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2021 Oklahoma State college football preview: The Pokes look to get faster offensively

The Cowboys aren’t expected to do much in the Big 12. But if they can find a way to score, they should be able to get some stops.

Quarterback Spencer Sanders of the Oklahoma State Cowboys runs for a couple yards against the Texas Tech Red Raiders near the end of the second quarter at Boone Pickens Stadium on November 28, 2020 in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images

One thing Mike Gundy teams have done during his 17-year tenure in Stillwater is score the football. But that took a major step backwards in 2020, despite OSU greatly improving defensively. Quarterback Spencer Sanders returns this season, but he’ll have almost an entirely new cast at the skill positions.

It might not be the worst thing that a team that averaged only 5.6 yards per play is returning just five starters, including three offensive linemen. Chuba Hubbard is off to the NFL, but he didn’t exactly wow with just 4.7 yards per carry last season.

Where the Pokes did improve is defensively, and with nine of 11 starters returning, they enter as the No. 12 team in SP+ on that side of the ball. And while that runs counter to the history of both Big 12 and Oklahoma State football, it might be a nice baseline if they can find a way to ingratiate new talent and score.

2020 Season Review

  • 8-3, 6-3 Big 12: Cheez-It Bowl Champions (37-34 over Miami)
  • Losses to Texas, Oklahoma, TCU

2021 Talent

2021 247Sports Composite Ranking: 30th
ESPN Returning Production: 72% overall (55th): 65% offense (79th), 80% defense (30th)
Returning Talent Index: Negative, 5th in Big 12
Returning starters: 5/11 offense, 9/11 defense
* All rankings out of 130 FBS schools

Key Player

Quarterback: Spencer Sanders (Redshirt Junior)

The 2019 Big 12 Freshman of the Year is one of the better talents as a passer in college football, but struggled a bit in 2020 for an offense that often sputtered: 155-247 passing for 2,007 yards with 14 touchdowns and eight interceptions in nine games played. Added 269 rushing yards and two touchdowns on the ground.

Offense (non-QB): OL Josh Sills (Redshirt Senior)

The 6-6, 330 lb. West Virginia transfer will be the key cog on an offensive line that returns three of five starters. Was First Team All-Big 12 in 2020, and last year was forced to start six games at left guard, once at left tackle, and the last four games at right tackle. His 35 knockdowns led the offensive line.

Defense: OLB Malcolm Rodriguez (Senior)

Rodriguez has 34 career starts, and had 82 total tackles, including 58 solos to lead all LB’s in the Power Five. Alongside a whopping seven forced fumbles last season, the two-time All-Big 12 performer has a team-high 34 starts entering this season. The converted safety was a 2020 Second Team All-Big 12 member.

Team Stats Projections

2020 SP+ final: 23rd overall: 41st offense, 18th defense, 19th special teams
2021 SP+ projection: 29th overall: 49th offense, 12th defense

Odds from DraftKings Sportsbook

To win national title: +25000
To win Big 12: +1000 (4th)
Win total: 7.5 (Over -113, Under -113)

2020 Against The Spread: 5-6-0
2020 Point Total: Over 4-7-0

2021 Oklahoma State Schedule

Oklahoma State 2021 schedule

Date Opponent Time (ET)/TV Spread/Total
Date Opponent Time (ET)/TV Spread/Total
Saturday, Sep. 4 vs. Missouri State 7:00 p.m/ESPN+
Saturday, Sep. 11 vs. Tulsa 12:00 p.m/FS1
Saturday, Sep. 18 at Boise State 9:00 p.m/FS1
Saturday, Sep. 25 vs. Kansas State TBA
Saturday, Oct. 2 vs. Baylor TBA
Saturday, Oct. 9 BYE TBA
Saturday, Oct. 16 at Texas TBA
Saturday, Oct. 23 at Iowa State TBA
Saturday, Oct. 30 vs. Kansas TBA
Saturday, Nov. 6 at West Virginia TBA
Saturday, Nov. 13 vs. TCU TBA
Saturday, Nov. 20 at Texas Tech TBA
Saturday. Nov. 27 vs. Oklahoma TBA OSU +11