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MSU vs. Oklahoma State: The Big Preview

Welcome to our brand new, shiny series called The Big Preview. Each week, we plan to bring you a COMPLETE preview of the week's upcoming game; a preview that will feature stats, matchup breakdowns, a not-so-serious opponent preview, where to eat, game predictions, visiting recruits, and much more. Welcome to The Big Preview: MSU vs. Oklahoma State. This week's edition features a game preview, a bit of satire, some matchup breakdowns, and a Q&A with our friends at Cowboys Ride for Free.

It's game week.  Let's get our preview on, y'all
It's game week. Let's get our preview on, y'all
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the first edition of The Big Preview -- For Whom the Cowbell Tolls' attempt to give you everything -- and we mean everything -- you could possibly want to know to get you ready for this weekend's big game. If you are looking for your favorite specific section, don't worry! Our handy links will take you right to what you came here for. Enjoy!

Click any of the four links below to scroll directly to the section that you're looking for (each section also features a button at the end to take you back to the top of the page):

Game Preview -- Mississippi State vs. Oklahoma State by JLgrindin
Coach Collins responds to OSU lineman comment by cristilmethod
Matchup Breakdown by Metal Building Dawg
Q&A with Cowboys Ride for Free with Robert Whetsell

Game Preview -- Mississippi State versus Oklahoma State

by JLgrindin

Hey, guys, its back. Yeah, college football is back and we can all now breathe a sigh of relief.

With that said, MSU will jump right into week one facing a team that some consider a favorite in the deep Big 12 this season. Most feel like they are at least a top four team in the conference.

Game Essentials: MSU vs. OSU
* Game Time: 2:30
* Channel: ABC/ESPN2
* Betting Line: OSU -12.5
* Location: Houston, Texas
* All Time Series: Tied 2-2
* Last Meeting: '99 - MSU 29, OSU 11

Oklahoma State is the only team in the country that has finished in the top 10 nationally in scoring, passing and total offense each of the last three seasons.

However, things could be a bit different for the Cowboys this season as they will have a new offensive coordinator and quaterback, they will be replacing Joseph Randle who rushed for over 1,400 yards last season and they also still have a bit of quarterback controversy very close to the start of the season. They are trying to decide between Clint Chelf and J.W. Walsh. Both quarterbacks appear to be very talented and the offense should be good either way, however, it is not ideal that neither has separated himself.

Outside of the quarterback position, all appears to be well with the Poke offense, save for the offensive line where they will be replacing three starters. That was replacing three starters before starting LT Devin Davis tore his ACL last week, stretching the Cowboys' depth and experience on the line even thinner. The offensive line should be conditioned well and ready to go fast, but I have questions if they will have the experience and depth to go up against a big, fast SEC defensive line in week one. I think this offensive line could be an opportunity for Denico Autry, Kaleb Eulls and company to really play well and get some confidence in week one of the season.

As far as running back goes, I mentioned the Cowboys will be replacing and NFL running back. However, the system the OSU runs usually allows for a running back to have a lot of production. So I am confident in saying that last year's back up running back, Jeremy Smith, could be the next guy up. He should also have a very serviceable backup in Desmond Roland. However, these young running backs will be up against a solid MSU front seven in week one. So they will need to grow up in a hurry.

If there’s two guys that both deserve to play, you gotta play them. That’s really the only way to handle it.-Mike Gundy, on playing 2 QBs

At receiver, the Cowboys could have one of the better units in the country and while the MSU secondary has a good bit of talent, the talent is inexperienced. The MSU secondary is not at the disadvantage they appear to be on paper, but they will have to grow up in a hurry going up against a unit that returns junior Josh Stewart who caught over a hundred passes for over 1,200 yards last season and senior Tracy Moore who was hindered by injury last season. Blake Jackson and Charlie Moore are very talented pass catchers as well.

On defense, the Cowboys should be very vulnerable. I think that Tyler Russell, LaDarius Perkins and the MSU offense should be able to score and score a lot on Saturday.

