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OSU football: Cowboys should be loaded next season

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Bedlam football 2019 arrives Saturday night in Stillwater. We don’t have to wait 52 weeks for another.

Big 12 schedule-makers have christened Oct. 24 for the 2020 Bedlam game, to the chagrin of many. OU-OSU on Thanksgiving weekend is a convenience for most and fits in quite well on what nationally is a rivalry week.

OSU-Texas and OU-Texas Tech don’t scream Thanksgiving pageantry.

We don’t know why Bedlam was moved, other than for the reason everything happens in college football. Television.

But a benefit to an October Bedlam has emerged on the eve of this traditional Bedlam. In 2020, the Cowboys and Sooners could be the favorites to make it to Arlington for the Big 12 Championship Game, and back-to-back Bedlams would not be socially acceptable. Coaches, television executives, even fans are not at all thrilled with championship games that are a rematch of the week before.

Did someone in the Big 12 office have the insight to realize that OSU could/should be a contender next season? Seems unlikely, considering the ’20 schedule was released on Oct. 22, when the Cowboys were 4-3 and largely disappointing.

But now OSU is 8-3, ranked 21st and having quite a year. All in a season when the Cowboys were trying to find a quarterback, breaking in a new offensive coordinator and trying to build a defense. Check, check and check.

West Virginia coach Neal Brown last week noted OSU’s rise, saying the Cowboys’ defensive acceleration is the result of young players gaining experience.

And when you check the OSU roster, you realize the Cowboys next season indeed will be packed with players who have contributed to this 8-3 season.

OSU starts three seniors on offense (center Johnny Wilson, guard Marcus Keyes and receiver Jordan McCray) and one on defense (cornerback A.J. Green). Senior Mike Scott is in the rotation at defensive end, and kicker Matt Ammendola is a senior.

Granted, the Cowboys likely will lose world-class tailback Chuba Hubbard and receiver Tylan Wallace to the NFL Draft — never be shocked when players turn pro; be shocked when they decide to stay — but still. OSU for more than a decade consistently has quickly reloaded at the ballhandling positions.

It’s in the trenches and in the secondary where OSU regularly has struggled to replenish. And now the Cowboys have young players who are producing in those critical areas.

“I’m excited about what we have coming back,” Mike Gundy said this week. “We have a lot of youth, and actually we have a lot of guys even coming back for two years. So we’re excited about it. We’ve built up some guys and we’ve gained some experience as the year’s gone on and have competed.”

Indeed, playing huge roles on this team are sophomores like defensive tackles Israel Antwine and Brendon Evers, tight end Jelani Woods, defensive end Brock Martin, wide receiver Braydon Johnson and safeties Kolby Harvell-Peel, Tre Sterling and Jarrick Bernard.

Those players have helped second-year defensive coordinator Jim Knowles develop what has become the Big 12’s second-most efficient defense and new offensive coordinator Sean Gleeson break in new quarterback Spencer Sanders, whose season ended November 16 because of a thumb injury.

“I think we’ve got a lot from our team, once we adjusted and became more sound offensively,” Gundy said. “Even defensively, we’ve played a little better. Offensively, we’ve played smarter football … at the first of the year … we hadn’t quite got it figured out, because there were quite a few guys we didn’t know a lot about. So we’ve gotten a lot out of the team.”

Finding a replacement for Wallace, injured in practice four weeks ago, hasn’t been easy and won’t be. But the Cowboys have almost seamlessly moved from Rashaun Woods to D’Juan Woods to Adarius Bowman to Dez Bryant to Justin Blackmon to James Washington to Wallace.

Replacing Hubbard would be much more difficult, but even then, OSU’s tailback tradition is strong.

And of course, Sanders appears to be a budding star, provided he is more secure with the ball, which he was down the stretch after a rough September.

Put it all together, and while Bedlam football 2019 is a top-25 showdown, Bedlam football 2020 could be even more. Could be even played twice.

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at btramel@oklahoman.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.

Related Photos
<strong>Oklahoma State linebacker Devin Harper (16) and Tre Sterling (3), two of the young players who have revived the Cowboys' defense, celebrate a play against Kansas State on September 28. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]</strong>

Oklahoma State linebacker Devin Harper (16) and Tre Sterling (3), two of the young players who have revived the Cowboys' defense, celebrate a play against Kansas State on September 28. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-56c0d0a141ef88f15e36747513fd8780.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma State linebacker Devin Harper (16) and Tre Sterling (3), two of the young players who have revived the Cowboys' defense, celebrate a play against Kansas State on September 28. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman] " title=" Oklahoma State linebacker Devin Harper (16) and Tre Sterling (3), two of the young players who have revived the Cowboys' defense, celebrate a play against Kansas State on September 28. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Oklahoma State linebacker Devin Harper (16) and Tre Sterling (3), two of the young players who have revived the Cowboys' defense, celebrate a play against Kansas State on September 28. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure>
Berry Tramel

Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,... Read more ›

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