Yeah I’m an OSU fan and I want my Cowboys to win every game regardless but all of a sudden it’s more important to me than usual because of the grander scheme of things.
In the short term the top of the Big 12 doesn’t look so heavy this year. The mighty Sooners have looked positively average and while I don’t expect them to stay that way at least for now the door seems open for a team to break their conference championship streak. The Cyclones, OU’s presumed challenger, have already dropped a conference game (and another to the rival Hawkeyes) and have looked out of sync offensively. Texas always has the horses to compete but are in a transition year yet again and that usually causes a few games to go sideways on a team.
After the slow start to the season I had already ruled out the Pokes even having a punchers chance at making it to the conference championship game. Then last Saturday happened.
Baylor knocked off Iowa State thanks to a phenomenal special teams performance and OU looked mortal in a close home win against WVU. All that while my Cowboys actually looked like the team I expected them to be, for the first half anyway, against a ranked Kansas State team.
Big 12 Parity
That made me think the conference is really up for grabs as long as the ball bounces the right way for almost any of the teams. OU, UT, and ISU probably still have the best chances just based on talent and experience but there doesn’t really seem to be a giant gap between the top 8 teams. Sorry Kansas and Texas Tech.
So in the short term it’s as simple as try to take advantage of a season where parity has seemingly reared it head and try to do something OSU has done only once and that was a decade ago: win the Big 12. The best way to do that is win all the games.
The long term plan should still be basically “win games” but for a much different reason. There is going to be a power vacuum in the Big 12 when the Sooners and Longhorns leave for the SEC and are replaced by Cincinnati, Houston, UCF, and BYU. Someone will need to step up and be the flagship program for the new-look league. Oklahoma State is positioned nicely to take advantage of that.
Can the Pokes ‘Lead’ the New Big 12?
Over the last decade only one team has won more conference games than the Cowboys and that’s the Sooners. OSU won a Big 12 Championship and was quite literally a play away two other years. They won a BCS Fiesta Bowl and played in the Cotton Bowl and the Sugar Bowl. They’ve won at least 10 games six times since 2010.
It’s a pretty good resume, but there’s others that have done well that could maybe make a case to become the new Big Dog after the realignment actually happens. Baylor had some great years under Art Briles before the wheels came off and another under Matt Rhule before he went back to the NFL. TCU is always a threat but it seems like maybe Gary Patterson is losing some of his shine. Kansas State has had some success but I’m not sure if they can ever catch the Bill Snyder magic again. Iowa State has found football success under Matt Campbell.
But OSU has something they may not all have: stability.
Mike Gundy Factor
Oklahoma State fans either hate Mike Gundy or love him. They are either glad to still have him around or think he’s holding the school hostage. Both should have the same thought now though, at least for the next few years.
“Man I’m glad we have Gundy.”
The college football landscape changes almost daily when it comes to coaches. They retire or get fired or move on to other jobs without a moments notice. Mike Gundy has been annoyingly loyal and, dare I say, sedimentary. Sure he flirted with Tennessee, and rumors say Florida and Baylor too, but did anyone actually think he’d leave? Of course not. He’s a lifer in Stillwater.
To become Captain of the new Big 12 a team is going to have to win consistently, and Gundy has done that for 10 years or more. There’s no reason to think he won’t continue to do so for the five or so more years he’ll probably coach. The rest of the Big 12 old guard, the left overs, who can be sure?
Patterson is probably going to retire soon and who knows what happens to TCU then. Baylor and Iowa State are just the right big time job openings away from losing their coaches. Campbell might be more picky than Baylor’s Dave Aranda but either of them jumping ship for an LSU or an USC wouldn’t be surprising. Chris Klieman is the right coach for Kansas State but he’s also the right coach for almost everywhere so any success will call in the suitors. Even in the new teams coming in it’s easy to see Luke Fickell leaving Cincinnati for a bigger job with all the winning he’s doing.
(I didn’t forget about you West Virginia. Neal Brown is a great coach but I think WVU ends up in the ACC soon.)
So who’s going to be that team that’s penciled in to be in the Big 12 Championship game every year? Why not the Cowboys? Take away that all-but-automatic loss in Bedlam every year and you also take away Cowboy’s biggest speed bump: the Sooners.
With the huge brands and recruiting of the Sooners and Longhorns out of the way the rest of the Big 12, even the new guys, are on pretty equal footing. If the wheels of change start churning in Ames or Fort Worth or Waco or Cincinnati, or all of them, having Mike Gundy and his history of winning holding your team hostage isn’t so bad.
Both short and long term goals intersect in the present this weekend. To win a wide open Big 12 this year you have to win the games, especially at home. To be considered the cream of the crop in the new Big 12 you can’t let some team not named OU or Texas win the thing this year or next, or however many years it takes OU’s and UT’s lawyers to get them to the SEC payday.
So once again, for this year and maybe for the next ten years….