STILLWATER, Okla. – Mike Gundy would likely have picked a starting quarterback by now if Oklahoma State opened the season again with Savannah State.
The Cowboys instead face Mississippi State in Houston on Aug. 31.
The tougher season-opening opponent has prompted Gundy to take a more secretive approach when it comes to his quarterback situation.
Gundy has held off on naming either senior Clint Chelf or sophomore J.W. Walsh as his starter, and neither quarterback was made available during Saturday's media day.
"I would probably say it's a pretty good chance," Gundy said when asked if he would have already named a starter if his season opener was against Savannah State instead of an SEC opponent such as Mississippi State.
Gundy had no reason to be tight-lipped heading into last fall. The Cowboys rushed for a school-record nine touchdowns and had little trouble cruising to an 84-0 win over Savannah State to open the 2012 season.
The approach is much different a year later as Oklahoma State's coaches prepare to face Mississippi State in a game that Gundy knows will impact the national perception of his team.
"What it forces us to do is to pick the pace up a little bit, a week to 10 days earlier than what we would want to in preseason camp," Gundy said.
"And that's really the challenge is that we have to do a good job as coaches of giving them enough to be prepared for the first game, but not so much it affects them later in the year."
Chelf is considered the favorite to win the quarterback job after a wild junior season that saw him go from third on the depth chart to the starter for the final five games.
He led Oklahoma State to its third consecutive postseason victory with a 58-14 win over Purdue in the Heart of Dallas Bowl. He completed 17 of 22 passes for 197 yards and three touchdowns and was the game's Most Valuable Player.
Still, Gundy has refused to make an official announcement on who will be his starting quarterback before the season opener against Mississippi State.
"Us as receivers and the receivers that I've talked to, it doesn't matter which quarterback it is," wide receiver Josh Stewart said. "I mean, obviously, they both can perform.
"I don't even think the fans care what quarterback it is because they both can play."
Several Oklahoma State players shared Stewart's opinion, stating that they didn't care which quarterback earned the starting job since both saw playing time last season.
Walsh started three games as a redshirt freshman, and Wes Lunt's decision to transfer following spring practice has turned Oklahoma State's quarterback situation into a two-man race.
"Just be looking for both of them. I don't think it's going to be a one-man show," running back Jeremy Smith said. "I think it'll be a two-man show."
Gundy said opening the season against an SEC team has led the Cowboys to adjust their preseason camp beyond just at quarterback. He acknowledged that the coaching staff has come up with a plan to deal with how physical to be in practice and how to approach its kicking game.
Turns out quarterback isn't the only competition going on in camp.
The Cowboys must find a replacement for Quinn Sharp, who was named both a first-team All-Big 12 kicker and punter last season.
"I'm not trying to be disrespectful to anybody, but last year a kicker wasn't really a factor in the first game," Gundy said. "Well, the kicker and the punter in this first game could certainly be a factor.
"So we have to speed up the process in getting those guys ready to play."
Smith said there is a noticeably different feel to preseason practice with Mississippi State looming a few weeks away instead of Savannah State, a team that posed little threat to the Cowboys.
"You hear all this hype about the SEC and everything, so everybody wants to prepare a little bit harder," Smith said. "But then again I think we should always prepare like that.
"It really doesn't matter who we play, Savannah State, Mississippi State, it does not matter. You have to prepare the same way."