Bowl Predictions 2012: 10 Reasons Oklahoma State Will Play for BCS Title
The Oklahoma State Cowboys are ranked No. 2 in the nation for the first time in program history, and have a chance to make it to a national championship, another program first.
The road to the BCS isn't going to be an easy one, but there are reasons to believe in Oklahoma State.
They'll have to play near perfect football for the rest of the season and take care of business against some quality teams.
That said, they could actually pull it off.
Why do they have a legitimate shot to play for a title? Read on to find out.
10) Ball-Hawking Defense
The Cowboys were only able to force the Kansas State Wildcats into two turnovers this weekend, but they still have the best turnover margin in the nation (plus-17).
Oklahoma State's defense gives up tons of yards to the excellent offenses in the Big 12, and that might lead you to believe that their defense is a major hindrance to their national title aspirations.
You'd be half right in assuming that. Yes, it's never good for a defense to give up almost 30 points a game, but they can be forgiven when they're stealing possessions for their offense at such a high rate.
With guys like Broderick Brown and Justin Gilbert racking up turnovers, the Cowboys' defense is much better than they're given credit for. Sure, they're not in the same class as Alabama, but they can hold their own.
9) Joseph Randle
If I were to ask you who has more touchdowns on the season, Joseph Randle or Trent Richardson, you would likely respond with the latter. After all, Richardson is a Heisman front-runner and likely first round draft pick.
However, Randle actually has two more total touchdowns on the year (20 to 18), and even edges out Richardson in rushing scores (18 to 17).
Now, I'm not saying that Randle is a better back than Richardson, but he has become quite the weapon over the last few weeks. He's had at least three touchdowns in each of his last three games, and he doesn't look to be slowing down anytime soon.
If Randle can continue his late season dominance, then Oklahoma State will be that much more dangerous on offense.
Now that defenses are being forced to stay honest with the rushing game, the middle of the field is opening up for Oklahoma State receivers. This was best seen against Kansas State, when the Cowboys had multiple big gains right up the heart of the Wildcats defense.
8) Winnable Road Games
It's never easy for any team to go on the road to Lubbock and pick up a victory because of the rowdy fans. Also, Iowa State hasn't been their usual pushover self during the 2011 season.
That said, the Cowboys two remaining away games are very winnable contests.
Yes, Texas Tech beat Oklahoma in Norman and shocked the world. However, they quickly faltered in subsequent weeks and don't even look like the same team anymore. The Cowboys will gash their terrible defense and their offensive game plan plays right into Oklahoma State's defensive strengths.
Iowa State has been surprisingly competitive this year, but they just don't have the firepower to match up with the Cowboys. Quarterback Steele Jantz has never impressed anyone and he'll have a very difficult time holding onto the ball against this Oklahoma State defense.
Both of these games are sure to be tough for the Cowboys because they're on the road and will be getting the best games these teams have.
However, Oklahoma State is the better team and should be able to take care of business.
7) Justin Blackmon
No disrespect to any of the many great receivers in the nation, but Justin Blackmon is the best wide receiver in the NCAA.
He's probably not going to get 20 touchdowns again this year, but his statistics are still out of this world. Through nine games he already has 87 catches, 1,039 yards and 12 touchdowns.
The man has been absolutely amazing all year long ,and is only getting better. In each of his last two games he's had 13 catches, over 170 yards and two touchdowns—all while being constantly double-teamed by opposing defenses.
With three games left in the regular season, his numbers will only improve as he leads the Oklahoma State offense to ridiculous scoring outputs.
6) Stanford's BCS Snub
The Stanford Cardinals have done everything they can to try and find their way into the BCS mix.
Unfortunately, their undefeated record wasn't enough to put them ahead of one-loss Alabama the BCS standings.
That's great news for Oklahoma State. Last week, the Cardinals jumped the Cowboys in the USA Today poll and a bit of doubt creeping into the Oklahoma State faithful.
However, this week proved that, as long as the Cowboys win out, Stanford will never jump them in the poll that matters.
