hoping to get Blake Jackson (6-3 235) back. He had 30 catches for 598 yards last year, making 12 catches of longer than 20 yards. Tracy Moore (6-2 215) has been outstanding on fade routes, catching 35 balls for 446 yards and four touchdowns. He's joined on the outside by Charlie Moore (6-2 202), who has 20 catches for 238 yards and three scores. Jhajuan Seales (6-2 185) has 26 catches for 374 yards, working largely out of the slot. And when Stewart went out against Kansas, he was replaced by David Glidden (5-7 185), who had a nice day with six catches for 73 yards. Oklahoma State also rotates through young receivers like Brandon Sheperd (6-1 195) and true freshman Marcell Ateman (6-4 190).
Joe Wickline might be the best offensive line coach in the league. Seemingly every year, he must replace a bevy of upperclassmen, often including an all-conference player. And this year was no exception. Oklahoma State has allowed just eight sacks in nine games (the best rate in the conference), and the Cowboys are averaging 4.5 yards per carry as a team. Right guard Parker Graham (6-7 315) is the veteran of the group, and he could garner some All-Big 12 mention. Tackle Daniel Koenig (6-6 310) has done a nice job after flopping from the right side (11 starts as a sophomore at RT) to the left. Together with left guard Brandon Webb (6-3 326), who started the final five games of the season a year ago, they form a pretty nice left side. Right tackle Brandon Garrett (6-6 295) was a junior college transfer from Trinity Valley. Jake Jenkins (6-3 298) is a first-year starter at center.
Kicker Ben Grogan (6-1 175) has been inconsistent, as you'd expect from a true freshman, making 8-of-14 field goals with a long of 41 yards. Justin Gilbert (6-0 200) is an explosive kickoff returner, as evidenced by his six career return touchdowns, including a 100-yarder against Kansas last week. He leads the Big 12 in kickoff return average. Stewart has been an outstanding punt returner, averaging a league-leading 18.2 yards per return and scoring two touchdowns this year. If he isn't able to go, his replacement will likely be Glidden, who hasn't broken loose this year.