The 2011 college football season was a big one for the Oklahoma State Cowboys, and it culminated in the first Big 12 Championship in history for the school in football. A repeat in 2012 may not be as unlikely as one would think.
The Cowboys did lose a lot in terms of experience since last season. However, they have possibly the most talented team they've had in the last decade this season, and the defense should be even better this season.
It might be a longshot, but this year's version of the Cowboys could very well compete for and win a Big 12 title. Here are three reasons why.
Last year, the Cowboys had a very difficult schedule. Oklahoma State fought its way through tough home games against Kansas State and Oklahoma. Road games versus Missouri, Texas A&M and Texas also were tough tests for the Cowboys.
This season, the Cowboys get Texas, West Virginia and TCU at home. While they do have to go on the road against Oklahoma and Kansas State, they also have a really easy non-conference schedule and easy road games against Baylor and Kansas.
The schedule this year will be much, much easier to navigate.
An argument can definitely be made that Joseph Randle is the best running back in the Big 12 heading into the 2012 college football season. The Wichita, KS product rushed for 1,216 yards and 24 touchdowns last season, putting him among the nation's best in rushing touchdowns.
Randle will be expected to take on an even bigger role this season. He may not be able to match his ridiculous touchdown total from last year, but his yards will definitely go up. If he can be the same player as last year or better, the Cowboys will be able to run on nearly anyone.
The Cowboys did lose three seniors at the defensive end and free safety positions, each of whom were impact players for them. However, the defense as a whole has gotten more experienced.
The entire linebacking corps returns a year older, which will be helpful since they were very underrated last season. Both starting cornerbacks also return, with the Fiesta Bowl Defensive MVP Justin Gilbert ready to prove he is a great player.
This defense will continue to build on Cowboy defensive coordinator Bill Young's philosophy and get even better than it was last season.