October 23, 2012
If we were writing a biography of the 2012 football season what would it say up to this point? Would each chapter fluctuate between optimism and negativity with same magnitude as the fan-base? Despite being 6 games into the season the team's identity is still unknown. In the past, I usually have a pretty good pulse on the team 6 games into the season, but this year I can honestly say I know more about the Kansas State Wildcats than I do my own team.
Two games this year I could not tell with certainty who was the starting quarterback. At the end of four games I felt the defense was good enough to win the Big 12, but there were two games I did not think the defense could get us to a bowl game. At the beginning of the season I believed our defensive line was going to be the unit holding us back. Now, I cannot say if the secondary is overrated, poorly coached or just hitting their stride.
In a league that fluctuates more than presidential election polls, I take no shame in admitting I have no clue what is going, but there are some things that I know for sure.
Joseph Randle is the best running back in the league and you could argue he is the best running back since Barry. I have kept an eye on his stats and many have laughed when I say there is a good chance Randle will become the all-time leading rusher at OSU. Randle only needs to average 108.2 yards a game to surpass Thurman Thomas, and of the remaining opponents Randle will be facing teams that give up an average 128.5 yards a game. Will he have the greatest career Stillwater has ever seen, maybe not, but you heard it here first.
Monken is the best offensive coordinator in the nation. Last year many credited his success to Weeden and Blackmon, but this year Monken has proven why he is among the best. There is no other offensive coordinator that began the year with a true freshman starting QB and a redshirt freshman back up and still put up these numbers. Not to mention Monken has not had the same QB start more than half of the games. The offense is 4th in points per game, 7th in passing yards per game, and 8th in rushing yards per game. Could it get any more balanced?
Wickline continues to be the best offensive line coach in the league. This isn't a shocking statement, but considering the players he lost it would make sense that offensive line production would drop. There are 13 players in the Big 12 averaging over 5.8 yards per carry with at least 10 carries and Osu has four of them. Currently OSU allows a sack on 1.3% of drop backs, which ranks 3rd in the nation.
Bill Young misses Markelle Martin. Martin's production on the field is no question missed, but his ability to get the secondary lined up is what the defense is missing most. The new safeties that have replaced Martin have showed flashes of talent, but the failure to line up properly has been a glaring problem. Re-watch the Arizona and Texas game.
Which leads us to the ultimate question, why is OSU 4-2 and not ranked in the top 25? I don't have the ultimate answer, but rather a combination of theories.
Scheduling: To this point it has still felt like the season has yet to start. We started off with a complete waste of game against Savannah State. Then we head to Arizona for a late night pacific coast game which didn't end till midnight. Throw in two bye weeks and a 6 hour long game at Kansas, OSU has yet to really get rolling. It is extremely hard to build momentum and stay on task when a team is asked to start and stop like they have been (especially for a young team). Momentum is extremely important in college football. The two bye weeks, a "throw-away" opener, a late night game in Arizona (a team you have beaten 3 times in 2 years), and a marathon game against the worst team in the league has left fans and players wanting more.
Injuries/turnovers: These two categories are combined because luck is a large element of both. Looking at past history, injuries and turnovers fluctuate and tend to balance out over the long haul. Last year, OSU was very lucky in both aspects. However, this year OSU has not received any lucky bounces and while being devastated by injuries. OSU is one call away from being 5-1 and likely ranked in the top 15.
So how bad is the defense? I would argue not as bad as we thought. The defense has pitched 13 shutout quarters of the 24 played. They allow 3.39 yards per carry, and 6.24 yards per pass attempt (4th and 3rd best in the conference respectively.) Take out one game at Arizona without Bill Young and 5-7 plays where we failed to get lined up and our defense looks pretty good.
So what should we expect of the remaining season? Fans will see a team that has made strides, and the fan base should have full faith in Gundy's ability to improve. I cannot say for sure that we will win the Big 12 or that we will fail to make a bowl. It is not crazy to think the team could be 8-2 going into Norman. Yes, that would include beating Kansas State but there is more on that to come.
Over the next month we should finally have and understanding of the teams identity. Excitement can finally begin to build, and hopefully our fans are biting at the bit to get "The Boone" rocking with relevant games and pm kickoffs.