For the first time in Big 12 history, Oklahoma State was the preseason pick by media members to win the league.
OSU coach Mike Gundy is taking the selection as a compliment.
“I know that it won’t have any effect on our season,” Gundy said, “but I do think it means a lot to Oklahoma State that people feel comfortable in saying that we’re good enough to have the opportunity to win a conference championship.”
Much of the Cowboys’ respect comes from their vaunted, high-tempo offense, and not surprisingly, Gundy is a big fan of the new Big 12 rule that will add an eighth official whose sole responsibility is to spot the ball (and do so quicker than it’s been done in the past).
OSU was second in the conference in plays last year (1,014), and Gundy doesn’t dispute rumors that say his team will try to play even faster in 2013.
“We feel like we can stretch a defense,” Gundy said. “Rob Glass, our strength and conditioning coach, in my opinion is the best in the country, getting our players in great cardiovascular shape. We just feel like it’s an advantage.”
Clint Chelf and J.W. Walsh are competing for the quarterback spot, with Gundy saying that both will play in the team's opener against Mississippi State.
There’s no questioning the Cowboys’ top returning receiver. Five-foot-10 junior Josh Stewart returns after ranking fourth in the Big 12 with 1,210 receiving yards.
“He plays through pain, plays through injury,” Gundy said. “Cold weather, hot weather ... doesn’t affect him. And he’s really developed.”
Defensively, OSU put two players on the preseason all-Big 12 team: defensive lineman Calvin Barnett and linebacker Shaun Lewis.
The Cowboys also will be adjusting to some turnover with their coaching staff. Mike Yurcich — previously the offensive coordinator for Div. II Shippensburg — replaces Todd Monken as offensive coordinator, while linebackers coach Glen Spencer takes over at defensive coordinator for the fired Bill Young.
The constant, though, is Gundy, who has averaged 9.8 wins over his last five seasons in Stillwater, Okla.
“I think there’s been some growth in the program at Oklahoma State,” Gundy said. “I think it’s a tribute to the players that have been before this group, the young men that are on our team now, and the ones in the future. They’ve got a lot to look forward to.”