College football top 25 countdown: No. 18 Oklahoma State

The Cowboys are coming off a disappointing 8-5 season but should be one of the most exciting teams as they pick up the pace in their up-tempo spread offense.

  • Pin It

The Cowboys haven't snapped a down yet, and they're already one of 2013's most exciting teams.

Oklahoma State played with (orange and black) pants on fire last season in averaging nearly 46 points per game, but apparently it just wasn't entertaining enough for Coach Mike Gundy.

"We expect to play very fast this year," he said.

He ordered strength coach Rob Glass to turn up the hamster wheel to get the team in better cardiovascular shape.

Oklahoma State is happy to be one of the defendants in the phony "spread offenses lead to more injuries" argument being prosecuted by Alabama Coach Nick Saban.

Saban, who has won three Bowl Championship Series titles in the last four years, is worried wide-open offenses might cause more violent collisions. He would prefer if teams lined up in the trenches against his behemoth future NFL first-round picks.

Funny, but no one has sent Saban a sympathy card.

"I think it's the very best thing that's happened to college football," Gundy said of the up-tempo spread.

He said there used to be the same old 15 powerhouses in college that dominated and brutalized weaker opponents.

Now there are 40 to 45 teams that "have a chance to win on any given Saturday."

Bravo.

We have probably undervalued Oklahoma State, which was picked by the media to win the Big 12.

Why?

The Cowboys are coming off a disappointing 8-5 season in which the quarterback position was in constant flux as the defense allowed 28.2 points per game.

It is accepted now that teams with spread offenses are going to allow more points — and that's OK. Last season, Louisiana Tech finished first in offense and last in defense.

Two years ago, Oklahoma State nearly made it to the BCS title game with a defense ranked in the 100s.

"We need a new measuring stick for what is good defense," Sonny Dykes, who left Louisiana Tech to become head coach at California, said. "It needs to be adjusted to a certain extent."

Still, it would be better for wins and losses if Oklahoma State knocks its points-allowed average below 25.

The offense will be a blur, but there are still some issues to be sorted out, namely who will start at quarterback.

Gundy caused a self-inflicted mess last year when he promoted freshman Wes Lunt over veterans Clint Chelf and J.W. Walsh.

A rash of injuries turned the position into a turnstile with Chelf ending up the starter in the end.

Lunt wasn't happy and transferred to Illinois, leaving Chelf and Walsh to battle it out in training camp.

It makes sense for Gundy to milk the drama into the opener against Southeastern Conference opponent Mississippi State in Houston.

Oklahoma State won't drop off with either guy. Chelf threw for 1,588 yards and 15 touchdowns last season while Walsh threw for 1,564 and 13.

At running back, Jeremy Smith (371 yards) must step up for the departed Joseph Randle (1,417 yards, 14 touchdowns), but the Cowboys are loaded at wide receiver.

There may not be a Justin Blackmon or Dez Bryant here, but the unit is five or six deep led by Josh Stewart (101 catches, seven touchdowns).

The schedule also breaks Oklahoma State's way with most of the big games (Kansas State, Texas Christian, Baylor, Oklahoma) in Stillwater.

Top 25 so far: 25 Oklahoma; 24. Wisconsin; 23. Fresno State; 22. UCLA; 21. Texas A&M; 20. Notre Dame; 19. Oregon State.

chris.dufresne@latimes.com

  • Pin It

Local & National Video