Four-Year Trend: 2008 (9-4), 2009 (9-4), 2010 (11-2), 2011 (12-1)
Notable Player: RB Joseph Randle. Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon are gone, so the team will be relying on Wes Lunt (he’s a true freshman, he’s 18) to run the offense. Junior running back Randle should be an even bigger part of the offense, and is versatile as a pass receiver, runner, and in blitz pickup.
Top Newcomers: Dominic Ramacher (TE), Seth Jacobs (LB), Michael Wilson (OT)
Circle This Game: Oklahoma State at Oklahoma (Nov. 24). The Cowboys laid an absolute whipping on the rival Sooners last year, and could have a lot riding on the return Bedlam game in Norman.
Why We Like Them: Oklahoma State has won 23 games over the last two years, has produced NFL talent, and has taken a major step forward with national coach of the year Mike Gundy. They will fall back a little from last year, when they were an overtime loss at Iowa State from playing for a national championship, but will still be a Big XII contender.
Best-Case Scenario: Freshman Wes Lunt is a phenom at quarterback and moves into the system seamlessly. The offensive system is in place to succeed, and the defense improves while not relying as much on turnovers. The Cowboys go into the rivalry game with Oklahoma with a chance to repeat as conference champs and finish with double digit wins for the third year in a row.
Worst-Case Scenario: The loss of Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon causes a big dropoff offensively, and the opportunistic defense that relied on turnovers regresses and cannot force stops. The expected defensive improvement does not show itself in results on the field. The tough Big XII schedule leaves them with 5 losses.
Projected Bowl: Insight Bowl
[photo via US Presswire]