When Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy breaks down Saturday's season-opener against Georgia, he's reminded of a lesson his team learned when the Cowboys traveled to Athens to kick off the 2007 campaign.
Georgia's got speed and plenty of it.
"We felt good about our guys a couple of years ago and found out real fast how well they can run on defense and make plays," Gundy said. "This year, I'd say we're a little further ahead of schedule as far as what we're trying to accomplish. It's not that we didn't have good players (in 2007), but things didn't work out quite as good as we had hoped. This year, I'd like to think we're a little more mature and have a deeper understanding of our system."
Of course, it doesn't hurt that Gundy has three of the country's most explosive trio in quarterback Zac Robinson, running back Kendall Hunter and wide receiver Dez Bryant.
One of the nation's top dual-threat quarterbacks, Robinson will leave Stillwater with a boatload of records. He already holds the school career mark in total yardage with 7,786, second all-time in passing yards (6,223) and third in touchdown passes (51).
Hunter (5-foot-8, 190 pounds) is the Cowboys' ticket to yardage on the ground.
The junior, who hails from the same Tyler, Tex. town as NFL Hall of Famer Earl Campbell, earned first-team All-American honors from the Football Writer Association after rushing for 1,626 yards on 241 carries (6.6 yards per rush) with 16 touchdowns.
Bryant, meanwhile, was the runner-up in the voting for the Biletnikoff Award after catching 87 passes for 1,480 yards and 19 scores.
"He's good," Gundy said of Bryant. "The Woods brothers (Reshaun and D'Juan) were two-time All-Americans and Hart Lee Dykes was as good as any we've ever had but (Dykes) and Bryant are different types of receivers. Dexter is very physical and has unbelievable hands. He ranks right up there with any receiver to every play at Oklahoma State."
Together, the trio helped Oklahoma State rank 6th nationally in total offense (487.7) and ninth in scoring offense (40.8 points per game.
Defensively, Gundy admits there were some issues.
The Cowboys 52nd in rushing defense (137.8), 93rd in total defense (405.5), 76th in scoring defense (28.1), 109th in pass defense (267.7).
Those are numbers that new defensive coordinator Bill Young desperately hopes to improve.
Young comes to OSU after previous stints as the defensive coordinator at places like Oklahoma (1996-97), Southern Cal (1998-2000), Kansas (2002-2007) and Miami (2008).
His 2007 Kansas squad finished the year No. 12 nationally in total defense and fourth in scoring defense as the Jayhawks won the Orange Bowl.
Gundy stresses that nobody associated with the Cowboys is taking the Bulldogs lightly. Nor does he believe that Georgia is rebuilding after losing Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno to the NFL.
"We don't buy that Georgia is doing much rebuilding at all," Gundy said. "They've got such a strong recruiting base and Mark (Richt) has done a great job. What has he done, average 10 wins a year?"
Gundy points out that the Cowboys haven't won 10 games in over 20 years when Barry Sanders led Oklahoma State to a 10-2 mark and a final ranking of No. 11 in 1988.
"This is a huge game for both schools," Gundy said. "The Big 12 and the SEC I would guess are considered the two best conferences in the country, and obviously Georgia is a very talented across the board."
Kickoff Saturday is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. (ABC).
As far as which conference is the best, Gundy is leaving that question up for others to decide.
"I hate to get into that as a coach. I'll just leave that to all the diehard fans and the media to discuss, but you look at the history of the SEC and the Big 12, the players that have performed beyond college and the national championships, it makes for a good discussion," Gundy said. "You look at the SEC, those teams beat each other up all year. You can come away with two losses and still win a national championship. We're proud of the Big 12 and I'm sure the SEC feels the same way."
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