One thing the Oklahoma State Cowboys and Mississippi State Bulldogs shared in 2012 was identical 8-5 records. They also achieved those records with poor finishes to their conference schedules.
Entering 2013, Oklahoma State and Mississippi State aren't picked to enjoy similar records. Expectations are higher for the Cowboys (win total 9), while the Bulldogs (6-6.5) are picked to slide back a step or two. We'll at least have a better idea this Saturday afternoon when the schools meet at Houston's Reliant Stadium (3:30 PM ET, ABC/ESPN2). One of two Big 12-Sec matchups college football betting's Opening Week slate, Mike Gundy's gang opened as 11 point favorites to get Okie State off to a good start, a spread that has since increased to an even dozen.
Likewise, those football bettors watching the total have seen the scoreboard hurdle rise from 59 to 60.
The first meeting between these two since 1999, and only fifth ever get-together, comes down to the two coaches, which one has their guys best prepared for tougher season openers than a lot of their conference brethren will be taking on in Week 1. Right up front, I like Gundy and his staff to do the better job and for the Cowboys to win the game.
With the college football odds boards asking for 12 points, however, that's another story.
Oklahoma State very well could with the players returning on offense, including quarterbacks Clint Chelf and JW Walsh who will each see action in this one. Senior Jeremy Smith has big shoes to fill as the feature back, but his success is dependent more on what is a practically brand new offensive line, probably the one big concern the Cowboys have beginning '13.
Don't get me wrong; I like Dan Mullen and what he has done in Starkville the last four years. The soft schedule surely helped Mississippi State open last year 7-0, and it was then they ran into probably the toughest 3-game stretch on anyone's 2012 schedule: at Alabama, vs. Texas A&M and at LSU.
Mullen does have QB Tyler Russell back along with 1,000-yard rusher LaDarius Perkins, plus 80% of last year's starting offensive line, including Gabe Jackson who is an underrated man in the trenches. But there's a brand new set of receivers coming back, and more than half of the defense is gone.
Mississippi State holds honors for winning the most recent matchup in 1999, a 29-11 easy cover as home chalk. That was during the heyday of Jackie Sherrill's career in Starkville, and part of an 8-0 start to a campaign that ended 10-2 with a win over Clemson at the Peach Bowl. I don't like Mississippi State's chances of starting this season 1-0, much less 7-0 or 8-0, but I do like the Bulldogs to cover Saturday.My College Football Pick: Mississippi State +12