Sure, it’s July. But it’s never too early to talk college football. Here’s your daily fix — our countdown of the preseason Top 25, as selected by the American-Statesman sports staff. Last year’s CFP semifinalists were ranked Nos. 1, 2, 7 and 17 on our 2016 list.
Today’s team: No. 9 Oklahoma State (Related coverage: OSU’s offense all the rage, but defense matters too)
Best-case scenario: The Cowboys, buoyed by their dynamic offense, roll through the Big 12 schedule and secure a spot in the national semifinals.
Worst-case scenario: Oklahoma State’s defense becomes an albatross and the Cowboys stub their toes against top conference foes like Oklahoma.
The key game: Nov. 4, Oklahoma. Bedlam was pushed up a month to make way for the conference’s new title game. The Cowboys’ season-ender now is against Kansas.
INSIDE THE COWBOYS
Coach: Mike Gundy (13th year, 104-50)
2016: 10-3, 7-2 in the Big 12 (beat Colorado 38-8 in the Alamo Bowl)
Returning starters: 7 offense, 5 defense
Goodbye: RB Chris Carson (Seahawks, 7th round), DT Vince Taylor (Dolphins, 6th)
Spring cleaning: Gundy signed a five-year contract extension this summer. He’ll earn $4.2 million. … Gundy hired his fourth offensive line coach in five seasons when he brought back a familiar name — Josh Henson, the former Cowboys standout who served on Les Miles’ staffs at Oklahoma State and LSU before heading to Missouri. Henson was an offensive analyst for Gundy last year. He took a job with Arizona State in January, only to return to Stillwater in February to replace Greg Adkins, who’s now with the Charlotte 49ers. … Quarterback Mason Rudolph and receiver James Washington thrilled fans when they decided against declaring for the 2017 draft.
Passing: Mason Rudolph, 284-448-4,091, 28/4
Rushing: Justice Hill, 206-1,142-6 (1st)
Receiving: James Washington, 71-1,380-10 (1st); Jalen McCleskey, 73-812-7 (2nd)
Tackles: LB Chad Whitener, 71 (3rd); S Ramon Richards, 64 (4th)
Sacks: DE Tralund Webber, 6 (2nd)
RETURNING ALL-CONFERENCE PLAYERS (10)
Offense: RB Justice Hill (offensive freshman of the year, 2nd team), WR James Washington (1st), OL Zachary Crabtree (2nd), OL Marcus Keyes (hon. men.), WR Jalen McCleskey (hon. men.), QB Mason Rudolph (hon. men.)
Defense: LB Chad Whitener (2nd), S Tre Flowers (2nd), P Zach Sinor (2nd, special teams player of the year), LB Calvin Budage (hon. men., defensive freshman of the year)
OKLAHOMA STATE: FYI
Catch this: There’s a lot to love about the receivers. James Washington tops all returning receivers from Power 5 leagues in career receiving yards, yards per reception and touchdowns. Then there’s Jalen McCleskey, whose 73 catches led the Cowboys last fall. There are two other intriguing options who didn’t play for Oklahoma State a year ago. Tyron Johnson was a five-star prospect when he signed with LSU. And Marcell Ateman missed last season with an injury. The year before, he averaged more than 17 yards a catch.
Dawn of Justice: Justice Hill posted six games of at least 100 yards rushing, all against Power 5 opponents. His 1,142 rushing yards were tops nationally among freshmen backs. Hill missed spring workouts because of shoulder surgery.
Rudolph on the rise: Mason Rudolph had an incredibly clean passing season in 2016. He threw only four interceptions — or one for every 1,000 yards passing. With 8,714 career passing yards, he needs only 547 to break the school career record.
Oklahoma State's schedule
|DATE||OPPONENT||LAST YR'S RESULT (IF PLAYED)|
|Sept. 8||at South Alabama|
|Sept. 16||at Pitt||W, 45-38|
|Sept. 23||TCU*||W, 31-6|
|Sept. 30||at Texas Tech*||W, 45-44|
|Oct. 14||Baylor*||L, 35-24|
|Oct. 21||at Texas*||W, 49-31|
|Oct. 28||at West Virginia*||W, 37-20|
|Nov. 4||Oklahoma*||L, 38-20|
|Nov. 11||at Iowa State*||W, 38-31|
|Nov. 18||Kansas State*||W, 43-37|
|Nov. 25||Kansas*||W, 43-37|
|* Big 12 game|
The last 5 years
|YEAR||W-L (CONF.)||RANKING||BOWL GAME|
|TOTAL||45-20 (30-15)||3-2 in bowls|
|2012||8-5 (5-4||19th/NR||W Heart of Dallas|
|2013||10-3 (7-2)||13th/17th||L Cotton|
|2014||7-6 (4-5)||NR/NR||W Cactus|
|2015||10-3 (7-2)||NR/20th||L Sugar|
|2016||10-3 (7-2)||21st/11th||W Alamo|
Note: Ranks are that year’s preseason/final ranking
2016 NATIONAL STAT RANKS
Scoring: 17th (38.6 ppg)
Points allowed: 53rd (26.5 ppg)
Passing: 9th (323.9 ypg)
Rushing: 68th (170.8 ypg)
Total off.: 14th (494.8 ypg)
Total def.: 92nd (446.3 ypg)
OUR TOP 25 SO FAR
No. 25: Boise State
No. 24: Oregon
No. 23: Tennessee
No. 22: Texas
No. 21: Kansas State
No. 20: Miami
No. 19: West Virginia
No. 18: South Florida
No. 17: Florida
No. 16: Stanford
No. 15: Louisville
No. 14: Georgia
No. 13: Wisconsin
No. 12: LSU
No. 11: Auburn
No. 10: Michigan
No. 9: Oklahoma State
No. 8: Coming Saturday. Want a hint? This school’s mascot is called Dubs.
SEC (11-Auburn, 12-LSU, 14-Georgia, 17-Florida, 23-Tennessee)
Big 12 (9-Oklahoma State, 19-West Virginia, 21-Kansas State, 22-Texas)
ACC (15-Louisville, 20-Miami)
Big Ten (10-Michigan, 13-Wisconsin)
Pac-12 (16-Stanford, 24-Oregon)
AAC (18-South Florida)
Mountain West (25-Boise State)
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