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Oklahoma State Football: Forecasting the Cowboys 2021 season

Chandler Vessels08/01/21
William Purnell/Icon Sportswire

National college football writer Phil Steele predicted the 2021 season for every team, including Oklahoma State football, in his annual preview. As if the 2020 calendar year weren’t bad luck enough, the Cowboys got another dose of misfortune in their season opener. Starting quarterback Spencer Sanders suffered an ankle injury in the first quarter against Tulsa and missed the next two games. He returned against Iowa State as OSU finished 8-3 with a Cheez-It Bowl victory against Miami (FL).

The Cowboys lose a lot of talent from last year. Running back Chuba Hubbard and receiver Tylan Wallace have moved on to NFL careers. Sanders returns, however, and you can always count on coach Mike Gundy to put together a respectable offense. Below is a summary of what he said about the Cowboys.

The Offense

The offense was somewhat of a letdown, last season.

With Wallace and Hubbard opting to return, expectations were lofty. OSU started 4-0 and rose as high as No. 6 in the AP poll before losing in overtime to Texas. Things went downhill from there. Hubbard wasn’t nearly as dominant as in 2019 and opted out after the Cowboys’ Bedlam loss.

They finished as the 39th overall offense in FBS, which is solid but a far cry from where their potential suggested.

There isn’t as much star power and therefore less attention on Oklahoma State football this preseason. That could work in their favor as they attempt to finish among the top three in the Big 12.

The Defense

After allowing the most points per game (38) in school history in 2019, the Cowboys improved to 28 points allowed per contest in 2020.

They return eight starters and 11 of their top 12 tacklers from this past season. Tre Sterling (11 TFL), Malcolm Rodriguez (82 tackles) and Trace Ford (4.5 sacks) are all back to lead what could be the most underrated defense in the Big 12. Steele calls for the OSU defense to take another step forward this season.

The Forecast

The Cowboys finished third in the Big 12 last year while also earning a victory against runner-up Iowa State.

The losses of Wallace and Hubbard are concerning, but Gundy is the third-longest tenured coach in FBS. His relationship with Sanders, a former 4-star recruit, will define the Oklahoma State football season. The coach infamously caused headlines in the 2020 offseason after Hubbard called him out on Twitter for wearing a t-shirt promoting conservative news network One America News.

Gundy’s leadership, as well as the development of Sanders, are the two biggest questions for OSU. Steele sees them as a legitimate contender in the Big 12.