Despite his experience and presumed edge over teammates Daxx Garman and Mason Rudolph, the formal designation of J.W. Walsh as the Oklahoma State Cowboys starter puts some pressure on the rising junior to succeed in the team's season opener.
What's more, opening against the Florida State Seminoles could leave Walsh with a fairly limited capacity for doing so.
Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy has confirmed that J.W. Walsh has been named the starting quarterback for the Cowboys, per NBC Sports' John Taylor, and will be first under center when they play the No. 1-ranked Seminoles on Saturday.
As a sophomore in 2013, Walsh played in eight games with mixed results.
His 1,333 yards passing, nine touchdowns and five interceptions to go along with three rushing touchdowns weren't enough to make him an "easy favorite" among the Cowboys coaching staff. Despite Walsh spending the majority of his time with the Cowboys' No. 1 offense, Gundy has been slow to publicly declare a starter until this Wednesday.
Going up against the nation's top-ranked team and the reigning Heisman Trophy winner in Jameis Winston gives Walsh a unique opportunity to prove himself and instill confidence among his teammates in Gundy's decision.
|Jameis Winston vs. J.W. Walsh in 2013|
|Comp PCT.||AVG Per Attempt||ADJ QBR|
It also presents him with a challenging first test, as the Seminoles will be 17.5-point favorites, according to Odds Shark.
Make Plays Outside of the Pocket
Florida State brings back six starters from last year's team that held opponents to a meager 12.1 points per game. What is additionally concerning for Walsh and Oklahoma State's coaching staff is that the Seminoles were the fifth-best passing defense in the country last year and allowed only 14 touchdowns to 26 interceptions the entire season.
Where a player like Walsh could have a slight edge would be in his ability to scramble and make plays outside of the pocket, considering Florida State allowed nearly 125 rushing yards per game in 2013, good for 18th in the country.
Luckily for the Cowboys, that's mysteriously high for such a talented defense and presents a possible chink in the armor that they could exploit with Walsh's skill set.
So if Walsh is going to beat the odds, or even stay competitive against the Seminoles, he's likely going to have to make plays with his feet and put running back Desmond Roland in position to score.
Whether it's through the air or on the ground, the 2012 Big 12's Offensive Freshman of the Year has his work cut out for him.
Keep the Game Close
To justify himself as the Cowboys' starting QB, Walsh doesn't necessarily have to defeat the Seminoles. Because, frankly, an Oklahoma State loss is more likely to fall at the feet of the Cowboys defense that is unlikely to be competitive against Winston's explosive offense.
If Walsh can keep Oklahoma State competitive and leave his team's mistakes to the defensive side of the ball, he should still come out on top in the eyes of his fans and coaching staff. Expectations are casually lowered.
And if you can keep your team from imploding on day one, it only gets easier as the schedule moves forward. If Walsh plays well and beats Florida State, consider him more than proven. It's one of the few advantages to opening the season against a team like the Seminoles.