There’s always speculation around whether a bowl win actually gives a team any momentum entering the following season. The Oklahoma State Cowboys handled the Colorado Buffaloes in the 2016 Alamo Bowl defeating them by the score of 38-8. However, if anything gave them momentum for 2017 during bowl season, it was the announcement that quarterback Mason Rudolph and wide receiver James Washington would return for their senior seasons. Many way-too-early Top 25 rankings for 2017 have OK State in the top 10. The biggest challenge for the Pokes will once again be getting past the Oklahoma Sooners in Bedlam, and then possibly again in the Big 12 Championship Game. Now, let’s take a look at why Oklahoma State is ready to make a run at the College Football Playoff in 2017.
Oklahoma State is ready to make a run at the College Football Playoff in 2017
The running game and offensive line finally clicked
One of the biggest problems for OK State since the 2013 season was the struggles of the offensive line. As a result, the running game suffered as well. However, behind strong blocking from JUCO transfer, Larry Williams and former UAB transfer Victor Salako, the O-line improved massively. Moreover, true freshman running back Justice Hill became the first thousand yard rusher since Joseph Randle in 2012. He returns for his sophomore season to combined with Rudolph and Washington to form one of the best three-headed monsters of any offense in college football.
The offensive line loses only one starter and the 2017 recruiting class has two quality running backs committed. The future looks bright even in the darkest spots entering the 2016 season.
Mason Rudolph and James Washington
Not much needs to be said for this part. Rudolph and Washington have all the talent in the world. And Rudolph is tied for the sixth-best odds at 12/1 to win the 2017 Heisman Trophy, according to Bovada’s early odds list.
Washington caught more than 70 passes for more than 1,400 yards and 10 touchdowns. Meanwhile, Rudolph threw for over 4,000 yards and 28 touchdowns with only four interceptions.
Even if defenses focus mainly on shutting down Washington, the Pokes still have multiple other weapons at receiver. Chris Lacy and Marcell Ateman highlight what promises to be one of the best receiving corps in the nation. Shutting down the OK State offense is a tall task for anyone next season, especially for some subpar Big 12 defenses.
OK State gets the Oklahoma Sooners, Baylor Bears, Kansas State Wildcats, and TCU Horned Frogs all at home next season. Two of those games were road losses last season that could have cost the Pokes a chance at a Big 12 title and College Football Playoff spot in 2016. However, the Cowboys do land tough road games against the Texas Longhorns, Pittsburgh Panthers, and West Virginia Mountaineers. Furthermore, the Iowa State Cyclones are never an easy win at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames.
The toughest stretch of the season comes in late October and early November where the Cowboys have two straight road games against the Horns and Mountaineers and then the Bedlam game in Stillwater. Yet, the schedule is still much more favorable than it was in 2016.