While I think the MSU offense will give up its fair share of points to the Cowboys as well, I think it will be more of a case where the Cowboy offense is just that good.

So I think the key of this game could come down to which defense can get the big stop late in the game or which defense can create the turnovers and get their offense back on the field.

Oklahoma St. post-game show after loss to MSU in 1999

I think this could be one of the best games of opening weekend. It will provide a lot of scoring and something tells me it could give us an exciting finish. This game is also pivotal for each team. MSU will be looking to erase the bad taste of how last season ended and set up to have another bowl trip this season. For the Cowboys, they will be trying to prove they won't be spending a second consecutive season in rebuilding mode. Could be one of the best games to watch this season.

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Josh Stewart - WR, Oklahoma State

The always lethal Josh Stewart leads the aerial assault in '13 -- Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Coach Collins responds to Parker Graham comment about MSU defensive line

by cristilmethod

Starkville, Mississippi (AP)1 -- Late last week as preparations for this weekend's Texas Kickoff Classic got underway, Oklahoma State offensive lineman Parker Graham made a post comment practice, sharing that his perception of SEC defensive lines were that they were not well conditioned. Graham's comments quickly made the rounds amongst the MSU fanbase the following day, and many were upset with the lineman over his comments. But it didn't deter MSU defensive coordinator Geoff Collins one bit.

Nah, I didn't think about it at all, nor do my guys.

See, there you have it. Collins clearly has not given the Big XII lineman's comments any thoughts.

At least that's what we thought until today. Although the record may show that Geoff Collins took the high road and didn't reply to Graham's comments, For Whom the Cowbell Tolls has received exclusive footage that shows that Collins didn't take it nearly as well as publicly thought. Last week, during a closed scrimmage in Stillwater, Collins disguised himself as an OSU defender (who was wearing an MSU helmet for game simulation purposes), and when Parker Graham picked up a fumble and returned it for a touchdown, Collins found his perfect chance to unleash his fury for what Parker said about his d-line:

Collins Waterboy

The taped incident came to FWtCT through a third party, but that source was close enough to hear what Collins said to Graham after his knocked him out, and that has been closed-captioned on the final frames of the video.

Graham (concussion) is expected to play this Saturday, while Collins will be held in restraints on the sidelines near the H20 coolers to avoid further injury to OSU players.

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Matchup Breakdowns

by Metal Building Dawg

MSU Receivers vs. OSU Secondary

This will be a key matchup because of the unknowns going in. The Cowboys do return 7 of their top 8 DBs but they turned that same trick last year and actually ended up being worse at 280 passing yards per game and 307 in conference. Out of their 10 INTs last year, only ONE came from the cornerbacks, and he was a backup (Ashton Lampkin). 7 of the 10 picks came from the safeties. Last year this group also allowed a 60.8% completion percentage to opposing quarterbacks.

Tyler Russell's group of up and coming wide outs are a big time mystery for this game. Who knows how they will perform? Unless this Okie State secondary makes some serious strides in this offseason that they didn't last year State should be able to create plenty of opportunities to move the ball through the air. While going into a big game like this with a young receiving corp but veteran line and RBs would seem to lend itself towards pounding the football, I think getting the passing game opened up early and often may be a key as they will probably be in a zone. If so, Jameon and Malcolm should be able to get open and move the chains. This matchup could be an advantage for MSU if the talent we have is able to produce come game time.

MSU Defensive Line vs. OSU Offensive Line

This matchup could be the key to the game for the Dawgs. Mississippi State's D-line is one of the more underrated units in the SEC. From a pure talent standpoint we've got the players. Inexperience and possibly coaching was an issue last year but this group should be ready to go under new leadership and another year under their belt.

