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The Big 12 Preview: From the Dear Old Cumberland Valley to Stillwater


Mike Yurcich looks to prove you can move from D2 to the Big 12 without skipping a beat at Oklahoma State. Photo: USA Today Sports

The recent success of Oklahoma State during the Mike Gundy era has led to some new opportunities for members of the coaching staff in recent years. Todd Monken begins his head coaching career with Southern Mississippi and Dana Holgorsen enters his third season leading West Virginia this fall. If that trend continues we could see Mike Yurcich come out of nowhere to be a head coach by 2015.

Jeremy Fowler of CBSSports.com previously took a look at how Oklahoma State found their new offensive coordinator and the thought process was really quite simple. Find a school out there putting up massive offensive numbers and check out their offensive coordinator. The target would come from the Cumberland Valley in south central Pennsylvania in the town of Shippensburg, home to one of the finest Sheetz locations in the country, Tuesday night taco night at Maxi's, delicious California Gold Rush wings at Hot Point Inn and a 24-hour Wal-Mart for all your daily needs. The school that sent John Kuhn and Brent Grimes to the NFL now sends an offensive coordinator to a big time program not far removed from a Big 12 championship and Fiesta Bowl victory. This is a big step up from the Great Valley Classic.

It also happens to be home to one of the nation's most explosive offenses in the division two football ranks last season, led by Harlon Hill Trophy winning quarterback Zach Zulli, D2's answer to Johnny Manziel last season. It is no coincidence that the offense Ship used last season was drastically different from the wing-t offensive style I remember watching with Kuhn rumbling out of the backfield. What used to be a run first,second and third offense caught up to the more wide open trends in college football once Yurcich was assigned offensive coordinator responsibilities. Yurcich breathed new life in to Ship's offense and turned them in to an offensive force in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference.


Shippensburg's Seth Grove Stadium is a far cry from Yurcich's new environment. Photo: Shippensburg Athletics

But as we have seen at the FBS level, even the most dynamic of offenses can be stopped and last season's Shippensburg team was no exception. The Raiders were thumped by longtime nemesis IUP in the conference championship game and their playoff quest came to an end on the road against a superior Winston-Salem State team that would go on to play for the national championship. Yurcich put together an offensive plan that excelled in the PSAC but its kryptonite was a team with bigger and stronger defensive players.

This is where the concerns may be appropriate for Oklahoma State fans. There is little question that most games will see some high-flying offensive attacks from the Pokes, but what happens when Oklahoma State is confronted with a solid defensive team, perhaps Kansas State or TCU in October? The good news is at this level and within the Big 12 the talent gap may not be as much to overcome as Yurcich had at Shippensburg, so the obstacles may not loom quite as large and intimidating as IUP or Winston-Salem State. Oklahoma State also gets Kansas State and TCU at home this season, with a bye week in between.

As he joins Mike Gundy's program at Oklahoma State he will have some work to do, but he should fit right in. Yurcich will continue to keep the Cowboys moving on offense with a quick tempo. Oklahoma State has averaged 83.0 plays per game over the last three seasons, so the foundation for moving at a quick pace has already been established rather than having Yurcich need to change the entire offensive system. Oklahoma State has had success passing the football as well, passing for 335.4 yards per game last season (eighth in the nation) and allowing just one quarterback sack per game (14th best in the nation). Translation: Oklahoma State quarterbacks like to drop back and let loose in a hurry.

Wes Lunt's transfer to Illinois would normally be cause for alarm in Stillwater, but Oklahoma State returns two quarterbacks with experience with Clint Chelf and J.W. Walsh each passing for over 1,500 yards and combining for 28 touchdowns last fall. Whichever player ends up being tabbed to lead the offense, they will have two preseason first team all-Big 12 receivers according to Phil Steele with Tracy Moore and Josh Stewart. Stewart is the Big 12's leading returning receiver this fall.

Oklahoma State has eight starters returning on offense as well, which should benefit them after a relatively down year in Big 12 play in 2012. The Cowboys open the 2013 season on August 31 in Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas against the SEC's Mississippi State.

Kevin McGuire is the host of the No 2-Minute Warning podcast. Follow him on Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

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Kevin McGuire

About Kevin McGuire

Managing editor of Crystal Ball Run and contributor to College Football Talk on NBCSports.com. Member of the FWAA and National Football Foundation. College Football Hall of Fame voter. Also managing Bloguin's NittanyLionsDen.com and Macho-Row.com.

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