STILLWATER — For the first time ever, Oklahoma State heads into the 2012 season with the distinction of being the reigning Big 12 champion.
Even after losing record-setting stars Justin Blackmon and Brandon Weeden to the NFL, the Cowboys aren’t about to lower their expectations for a program that has been on the rise since Mike Gundy took over as coach seven years ago.
Oklahoma State has been picked to finish fourth in the Big 12 this season. Don’t let that fool you. The Cowboys have finished each of the last three seasons higher than they were picked in the preseason poll, and their 20-5 record during that span is the best in league play.
“It’s just really all mental,” defensive tackle Davidell Collins said. “When somebody tells you you can’t do anything, are you going to give up? No, you’re going to go out there and work even harder. It’s just what type of mindset you have.”
In some ways, this season resembles the one two years ago when the Pokes were dealing with the loss of first-round picks Dez Bryant and Russell Okung, starting quarterback Zac Robinson and several other key players. Back then, Weeden and Blackmon were practically unknown and hadn’t yet rewritten the school’s record book.
Now, true freshman Wes Lunt is the unknown commodity while Tracy Moore and others attempt to fill Blackmon’s void in an offense that ranked second in the nation in scoring (48.7 points per game) and third in yardage (545.9).
“I think we’re a good football team. ... I don’t think it’s realistic to expect offensively for things to look like they did last year, especially early, just because you lose two first-round picks,” Gundy said.
OSU opens its title defense Sept. 1 against Savannah State.