Mississippi State vs. Oklahoma State: 10 Things We Learned from Cowboys' Win
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
The No. 13 Oklahoma State Cowboys kicked off their season with a 21-3 victory over Mississippi State in the AdvoCare Texas Kickoff on Saturday.
After a slow start, J.W. Walsh ignited the Cowboys' offense and led them to 21 points over the game's final three quarters.
While they didn't win the game the way many expected, OSU validated their lofty ranking by turning in a dominant defensive performance.
With that said, here's 10 things we learned in the Cowboys' win.
1. J.W. Walsh is OSU's starting quarterback
#okstate announces JW Walsh will start next week at UTSA.— Kevin Klintworth (@KKlintworth) August 31, 2013
Walsh was far from spectacular in the season opener but his dual-threat ability gave life to OSU's stagnant offense on Saturday.
While there's certainly room for Walsh to improve from a passing stand point, he finished 18-of-27 for 135 yards, so OSU can afford to patient.
The Cowboys' next four games against UTSA, Lamar, Kansas State and West Virginia are all games they should win handily.
2. OSU won't miss Joseph Randle
The Cowboys had a big hole in their backfield after the departure of Randle. He had led the team in rushing in both 2011 and 2012.
After seeing how Jeremy Smith performed in the opener, consider that hole filled.
Smith ran for 95 yards on 15 carries and showed the big-play ability many thought OSU would miss in Randle's absence.
3. Josh Stewart won't duplicate last season's numbers
With 2012 numbers of 120 receptions and 1,501 yards, it was always going to be difficult for Stewart to turn in a duplicate performance.
In light of how OSU played in the opener, it's a near certainty Stewart won't approach those numbers.
Stewart finished with four catches for 39 yards as OSU leaned on its rushing attack.
With Walsh bringing a running ability his predecessors didn't have, you'd have to expect Mike Gundy to incorporate more zone-read plays in order to play to his strengths.
In doing so, OSU's passing game will take a back seat of sorts to the running game going forward, thus leaving less opportunities for Stewart to catch the football.
4. OSU has a defense
While MSU's ineptitude offensively played a role in OSU looking so great on defense, there is no doubt new defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer has had an impact on the perennially awful Cowboys defense.
As this tweet details, OSU turned in a historic performance on defense against MSU.
Noteware (@mnoteware) August 31, 2013
It remains to seen how good this defense truly is, but one thing is for sure: it is certainly improved.
5. MSU is set in secondary
While the Bulldogs didn't take on the OSU offense we're all accustomed to seeing, their performance was still enthralling.
If not for some questionable decisions by head coach Dan Mullen, MSU probably shuts out OSU in the first half.
Considering both of last season's starting corners are currently in the NFL, I was shocked to see MSU hold OSU to only 145 passing yards.
With an 18-point loss, MSU obviously has question marks, but the secondary isn't one of them.
6. MSU can't stop the run
The 276 rushing yards MSU gave up to OSU doesn't tell the full story of MSU's inability to stop the run.
It wasn't just MSU failing to keep Walsh in the pocket, it was the physical manner in which its front seven was manhandled by OSU.
Time and time again, OSU ball-carriers gained large chunks of yards before being touched.
If MSU is struggling to stop the normally pass-happy Cowboys on the ground, what will happen when it matches up with the run-first teams in the SEC?
7. OSU has a legitimate chance at going undefeated
Who, if anybody, will give OSU their first loss this season?
The only ranked teams on OSU's schedule are TCU, Oklahoma and Texas, with Texas being the only game played on the road.
While it lost to Texas 41-36 at home last season, with an improved defense, it has to like its chances at exacting revenge on Texas in Austin.
8. MSU will finish last in SEC West
With a cloud of uncertainty hovering over MSU's quarterback position in the midst of Tyler Russell's concussion, the Bulldogs may find themselves in the SEC West cellar.
MSU clearly is under LSU, Alabama, Texas A&M and Ole Miss in terms of pecking order. This leaves MSU in a competition with Auburn and Arkansas to avoid the cellar.
Considering MSU plays both teams on the road, my money is on the Bulldogs bringing up the rear this season.
9. J.W. Walsh is a Heisman sleeper
While I've already admitted Walsh wasn't spectacular Saturday, I must remind you the Big 12 conference he plays in is notoriously known for its apathy towards defense.
With OSU having a shot at going undefeated, by default, Walsh will catch the eyes of Heisman voters.
Walsh's running ability is already present. If he can improve as a passer and turn in numbers that are a notch below past OSU quarterbacks, Walsh could find himself as a Heisman finalist.
10. Dan Mullen could be on the hot seat
After a torrid 7-0 start to last season, Mullen's Bulldogs have now lost six of their last seven games.
With a schedule that could easily net MSU seven more losses this season, Mullen could be looking at a stretch of 13 losses in 18 games by season's end.
In the ever-demanding SEC, such a stretch could have many calling for his job at year's end.
All stats via ESPN.com
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