The Cowboys only return 38 career starts among all offensive lineman which is 108th in the country. They basically only return one and a half starters with RG (switches to LT this week due to a Devin Davis' torn ACL) LT Parker Graham starting all 13 games and LG Brandon Webb starting 5 games. Much of their success is predicated on the short, quick passing game so getting to the quarterback might not happen too often, however, pressure and the potential for batted balls will make a difference. Getting a good push and stopping the run at the line will be crucial to making them one dimensional and allowing our linebackers to stay in coverage. There is an opportunity here for the MSU D-line to take advantage of some of their inexperience early in the season - especially in the 2nd half when State's depth could come into play and get into the backfield a little easier.

MSU Offensive Line vs. OSU Defensive Line

This is a very interesting matchup. At DE, Oklahoma State losses their full time starter on one end and two part timers on the other end meaning they'll have a couple of new guys in Tyler Johnson and Jimmie Bean. So their weakness on the line is matched up with our "weak spot" at offensive tackle. The Cowboys tackles are a different story as both are returning starters and were all-conference players last year. They will be going against the strength of State's line lead by Dillon Day and All-American candidate Gabe Jackson.

The good news is MSU's strength on the O-line is the interior so they matchup well here. With inexperienced ends it may give State's young receivers just a bit of extra time to get open. The Cowboys were decent in defending the run game last year (142 YPG).

MSU Secondary vs. OSU Receivers

This could potentially be a major weakness for the Bulldogs. Lots of experience and high end talent is gone and OSU will be coming at us with a solid, proven passing attack. They return their top two QBs (and Gundy has hinted at using both this year) and top 3 receivers. They will get their yards and their points.

This may be a game worth taking some risks. The potential of getting some turnovers could really account for a big swing in the game, and could be worth giving up a monster play or two as they will likely move the ball well through the air regardless.

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Q&A with Oklahoma State SBNation blog Cowboys Ride for Free

1. Oklahoma State has not played in a neutral site Kickoff type of game yet under Mike Gundy. How do OSU fans feel about opening in this type of game and what is the general feeling about Mississippi State?

First, this is THE big issue that led to Gundy "flirting" with Arkansas and Tennessee last winter. The AD wants money, which means marquee non-conference matchups like this one, and Gundy wants easy non-conference wins that don't take a physical toll on his team prior to a tough conference schedule. Not sure where they are falling on this, but it seems that the AD is winning to some degree.

Second, while there are some fans that feel this will be an easy win, a LOT of the fan base is nervous. There have been enough changes, enough secrecy about the QB battle, and enough worrying about the defense to leave folks wondering, and Mississippi State is an SEC team coming off a winning record after all. I'll count me in this bunch.

2. SB Nation's Football Study Hall recently had a post about how Oklahoma State has 3 of the top 5 most underrated defenses in the last 4 years using advanced stats. How is OSU's defense viewed among the fans, as an asset or a liability?

I'm going to point your readers to a couple of posts: one recent and one from last season, that speak to our feelings on the defense.

There are plenty of advanced stats that show OSU's defense is not a complete farce, but the fact remains that without the plethora of turnovers that it produced in 2011's magical run, it's not good enough at getting off the field in a more traditional manner. Pistols Firing also had a post that spoke to this issue. It's likely the main reason they have a new DC this year.

The bottom line is that the Cowboys' defense has, in my opinion, generally under-performed given the athletes available. Is that on the coaching or the players? We should find out this season. Gundy has spoken highly of the athletic ability of last year's and this year's group of defensive players. We saw what happened last season. With at least two NFL draft picks on that side of the ball, they SHOULD be able to muster some type of "traditional" fight.

Right now, still a liability, but fans are cautiously optimistic and feel the Bulldogs will be a solid measuring stick.

3. What are your biggest concerns about the Cowboy defense this year? Also, where are the strengths?

I'll speak to the strengths first.

Rush defense should be better than last season, and last season was pretty good.

An NFL defensive tackle (Barnett), another maybe NFL defensive tackle (Castleman), and a veteran core of LB's should should prove solid against the run.

