We're grading each Big 12 team's season right now, and we'll move on to the next team on the list: The Oklahoma State Cowboys.
OFFENSE: You have to grade this unit on a curve. No other team in the Big 12 had to deal with this kind of injuries to the most important position on the field, quarterback. Wes Lunt was hurt twice (head, knee) and J.W. Walsh magically returned from a season-ending knee injury after missing a handful of games. Ultimately, the man who began the season as the third-stringer, Clint Chelf, was probably the most consistent quarterback on the roster, and mixing in Walsh's short-yardage package was fantastic. Running back Joseph Randle led the Big 12 in rushing by 300 yards, which is a testament to him and the offensive line, which was great again. Josh Stewart proved to be the team's No. 1 receiver, though Blake Jackson and Tracy Moore were a bit underwhelming. Dealing with those quarterback issues and finishing fourth nationally in total offense is pretty amazing. GRADE: A+
DEFENSE: Oklahoma State forced more than three turnovers in a game six times in 2011. This year, the Pokes did it just once, in the bowl game against Purdue. That was kind of the story for this defense, which will be coached by Glenn Spencer next year after Mike Gundy let veteran coach Bill Young go at the end of his contract. Giving up 59 points in a penalty-filled loss on the road to Arizona gave reason to believe this might be a long year for this unit, but Oklahoma State actually gave up fewer yards per play this season than it did in last year's Big 12 campaign. The cornerbacks were a huge disappointment this year relative to expectations following 2011's huge year, and there wasn't a huge standout on defense in Stillwater this year. Calvin Barnett and Daytawion Lowe had good years, and Alex Elkins and Shaun Lewis were solid at linebacker, but didn't get much notice in a super deep position across the Big 12. Oklahoma State dominated the Big 12's lower-tier offenses like TCU, Iowa State and Kansas, and played well against Texas Tech, but it did little to slow the elite offenses in the Big 12. GRADE: B-
OVERALL: You knew the expectations would be lower for this team after losing Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon alone, despite all the returning talent on defense. Winning five of six Big 12 games in the middle of the season with the lone loss coming to K-State set this team apart and made it clear they would again be an upper-tier Big 12 team, but the losses to Oklahoma and Baylor down the stretch kept them from truly exceeding the reasonable expectations. Oklahoma State can feel happy about a solid year that will build toward a big opportunity in 2013, and Gundy gets a pass for making 2012 the first season in his eight years in Stillwater that he didn't equal or surpass his win total from the previous year. That's what happens when you win 12 games and then lose the best parts of your offense. Kidding aside, kudos to the Cowboys. GRADE: A-
More Big 12 report cards: