Oklahoma State won a school-record 11 games in 2010!
Oklahoma State is coming off a historically-great campaign. They came within a touchdown of winning the Big 12 and getting to a BCS Bowl! The Cowboys are built to contender in 2011, too.
It all starts with their soon-to-be-28-year-old quarterback Brandon Weeden (if he wins the Heisman, he can tell his grandkids about it . . . when he gets home that night). As a first-year starter, he set several single-season records at OSU, and that was with a torn tendon in his throwing hand. Imagine what he could do if 100% healthy!
Running backs Joseph Randle and Jeremy Smith are splitting touches now that 2010 All-American Kendall Hunter is gone to the NFL. In Week 1, Randle was the go-to guy with 138 total yards and two TDs.
Of course, the kind of offensive success that the Cowboys achieved in 2010 is only possible with contributions from all positions. At wide receiver, Justin Blackmon is the nation's finest. He's speedy, sure-handed and athletic, and he extended a year-long string of 100-yard games with a dominant performance against Louisiana-Lafayette. Most importantly for Oklahoma State, the entire starting offensive line came back. With their protection, Weeden went down only 10 times in 13 contests last season.
On top of everything, they have Quinn Sharp. He shined earlier in his career when handling punts and kickoffs, but he has now added placekicking to his duties. He excelled in all three roles in the season opener, but one man cannot carry a special teams unit. OSU needs to work on coverage.
Why should Arizona be intimidated? Well, aside from the contents of the previous five paragraphs and the unfortunate fact that they'll be on the road, the Wildcats are less than a year removed from their last miserable meeting with Oklahoma State, a 36-10 defeat in the Valero Alamo Bowl.
QB Nick Foles made 50 frustrating throws that night--one touchdown, three interceptions--but came out strong on Saturday with a career-best 202.5 passer rating.
Wide receiver Juron Criner is likewise playing his best as the team rolls into Boone Pickens Stadium. He was Foles' favorite target in 2010 and accumulated 151 yards versus Northern Arizona.
I'm identifying Criner and fellow ginormous receiver Dan Buckner as the key players for AU. They'll have trouble making plays over the middle of the field with OSU safeties Markelle Martin and Johnny Thomas lurking. However, if they can stick to the sidelines and do work against the corners, then maybe, just maybe the Wildcats can keep up in this shoot-out.