August 12, 2008

Forecasting the 2008 football schedule

The college football season is almost here.

In a scant two plus weeks, Oklahoma State will be playing Washington State to get the 2008 campaign underway. And when the Cowboys do take to the turf at Qwest Field, it will signal the end of a months-long absence of football.

And it'll be about time. I don't know about you, but with the Chicago Cubs rolling over everyone right now, I'm about ready to focus on another sport. Though, their eventual collapse will be sweet to me (and yes, it'll come before they make the World Series). With that in mind, I've started looking over OSU's full schedule. One, to remind myself which weekends to drive to Stillwater and two, to try and see where the W's might be coming from this year.

So, where exactly will the wins come from this year? It's always hard to try and figure stuff like that out, because, well, humans can't see into the future. And since I don't have the ability of say, Deanna Troi, I'm just going to throw darts at a wall and go with what they tell me. Well, not really. That would require me to have darts. And a dartboard. And little W's and L's all over to let me know the outcome of games. And that's way too much work for me.

Instead, I'll just run down the games one-by-one with my thoughts and predictions. Without further ado, let's dive right in.

Game 1: Washington State (in Seattle) - Aug. 30
This will be a battle of rural agricultural schools with the winner showing off who has the best crop yield. The crop yield, of course, is recruits and going into this game, you have to like the talent the Cowboys bring to Puget Sound. My early take? This game feels like the Insight Bowl, Jr. I see the Cougars as a poor man's Indiana. Sure, they're in a BCS conference and have a couple of nice players (receiver Brandon Gibson and running back Dwight Tardy), but are they really a threat? I say no. The only way OSU loses this one is if the Pokes shoot themselves in the foot.
Prediction: OSU 45, Wazzu 21

Game 2: HOUSTON - SEPT. 6
Get ready now, OSU fans, because all you'll hear about this week is how Houston is a solid non-BCS program. And oh, that former Sooner coach Kevin Sumlin now heads up the Cougars and that means that UH will be better because, well, Sumlin was an OU coach and that means an upset could be brewin'. Or something. That's nice and all, but it won't be happening unless they find a way to sneak Kevin Kolb back on the sidelines.
Prediction: OSU 49, Houston 17

Game 3: MISSOURI STATE - SEPT. 13
For those keeping score at home, this school was once known as Southwest Missouri State.
Prediction: OSU 64, Directionless State 18

Game 4: TROY - SEPT. 27
So the ol' coach at Troy (don't call us State), Larry Blakeney, thinks OSU will need to burn a lot of Boone Pickens' money to get ready for the Trojans, huh? Well, OSU has news for you! They'll just burn the interest from Boone's money. Howsaboutthat?!?!?!
Prediction: OSU 58, Movie Gallery State 22

Game 5: TEXAS A&M - OCT. 4
This is where the season should start to get interesting. At this point, the Cowboys will be 4-0 and a win here would make that five on the season before the halfway point, not to mention an early 1-0 Big 12 mark over a team that is constantly in the way in the standings. And lucky for the Pokes, they're breaking in a new coach (Mike Sherman?!?!?) and that usually means a mild level of confusion is bouncing through a program. It'll be close for awhile, but Zac Robinson and Co. will work over the Wrecked Crew.
Prediction: OSU 32, A&M 21

Game 6: @ Missouri - Oct. 11
OSU catches the Tigers at a bad time, as usual in its Big 12 North rotation. Chase Daniel is an amazing talent and Mizzou looks to be just as strong as last season, if not stronger. The one thing going for the Cowboys here is that the Tigers could be caught looking ahead to a road trip at Texas the following week.
Prediction: Mizzou 42, OSU 28

Game 7: BAYLOR - OCT. 18
Now the Bears are all Art majors. Art Briles left a solid rebuilding job and his sanity at Houston to take over as head coach of the hapless Bears, who went 0-8 in the Big 12 last season. Last year, the Pokes pounded BU to the tune of 45-14. It'll be more of the same this year.
Prediction: OSU 54, Baylor 14

Game 8: @ Texas - Oct. 25
A lot of people believe the Longhorns will be down again this year, but for that program, down is 10 wins. That said, a down Texas is still better than most any team out there, so this will be a tough situation for the Cowboys. OSU has only beaten UT twice in the history of the series and the only win in Austin was in 1944. Until the Pokes can win down there again, it's not a good idea to pick them winning in Austin.
Prediction: Texas 44, OSU 30

Game 9: IOWA STATE - NOV. 1
This game - along with Baylor - is one I'm projecting as a lock as far as Big 12 play goes. The Cowboys will beat ISU, the question is by how much? This is an important game to win, because if OSU starts out 5-0, then defeats Baylor and the Cyclones, that's seven wins heading into the last quarter of the season. To be 7-2 at this point would be very nice and take some pressure off in those final three games.
Prediction: OSU 59, ISU 9

Game 10: @ Texas Tech - Nov. 8
If you're an OSU fan, and you like beating the Red Raiders, you're praying this series still moves to JerryWorld. Yeah, the Pokes would lose the marginal home-field advantage against Tech in this series, but the Raiders would lose their substantial home-field advantage against OSU in this series. Doesn't matter the team, the Pokes just don't win here. Don't go dreaming this will be the year for that to change. It won't.
Prediction: Tech 48, OSU 42

Game 11: @ Colorado - Nov. 15
This game is a really tough call. On one hand, the Buffaloes are still rebuilding and, while I think they could be a surprise team this year, they probably don't yet have the offense to keep up with the Cowboys. But CU's defense is very good and the Pokes might have trouble at Folsom Field, one of the tougher places in the conference to play. This will be a homecoming of sorts for Robinson, not to mention his only trip to Colorado as a player. This game could be the difference between seven regular season wins and eight.
Prediction: CU 28, OSU 24

Game 12: OKLAHOMA - Nov. 29
The last few Bedlams in Stillwater have been no picnic for the Sooners, who have a commanding lead in the all-time series, dating back to when people in this state still lived in dugout houses and worked on wagon wheels. But since their win at Stillwater in 1996, OU has either lost (1998, 2002) or barely won (2000, 2004, 2006). Better teams than the one OU has this year have struggled at Boone's Farm. OSU's last Bedlam victory came in Stillwater six years ago. Can they do it this year? If the defense is improved and Robinson can burn the Sooner secondary (the Baptist Hospital burn unit still treats Andre Woolfolk) then there might just be a legit shot.
Prediction: OSU 35, OU 32

So there you have it. It's so easy when you break things down scientifically. At the end of this season, OSU will sport an improved 8-4 record with a 4-4 Big 12 mark. That will be good enough to get back to the Riverwalk in San Antonio, where they will… well, let's tackle that one after the season.

Justin Wilmeth is the editor of OStateIllustrated.com. He can be reached via e-mail at justin@ostate.com.

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