Boise State Football: First Look at the Oklahoma State Cowboys
The Broncos will look for a measure of revenge when they host Oklahoma State. Here’s our early preview of what to know about the Cowboys.
Don’t sleep on these Cowboys.
Boise State Football: First Looks at Non-Conference Opponents
It isn’t that often that the Boise State Broncos are humbled during college football season, but their blowout loss on the road against the Oklahoma State Cowboys back in 2018 is one that must rankle the program to this day. This fall, however, they’ll get a chance to even the score.
In what might be the biggest game of the year on the blue turf, the Broncos will host a Big 12 team that may still be waiting on their breakthrough but has remained remarkably consistent for a decade now and enters 2021 in the conversation for a serious run at a conference title. They won’t be scared to hit the road, so Boise State will need to bring its A-game on September 18.
Location: Stillwater, Oklahoma
Mascot: Pistol Pete
Conference: Big 12
2020 Record: 8-3 (6-3 Big 12)
Head Coach: Mike Gundy (17th year; 137-67 overall). While it’s tempting to boil Gundy’s career down to his famous “I’m a man, I’m 40” tirade, it overlooks that his Cowboys have been a remarkably steady Power 5 program with a .671 winning percentage that ranks 15th overall since 2005. Ironically, the only Big 12 team to win more in that timespan is bitter rival Oklahoma, the program’s ultimate benchmark.
Aside from a blowout loss to those Sooners last year, however, OSU wasn’t that far away from having a truly special season. The Cowboys beat eventual Fiesta Bowl champion Iowa State and then outlasted the Miami Hurricanes in the Cheez-It Bowl, but also had a pair of one-score losses to Texas and TCU. That it all happened with a hampered starting quarterback and three stars who were eventually selected in this spring’s NFL Draft puts the whole adventure into focus, though the task now is to reload at a number of key spots.
QB Spencer Sanders
Sanders’ talent is undeniable but, as is the case for a number of conference title hopefuls across the country, the bigger question is whether the redshirt junior can be more consistent every week. In his two years as a starter, the Denton, Texas native owns a 155.5 passer rating, a 65.5% completion rate and 4.4 yards per carry in games the Cowboys have won. When OSU loses, though, Sanders has compiled a 126.9 rating, 58% completion rate, and just 2.6 YPC.
Spencer Sanders is taking ankles☠️
— PFF College (@PFF_College) October 31, 2020
DL Trace Ford
If he’s healthy, Ford can be a force in the trenches for the Cowboys this fall. He’s twice been an all-conference honorable mention with 8.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks in fifteen career starts (21 games total), but he was slowed by COVID last summer before preparations for the season could get underway and then missed the bowl game and spring ball with injury. Oklahoma State will take great care to see that he’s back to 100% for their trip to the blue.
S Kolby Harvell-Peel
The senior safety has been a staunch all-Big 12 defender for a couple years now, following a first-team appearance in 2019 by earning a spot on the second team in 2020 with 44 tackles, three tackles for loss and two interceptions. He’s also one of just two Cowboys to have been named to the Big 12’s preseason all-conference squad for 2021, meaning that his ability to patrol the middle of the secondary is highly regarded.
OKSt Kolby Harvell-Peel reads this play pre-snap, comes across the field to get a TFL on the opposite sideline. Solid open-field tackler. Adept in RB/TE coverage in short areas, can struggle to turn and run with WR. #SnapScout22 pic.twitter.com/RiBn1RVbjC
— Chad Reuter (@chad_reuter) May 28, 2021
C Danny Godlevske
Anytime you can bring in a player with four years of experience as a starting center, you have to do it, right? Godlevske came to Stillwater through the transfer portal from Miami of Ohio, where he was a three-time all-MAC third team selection and made 40 starts for the Redhawks. He will be integral to ensuring the offense’s integration of a host of new talent will go smoothly.
For better or worse, the offense will rise or fall with Sanders at quarterback but replacing multiple NFL talents is no easy feat, either. Running back Chuba Hubbard is gone, though he was banged up in 2020 and both Dezmon Jackson and LD Brown impressed in his absence by averaging 5.4 yards per carry on 182 combined carries. Tylan Wallace may be harder to replace at wide receiver, but Brennan Pressley introduced himself to the country with a monster Cheez-It Bowl performance and is only a sophomore, so he looks like a safe bet to pick up some of the slack.
Better health on the offensive line will help, too, even if Teven Jenkins is also gone to the pros. Godlevske’s arrival plugs one hole and clean bills of health for both sophomore guard Cole Birmingham and junior tackle Hunter Anthony should prevent a repeat of the shuffling that Gundy was forced to do in 2020. Though the Cowboys are projected 49th by Bill Connelly’s Offensive SP+ metric, don’t be shocked if they beat that handily and also improve upon Line Yards Per Carry and sack rates that were only mediocre last fall.
You’d be forgiven if you didn’t associate Oklahoma State with strong defense at first blush, but they return a significant chunk of last year’s production back and project 12th by defensive SP+. If things break in their favor, this unit will likely lead the way in 2021.
Despite some positions to fill in fall camp, there are top-end talents at every level of the Cowboys defense. Ford, Tyler Lacy (eight TFLs, four sacks), and Brock Martin (7.5 TFLs, 2.5 sacks) make for a staunch trio on the defensive line, while senior linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez (team-high 82 tackles, seven TFLs, three sacks) is a productive anchor with three years of experience as a starter. On the back end, Harvell-Peel and Tre Sterling (74 tackles, 12 TFLs, two INTs) make for one of the Big 12’s most dangerous safety tandems, so Boise State won’t have it easy however they choose to attack.
On paper, this Broncos team should be much better prepared and much deeper than the last time they dueled with Oklahoma State, but the Cowboys possess the best overall unit in this matchup with what could be an elite defense. Even if both teams play up to their potential ceilings, OSU could assert themselves at the line of scrimmage and put pressure on a Broncos offense that doesn’t have sure secondary weapons beyond the top talents like George Holani and Khalil Shakir.
Oklahoma State 31, Boise State 27