But the Big 12 is not about the run, which brings up the weakness.

Our LB's struggle a little in pass coverage, and our secondary got lit up in 2012. Much of that blame is being placed on coaching and scheme, so the jury is out until we see proof to the contrary. Justin Gilbert, if he realizes his potential, is a "shut down" talent, and he dropped two sure pick 6's last season that could have completely changed the season outcome for OSU. The general theme for this season is "appropriate" aggressiveness.

The other part of that is the pass rush, which was not nearly on the level of 2011. Most of the pressure came up the middle from the aforementioned DT's. The Cowboys' seem to be excited about Jimmy Bean (Soph, coming off injury) and Sam Wren (Jr, juco transfer). Tyler Johnson (Sr) is of the same lineage as NFL QB Brandon Weeden (ex-baseball and older) and was really good at the end of 2012. Size could be an issue, but word is they are REALLY quick on the corners, so if this holds true and they can produce pressure, this defense could be really good, maybe suprisingly so, in the Big 12. Handling a more power oriented offense might be a different story.

4. The Oklahoma State running attack has featured a 1,200 yard back in each of the last 6 seasons, with guys like Kendall Hunter and Joseph Randle leading the way. Who is the next running back in line and do you think he will be able to continue this tradition?

This is another area of concern for OSU.

Jeremy Smith most definitely has the ability to produce the numbers, but health is a concern. Even in limited action as a sudo backup to Randle, Smith struggled with the types of injuries that limit a RB. Now he will be getting the bulk of the carries. Should he go down, the Cowboys are not deep for now.

Desmond Roland looks to be a serviceable backup, but no one is established behind him. Caleb Muncrief has not seen meaningful action, and the other two are true freshman.

It's all about staying healthy, and if he does, Smith will continue the tradition, no problem. If he doesn't, then it looks like one of the true freshman will need to step up.

The potential plus is this...Smith is a downhill runner, very physical for his size (5'10", 208). Roland is a load at 6'2", 210. The Cowboys could be much more physical in the run game than they have been for some time.

5. Is there a QB battle in Stillwater? What do you expect to see out of that position?

Well, this has been THE question of the offseason.

While it is accepted that the offense will be in good hands no matter who is at the helm, there are definitely three separate camps on this topic.

Clint Chelf, who had to be talked into staying with the program by teammates while languishing as a third stringer last year, led OSU down the stretch last season when now departed Wes Lunt and RS Freshman JW Walsh went down with injuries. He even has a "cult" following.

Gundy announced early that Chelf would be working as the starter, but recanted after the spring. Then Lunt transfered. Now the story-line is that both Chelf and Walsh will play. Walsh is a special kid, and while his throwing motion brings back more memories of Billy Kilmer than Joe Montana, his QB rating not only led the team, but also the conference. His passing stats were by far and away the best on the team. Word from fall camp is that he has gone to another level in his performance. Add in his ability to run, and he could be lethal. My gut says Walsh has taken the lead in this battle.

Chelf ended up third a year ago for a reason. He came in and performed well in a tough situation, but his weakness coming out of last season was his accuracy. If he has improved on that (he is also a capable runner), then the QB situation is in really good hands.

The Bulldogs' D will need to pressure AND contain.

Throw into the mix transfer Daxx Garman (who supposedly has a better arm than either Chelf or Walsh), and OSU once again has comfortable depth at the Big 12's most important position.

The staff and team continue to keep this under wraps, so we won't know until game time on 8/31.

6. How is the receiver position looking for OSU? Are there big, physical guys like Dez Bryant and Justin Blackmon still lurking around?

This will be the test for the Bulldogs. OSU is almost 3 deep at WR, and there is very little drop off between 1's and 2's. They will likely rotate 8-9 players throughout the game. The Cowboys will hurt you either way...physically with Tracy Moore, Blake Jackson, and true freshman Marcel Ateman...and "scatback" style speed with Josh Stewart, Dave Glidden, and true freshman Ra'Shaad Samples. This is by far the best overall unit in the Big 12, and there are a number of potential NFL guys in this group. OSU could easily have 2-3 all Big 12 players at WR, but the ball will get spread around enough that it would be tough for that to happen.

