DALLAS – Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon led Oklahoma State to the school’s first-ever Big 12 title and a Fiesta Bowl win over an Andrew Luck-led Stanford squad two seasons ago. This year’s Cowboys team has already done something never done before in program history without playing a single down.
Oklahoma State was picked by the media to win the Big 12 this year, garnering 15 of the 43 first-place votes in the preseason poll.
“We’ve kind of got Iowa caucus numbers in terms of people being all over the place,” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said.
Like most teams in the conference, the Cowboys have yet to name a starting quarterback. Senior Clint Chelf started the final four games last season, including a lopsided win over Purdue in the Heart of Dallas Bowl, while sophomore J.W. Walsh was promising in three starts, throwing for 1,564 yards and 13 touchdowns last year.
“It means a lot, especially being the first time in Oklahoma State history to be picked first,” junior wide receiver Josh Stewart said. “We’re going to go in like we’re the underdog, taking it game by game. We’re not going take any days off or slack because we’re picked No. 1. We’re going to attack every game like we’re in last place.”
Oklahoma State returns 15 starters from a team that went 8-5 in 2012, their lowest win total in five years. They lose Joseph Randle, who ran for nearly 1,500 yards last season, but bring back their top three pass-catchers, including Stewart, who caught 101 passes for 1,210 yards last year, and three of their top three tacklers.
“I know it won’t have any effect on our season but I do think it means a lot to Oklahoma State that people feel comfortable in saying we’re good enough to have the opportunity to win a conference championship,” head coach Mike Gundy said. “There’s been some growth in the program at Oklahoma State. I think it’s a tribute to the players that have been before this group.”
Bedlam rival Oklahoma was picked to win the Big 12 last year and won a share of the conference crown but, because of its loss to Kansas State last September, did not earn an automatic BCS bowl berth. Oklahoma State will look to avoid a similar fate.
“It doesn’t mean much because we still have to go out and play those games,” senior linebacker Shaun Lewis said. “The hunger is there. The drive is there. All those intangibles are there.”
“It means a lot,” senior defensive tackle Calvin Barnett said. “It’s pretty cool knowing we’re picked No. 1 but just because we’re picked No. 1 in the preseason, once the season gets here it won’t matter. It’s irrelevant at the end of the day.”