Oklahoma State enters the 2012 with a status it has never held before: Big 12 champions.
But can the Cowboys build off that and win a national title in 2012? Doing so without transcendent stars like Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon would surprise plenty of folks around the nation, but OSU is one of the "20 teams that can win it all" that we're profiling at ESPN.com before the 2012 season.
Why could OSU win the title?
The biggest reason will be its running game.
With Weeden, Blackmon and the quick-paced offense getting the attention last season, it could have slipped past some observers that Joseph Randle and Jeremy Smith combined for 1,862 yards and 33 touchdowns. Randle, very quietly, had 1,216 of the yards and 24 of the touchdowns.
And what about that terrible defense? It's not so terrible.
The Cowboys still allowed only 26.8 points a game, which certainly doesn't correlate to that yardage figure. Aiding that, in particular, was its nation-leading 44 takeaways that created a lot of short fields for Weeden and the offense. The Pokes were eighth in the country in average starting field position, their own 36-yard line. [Quarterback Wes] Lunt assuredly would appreciate that sort of help in his first season.
As for the biggest reason why Oklahoma State won't win the national title? That's easy.
Ever remember a freshman quarterback being named the starter in the spring, two months after he enrolled? It's highly uncommon -- and that's because of the knowledge and aptitude required to play the position at a high level in a major conference.
With that in mind, there's always the possibility that Lunt will fall flat, even if he winds up being successful in the long run. It might be too much to ask, simply put. That might even rear its head before the season begins.
Good stuff there from colleague Travis Haney, who offered a nice breakdown of the Cowboys. There will be plenty more as the season approaches, but check out the full piece for a lot more on the reigning Big 12 champs.