While not overlooking anyone else, the three key guys in that bunch are Moore (6'2", 215), Stewart (5'10", 185), and Jackson (6'3", 235). Jackson is the "beast" of the bunch, purely physical, led the Cowboys in YPC last season, and if he has cured his "dropsies," he will be a huge problem in the middle of the field for the Bulldogs. Stewart is the traditional style inside receiver, small and twitchy, and led OSU in receiving last season after Moore went down with a season ending injury. Tracy Moore was well on his way as the #1 last season before getting hurt. Not as fast as Blackmon, but slightly bigger, he has excellent hands and is a superb, very physical route runner.

The young Bulldogs secondary will have it's hands full, and the LB's will be very stressed in pass coverage.

7. MSU's D-line is viewed by many as about middle of the pack in the SEC, a league known for great D-lines. Is there any concern about how OSU's O-line will match up?

Joe Wickline is arguably the best OL coach in the country. His guys have consistently been among the best in sacks allowed, and easily led the Big 12 in that category in 2012.

Don't think this group will have any problems dealing with a "middle of the pack" SEC defensive line when it comes to protection in the passing game.

Power running will be another issue altogether. OSU has struggled in that regard since going to the "Air Raid" system, but improved in that area with the development of the short yardage/goal line package for QB JW Walsh. Their most effective formation in these moments is the full backfield "pistol."

8. Finally, MSU went up against OSU in the recruiting battle of Fred Ross in January and won out. Is there any animosity there, or extra motivation to beat the Bulldogs on the field because of it? And are you hoping Ross doesn't see the field in this one?

Haven't heard one word about it. OSU is so loaded at WR that while it would have been great if he had come to Stillwater, honestly, there were probably not enough balls to go around if he had. Ateman (6'4", 190) and Samples (5'11", 170) were highly touted and have reportedly turned heads in fall camp.

If Ross is as good as the press clippings, this will be an excellent test for OSU's secondary, but I don't think there is any special motivation around him going to the Bulldogs over the Cowboys.

Bonus comments from Robert Whetsell...

1. The Bulldogs win if...they can channel Stanford from Fiesta Bowl 2011, AND throw in a couple of turnovers/key mistakes by OSU. Grind it out and keep the Cowboys offense off the field. Sustain long drives, which has been a weakness for OSU over the past several seasons. Wouldn't hurt to hit a big play or two and put pressure on their kicking game, which will be anchored by a true freshman. Make OSU settle for FG's and don't give up big plays or quick scores (hint: don't kick it to Justin Gilbert);

2. The Cowboys win if...their offense comes out firing on all cylinders. The Bulldogs could limit OSU to 1 TD per quarter for 3 periods, which I think is doable, but that extra quarter will produce 14 pts for the Cowboys. That's 35 and your defense has played a pretty good game. In this scenario, the Bulldogs offense AND defense can't afford any mistakes, or this could get ugly quick, especially if the Cowboys' defense shows improvement. I think the "mendoza line" for MIssissippi State's defense is exactly that, 35 points. If OSU goes 40+, the Bulldogs will need the type of meltdown the Cowboys produced at Arizona last season.

3. My prediction...Cowboys 45, Bulldogs 28.

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Mike Gundy

Can Mike Gundy lead Oklahoma State to a Big XII title in 2013? -- Richard Rowe-USA TODAY Sports

  • Thanks to the fellas at Cowboys Ride For Free for answering a few questions for us
  • Editing, style and layout by thecristilmethod
  • 1In case you are unfamiliar with cristilmethod's work, everything in the second section of The Big Preview is satire, and fictional. Please do not sue us. We do not work for the AP, although maybe we should.