Top 25 Countdown

No. 8 Oklahoma State

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Last Season: 9-4 (lost to Oregon in the Holiday Bowl).

Returning Starters: 14 (8 offense, 6 defense).

Key Game: vs. Texas, Oct. 31.

Why They're Worth Watching

Very few opposing teams will be able to match Oklahoma State's offensive firepower. Start with junior wide receiver Dez Bryant, who tallied 1,480 receiving yards -- second most in the nation -- last season. On the ground, the Cowboys offer junior Kendall Hunter, who compiled 1,555 rushing yards in 2008, and four other running backs -- Keith Toston, Beau Johnson, Travis Miller and Jeremy Smith -- who could make an impact should Hunter falter. And then there's senior quarterback Zac Robinson, who threw for 3,064 yards and 25 touchdowns while completing 65 percent of his passes. If those key offensive players stay healthy, look for Oklahoma State to score at will.

Player to Watch

Zac Robinson, Sr., QB

Looking for a dark-horse Heisman candidate? Look no further than Robinson, who could be this year's Graham Harrell. Just like with Texas Tech's signal-caller last season, Robinson's Heisman hopes will be tied to his team's ability to remain in national title contention.

Why They're Vulnerable

The Cowboys ranked No. 109 in the nation in pass defense last season, then lost three starters in the secondary to graduation. In charge of filling those holes is first-year defensive coordinator Bill Young, who has simplified the unit's scheme in an attempt to get the players to move more instinctively. Young managed to turn around the fortunes at Kansas and at least has a solid linebacking corps with which to start remolding at Oklahoma State. Still, expect the Cowboys to get involved in a few shootouts while the new approach sets in. The first such game likely will be on Sept. 12 against Houston, which had the nation's second-ranked passing attack last season.

-- Steve Yanda

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