Very few coaches are willing to begin a new college football season by opening up against a top-ranked opponent. So you can pardon Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy if he is not overjoyed at the prospects of going up against reigning national champion Florida State in the Cowboys season opener next Saturday night.
The risks are obvious. Teams do not typically operate on all cylinders in the opening game. It usually takes a game or two to work out the offseason rust and work in the new personnel. Plus, in this day and age, you can ill afford a loss, especially if it comes right out of the gate, and remain in high contention for a national championship run.
Oklahoma State has the ill fortune to open its 2014 season against not just a ranked opponent but the consensus No. 1 team in all the land.
In past seasons, you could have reasoned that this encounter was just as much a risk for the Seminoles’ national championship hopes as it was for the Big 12 Cowboys. This is not the same Oklahoma State team, however. The Cowboys’ have the fewest returning starters of any team in the conference, and they lose key players on both sides of the ball, including last year’s starting quarterback, Clint Chelf.
Gundy’s troops come into the 2014 season with a bit of a lingering sour taste in their mouths following losses in their final two games last season – to Bedlam rival Oklahoma and in the Cotton Bowl vs. former Big 12 foe Missouri – after leading late in both. And guess what, the Cowboys get to return to the spot of their postseason loss to Missouri when they meet up with Florida State next weekend at AT&T Stadium in Arlington next weekend.
Here is what Gundy said this week about having to go up against Heisman Trophy winner and All-American Jameis Winston and the rest of the Florida State Seminoles:
“(Winston’s) a really good player that’s dangerous, in that he can make a play at any time. He’s got a strong arm, he’s hard to bring down, he’s mobile and he’s got a great supporting cast.
“There’s a group of guys that play for them (Florida State) at the wide receiver position, running back position and the secondary position that are terrific, skilled athletes. When we break down opponents each week, we try to categorize what would be college players, somewhat-below college players that are playing at this level, and then guys that have the capability of playing in the NFL. The majority of those (Florida State) guys at those positions have the capability of someday playing in the NFL.”
We’ll just have to wait and see, but it certainly appears to be an insurmountable hurdle to open up with for the Cowboys, who just three seasons ago were Big 12 champions.