On New Year’s Day, the Oklahoma State Cowboys will face the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl. Some people are willing to say that this game is the biggest in school history.
One could make an argument for that, but I genuinely believe that Oklahoma State’s most important game this season was the last time they took the field which was in the Big 12 title game. A win in Jerry World would have earned Mike Gundy his second Big 12 crown and likely a trip to the College Football Playoff.
Despite the heart-breaking loss, the Cowboys still have a lot to play for in Arizona. For starters, winning a NY6 bowl is always a big deal and is something you can build upon for next year. Not to mention it is a fantastic way to end the season on a high note as well as sending your seniors off with a win.
While all those are important things, perhaps none may be more important than respect. Oklahoma State is not a blue blood program. While they have won a ton of games over the last decade, they still are treated as a second-tier program in the eyes of many college football fans and talking heads. I know I am not saying anything new here, but if the national media and fans look at Oklahoma State as a second-tier program then so does the College Football Playoff committee.
The Playoff committee has always played favorites. Even though nobody in that room would admit it but the fact is that they would prefer all the big-name brands in the top four rather than a school like Oklahoma State. Why? Because it means more money for ESPN and we already know in this money hungry sport, dollars matter more than anything.
On the flipside, Notre Dame doesn’t have the problem Oklahoma State has. The Irish always get the benefit of the doubt because they are one of the biggest brands in the sport of college football. They are able to get away with things that few others could get away with including not even being in a power five conference. Notre Dame is an independent school who doesn’t have to play in a conference championship game like everyone else who gets into the playoff. Much like the other schools such as Ohio State, Michigan, Alabama, and Georgia along with a few others, Notre Dame gets special treatment.
Is it fair? No but will anything change? It will not. However, a school like Oklahoma State can benefit from beating a blueblood program like Notre Dame. This is a chance for the Cowboys to take down one of the big boys with the entire country watching and even Mike Gundy understands that. When the bowl game was announced, Mike had plenty to say about playing Notre Dame. “I think it’s cool. It’s going to bring a lot of national recognition. We have a team that somebody ended up fifth in the country. So just right there on being in the College Football Playoff. Obviously, the committee feels like that they’re the team that’s just right there. And it will draw a lot of recognition across the country because of their history. But I’m excited about Oklahoma State and the way people recognize us now coast to coast. I think it will be a heck of a football game, a great matchup.”
In just a coupe of years, Oklahoma State is going to be one of those schools who will lead the new look Big 12. With Texas and Oklahoma heading to the SEC sooner rather than later, these teams need to take advantage of every opportunity they can to help not only make their school look better but the conference as well. The new Big 12 already has three wins over SEC teams this bowl season and an Oklahoma State win over Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl would be just as good. Saturday’s game has plenty of importance and national respect is one of them. If the Cowboys are able to knock off the Fighting Irish, it certainly should help them and the conference moving forward.