MOST EVERYONE AND THEIR sister, in the media and around cyberspace, is pretty much already picking Oklahoma State to top Washington State in the 2010 season opener for both schools. After all, Okie State has been on a roll the past two years, while WSU has suffered through some of their toughest times ever. Here's what they're overlooking..
OSU's QUARTERBACK IS A
First, it should be said, this is an awfully early look at the Cougs' season opening opponent. Spring ball and fall camp have yet to even kick off for both schools. Several key storylines haven't even started to develop.
But what can be said at such an early date is that Oklahoma State (9-4 in 2009) will be a far, far different team than they were last year. How so?
--Oklahoma State will be replacing their star quarterback, Zac Robinson
--They'll also be replacing four of five senior starters on the offensive line.
--Their starting running back, who gained nearly 1,200 yards last year, was a senior.
--Two of the four starting defensive linemen need to be replaced, three if you count a senior defensive end who started six games according to the official OSU site.
--In the defensive backfield, three of the four starters were seniors in 2009.
--All three OSU starting linebackers last year? They were seniors.
-- On special teams, Oklahoma State will return their punter, placekicker and long snapper. Both the return men, however, were seniors.
All told in 2010, of the starting eleven on both sides of the ball, Okie State according to various media reports will be returning just four starters on offense, three starters on defense.
Several weren't just senior starters, they were senior stars.
Five are projected to be taken in the NFL Draft. They include QB Zac Robinson, OT Russell Okung
, WR Dez Bryant
and RB Keith Toston
on offense, CB Perrish Cox
on defense. Okung and Bryant are projected not just as first rounders, but to go in the first 15 picks. Cox could also go in the first round while Robinson and Toston are projected to go sometime between rounds 3-7.
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mystery, wrapped in a riddle made of change. Alex Cate
had the most experience from the backup QB ranks behind Robinson, but he's transferring.
And for good measure, Oklahoma State will also be implementing a new spread attack on offense this season, and under a new offensive coordinator.
WILL WASHINGTON STATE
have a tough time winning on the road in Stillwater in the season opener? Based on the Cougs' last two seasons, they most certainly will. Most of the media who have weighed in think it's a no-brainer, already having penciled in a win for Oklahoma State.
But does it rise to the level of a foregone conclusion, six months away from the game and before spring ball has even begun? Not if you listen to what Paul Wulff has been saying this offseason about the step forward the Cougs are primed to take in 2010.
Not if you look at the huge number of starters lost -- on both sides of the ball -- at Oklahoma State.
Not when you consider the WSU defense should be noticeably faster this year with the influx of talent that spent last year redshirting. Not when you consider the WSU offense should, for the first time, be truly running offensive coordinator Todd Sturdy's offense.
Spring football in Pullman begins in three weeks. We won't have all the answers by the time it ends, and probably not even most of them. But we should start to get a little better idea of what could unfold on Sept. 4 in Stillwater. I'm not picking a WSU win here, it's far too early to make that call one way or the other. But I am saying, for all the reasons listed above, this game shapes up to be a lot more competitive than many seem to think.