There are very few questions regarding the Oklahoma State football team heading into the 2011 season but the few that are out there are pretty big. The Cowboys failed to reach the Big 12 Championship game last season thanks to a fourth quarter offensive explosion by the Sooners. It was the closest OSU had ever been to reaching the championship game and with round-robin play taking place in 2011 there's no reason to expect they won't be contenders for a championship yet again.
Super stars Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon return for another year and are taking aim at being the Big 12's top quarterback/receiver combo. The Cowboys actually return nine offensive starters but will be without a key part of their 2010 offensive attack and the mastermind behind the offense. Thus there are still big questions surrounding the offense despite the number of returners.
1. Can Todd Monken keep the offense performing at a high level? The same talent will be there but what about the play calling? There are two aspects of a great offensive coordinator - 1) a great offensive system. 2) calling the right play at the right time. That combination has helped guys like Dana Holgorsen thrive in college football. Holgorsen is off to West Virginia and Monken has been tabbed to be the guy to continue coordinating the offense. Will he be successful? We should find out pretty quickly when the Arizona Wildcats come to Stillwater on September 8th.
2. Can Joseph Randle be the feature back? O-State fans say yes but the jury is still out. Randle thrived last year in the shadow of Kendall Hunter who led the team with 1,548 rushing yards. Now Randle has to step up as the starter which means his season carries will be a lot closer to Hunter's 271 last year as opposed to his 82. Is he ready for that?
3. Can the defense improve? A strong defense has been the Achilles Heel for OSU more times than they'd like to admit. Last year they ranked 61st in the nation in scoring defense and completely laid down against Nebraska and Oklahoma. To take the next step that has to get better. The Cowboys will attempt to make an improvement without 2010's leading tackler (Orie Lemon) and six other defensive starters. Among the absent is Andrew McGee who led the team in interceptions last year with five.
Oklahoma plays at Oklahoma State on December 3rd