GAME FOUR: OKLAHOMA STATE COWBOYS
Oklahoma State enters the season on an upswing after what was a near collapse in 2014. After starting out the season with a 5-1 record and a #15 ranking, Oklahoma State lost five straight games until upsetting Oklahoma on a Tyreek Hill punt return and finishing the season with a Cactus Bowl victory. The Cowboys return 14 starters from that team and also return head coach Mike Gundy despite rumors about Gundy leaving the program last year.
On offense the Cowboys return quarterback Mason Rudolph, who shows promise after burning a redshirt as a freshman last season to lead the Cowboys to victories in the last two games of the season. Rudolph also has weapons at receiver in Brandon Sheperd and James Washington, and Oklahoma State also returns almost everyone who caught a pass in 2014, with the only significant departure being Tyreek Hill. Despite promise in the passing game, the Cowboys need to improve on their rushing game after ranking 99th in the nation in 2014. Oklahoma State returns seven linemen with starting experience, although the unit must improve on its 2014 performance to be a strength in 2015. On the other side of the ball, Oklahoma State returns Big XII Defensive Linemen of the Year Emmanuel Ogbah, but loses James Castleman and Ofa Hautau off of the line. Outside of the losses at defensive tackle and the loss of linebacker Josh Furman, the Cowboys return a majority of a young defensive from 2014 that gained experience for 2015.
Kansas State travels to Stillwater for the Wildcats’ first Big XII test. The Wildcats have not won in Stillwater since 1999, and the Cowboys appear to be on the return to the standard of strong play expected in recent years. While winning in Stillwater in by no means impossible, Oklahoma State should have an advantage in the matchup, especially with Wildcats looking to establish a new offensive identity in 2015.