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3-2-1 Kickoff: Counting down to OSU football vs. Tulsa

Here’s a look at some keys to keep an eye on when No. 11 Oklahoma State hosts Tulsa to open the season Saturday.

3 players to watch

Cole Birmingham: The Cowboys offensive line depth took a bit of a hit this offseason with the retirement of Dylan Galloway and dismissals of Bryce Bray and Jacob Farrell. That opened the door for Birmingham, a redshirt freshman, to take over at right guard. But Birmingham has yet to play a college snap. The 6-foot-8, 308-pound Katy, Texas, product was highly recruited and coaches have shown a lot of trust in him early in his career.

Trace Ford: Perhaps there was nobody more talked about this offseason on the defensive side of the ball than the former Edmond Santa Fe star. Ford had a breakout freshman season, moving into a starting role. This offseason, he got bigger, which puts him at a listed playing weight of 248 pounds. If he can continue the momentum of his final six starts, Ford is going to be a monster this season.

Tylan Wallace: A torn anterior cruciate ligament abruptly ended Wallace’s season. Now healthy and without a knee brace, he is in line for another big season before heading to the NFL. He was once a Biletnikoff Award finalist. If early indications from Wallace, his teammates and coaches are accurate, he could find himself again a finalist — and possibly even the winner.

2 big questions

What will Chuba Hubbard’s follow-up act be? Chuba Hubbard led the nation in rushing, had 11 straight 100-yard games, was named the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year and was an unanimous All-American last season. Last season against Tulsa, he rushed for 256 yards and three touchdowns. His 75-yard TD run is still a popular highlight. So, how will he follow that up this season? Don’t expect every game to be 30 carries — like it primarily was last season — but expect him to be even better.

Is the hype around the Cowboys’ defense warranted? There is potential for this Cowboys defense, which returns all but one starter, to be the best under coach Mike Gundy. He’s said it. Other coaches have said it. Players have said it. But with that comes a ton of pressure. Things can go poorly for a defense in a hurry. OSU has playmakers like Ford, Kolby Harvell-Peel, Tre Sterling, Amen Ogbongbemiga and Malcolm Rodriguez back. The defensive line is deep. So is the secondary. It’s a recipe for success that should be on display against a Tulsa offense capable of moving the football.

1 wild prediction

OSU will score on special teams. Last season, the Cowboys did not return a kickoff or a punt for a touchdown. Braydon Johnson appeared to gain comfort alongside LD Brown on kick returns. Even Jenks product Dillon Stone got more aggressive on punt returns. That pays off Saturday.

Jacob Unruh, Staff writer

Related Photos
<strong>Oklahoma State's Kolby Harvell-Peel, right, celebrates a sack on Tulsa's Zach Smith, left, as Trace Ford celebrates last season. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]</strong>

Oklahoma State's Kolby Harvell-Peel, right, celebrates a sack on Tulsa's Zach Smith, left, as Trace Ford celebrates last season. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-a441e4630b96cfa3181fc49e80b5452e.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma State's Kolby Harvell-Peel, right, celebrates a sack on Tulsa's Zach Smith, left, as Trace Ford celebrates last season. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman] " title=" Oklahoma State's Kolby Harvell-Peel, right, celebrates a sack on Tulsa's Zach Smith, left, as Trace Ford celebrates last season. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Oklahoma State's Kolby Harvell-Peel, right, celebrates a sack on Tulsa's Zach Smith, left, as Trace Ford celebrates last season. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure>
Jacob Unruh

Jacob Unruh is a graduate of Northeastern State University. He was born in Cherokee and raised near Vera where he attended Caney Valley High School.During his tenure at NSU, Unruh wrote for The Northeastern (NSU's student newspaper), the... Read more ›

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