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OSU football is perennially underrated and this season's projections are just the latest example

Feb. 29—When will Vegas learn?

Earlier this month, FanDuel released its 2024 Big 12 football projected win total betting lines and the 2023 Big 12 championship runner-up is far enough down the page that you have to scroll on some devices.

The list goes as follows:

Kansas State — 9.5 wins

Utah — 9.5 wins

Arizona — 8.5 wins

Kansas (!!!) — 8.5 wins

Texas Tech — 8.5 wins

UCF — 8.5 wins

Iowa State — 7.5 wins

Oklahoma State — 7.5 wins

TCU — 7.5 wins

West Virginia — 6.5 wins

Baylor, Cincinnati, Colorado — 5.5 wins

Arizona State, BYU, Houston — 4.5 wins

This raises one obvious question — How in the world is Oklahoma State so low on this list?

OSU is returning the Doak Walker Award winner at running back, a veteran quarterback, all five offensive line starters and several key pieces on defense. This season's win total being set at just one win higher than 2023's 6.5-win projection (which OSU crushed) is baffling.

After some thought, I wanted to compare how previous win projections have fared against a historically-overachieving Mike Gundy team.

Since the 2011 season, the Cowboys have gone over their projected win total in eight of 14 years and pushed the total in two of the six that they didn't.

Some of the win totals for those seasons look even funnier when you reflect back on them. For example, in 2021 Oklahoma State's line was set at 7.5 (just like this year). They would go over that win total by a whopping 4.5 games, which is higher than what Michigan State's line was for the whole season.

With the abundance of returning offensive talent on the 2024 team, I also wanted to compare past seasons with similar talent returns and see how those Cowboy teams did in comparison to the preseason win total.

In 2011, Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon ran it back after some video game numbers led OSU to its first 11-win season in over 20 years. Vegas set the 2011 win total to 8.5. They were wrong. The 12-win season that ensued is still often regarded as the best season in school history.

In 2017, Oklahoma State was set up to have one of the best offenses in the country. Mason Rudolph was slinging it to five future NFL wide receivers and handing the ball off to a future NFL running back. Of course that all equates to a projected win total of just nine, right? Even despite proving to disappoint compared to sky-high expectations, the team still went above that projection with a 10-3 record.

In 2020, the Cowboys returned the nation's leading rusher in Chuba Hubbard as well as one of the best receivers in the country in Tylan Wallace. It was the 10-game COVID-19 season, and OSU's line was set at eight wins, which was quite lofty. That team rose all the way to being as high as No. 6 in the rankings, but would lose Spencer Sanders and Hubbard to injury throughout the season. The fact that they managed to still finish 8-3 and push the win total is impressive.

Let's shift the attention back to this upcoming season really quickly.

Of the 12 opponents on this year's schedule, seven of them finished 2023 with losing records. Better yet, six of them have win totals set at 5.5 wins or less for 2024.

Oklahoma State has a history of proving oddsmakers wrong, yet they still set under-inflated win totals year in and year out. Only time will tell just how true that is for 2024, but it certainly seems likely that OSU will once again beat the odds.

Moral of the story: Don't bet against the Cowboys.

Ryan Breeden is a sports reporter for The Stillwater News Press. He can be contacted at rbreeden@stwnewspress.com.