Because of the computer poll, which downgrades Stanford, Oklahoma State has a huge lead on the next undefeated team.
This lets Oklahoma State get rid of a potential distraction and just focus on their next opponent.
5) Tracy Moore
Last week, I called out Oklahoma State's backup wide receivers for a lack of production against the Baylor Bears.
I'm not saying Tracy Moore is a regular reader of my articles, but something got into the young man this Saturday against Kansas State. He had nine catches, 146 yards and a touchdown in the Cowboys' big win.
Moore was open over the middle almost all night and gave Brandon Weeden a big, reliable target to look for when Justin Blackmon was covered.
When the Cowboys' offense has another guy out there who can consistently get open, they're basically unstoppable.
If Moore can continue this level of play, look for Ok State to be even more dominant as teams are forced to take coverage off of Blackmon to make sure Moore doesn't beat them.
4) Their Raucous Fanbase
I don't know if you heard, but, following the Kansas State game, Oklahomans experienced a 5.6 earthquake that originated in Stillwater.
In all seriousness, there aren't many fans out there who are more excited for their team right now than the Cowboy faithful.
They have never seen their team play this well throughout a season and are sure to be extra loud as they try to will their squad to an undefeated season.
Other fanbases have more tradition and get much more credit than Oklahoma State's, but no one has more to cheer about right now.
They've never seen a team this good in Stillwater, and might not see another like this for quite some time. They have to take advantage of this squad while they can, and you can be sure that Boone Pickens Stadium is going to be hopping when the Oklahoma Sooners come to town.
3) Brandon Weeden
Brandon Weeden had a few uncharacteristic turnovers against Kansas State that kept the Wildcat in the game, but his overall play was excellent.
His 502 yards passing set a school record and his four touchdowns were all huge in the shoot-out against K-State. Weeden's season numbers are right up there with the best quarterbacks in the nation and they're only going to get better.
If Justin Blackmon's the best receiver in the nation, then Weeden-Blackmon has to be the quarterback-wide receiver combo in the nation. The two know each other so well at this point that it wouldn't surprise me to see them connect for touchdowns in a pitch black room.
Weeden's probably not going to win the Heisman Trophy, but he's going to continue to lead the most dangerous offense in the nation to big point totals for the rest of the year.
Look for him to continue his accurate dominance as the Cowboys move toward the championship.
2) Key OU Injuries
I'll never cheer when a player gets injured and I would much rather see Oklahoma State and Oklahoma face off when both teams are at full strength, so that nothing is left up for question.
Unfortunately, I can't control which players get hit by injuries during a given year and this year injuries have hit the Sooners hard.
First they lost running back Dominique Whaley against Kansas State and now they've lost wide receiver Ryan Broyles with an ACL tear.
Those two losses are going drastically change the OU offense. Yes, Roy Finch is a great running back, but he's yet to show the consistency that made Whaley the starter. Also, while Jaz Reynolds and Kenny Stills are good wide receivers, it's almost impossible to replace a talent like Broyles.
I truly wish Broyles all the luck in the world as he moves onto a career in the NFL and I was really glad to see OU give Whaley a scholarship the day after he was injured.
That said, it's going to be difficult for the Sooners to replace players of their caliber so soon. It would be ideal if Oklahoma State could beat a healthy Oklahoma team. However, we don't live in an ideal world, and I'll take whatever victory Oklahoma State can get.
1) They've Lived Up to the Challenge
Every team needs to be challenged at some point during a season to make sure that they have what it takes to deserve their lofty ranking. The Oklahoma State Cowboys are no different.
Oklahoma State was first challenged on the road against the Texas A&M Aggies in a game that saw them comeback from a halftime deficit to steal a huge win in College Station.
Then they ran into Collin Klein and the Kansas State Wildcats, who took them to limit this weekend in Stillwater. Oklahoma State let that one come down to the wire, but pulled out another big win to preserve their undefeated record.
The Cowboys have proven that they have what it takes to get the job done when they are challenged by quality teams.
They've beaten two top 15 teams during this season and will have a chance to do it again when the Sooners come to town in a few weeks.