With trip to title game in reach, Cowboys must remain focussed
By Mitch Light
There were plenty of teams that posted more significant wins, but you can make a strong case that no team was as impressive as Oklahoma State last weekend. Six days after climbing to No. 3 in the BCS standings, the Cowboys dismantled a solid Baylor team with stunning ease. The Pokes led 21–0 after one quarter, 35–0 at the half and 49–3 through three quarters en route to a 59–24 victory.
Mike Gundy’s team proved — for at least one week — that it will be able to handle the pressures that come along with a lofty ranking in the BCS standings. When you are ranked No. 3 in the nation — and the top two teams are about to play each other — it becomes pretty clear to everyone in the program that your team has a direct path to the national title game. That’s obviously a good position to be in, but it can be very dangerous, as well — especially for a program that is not used to playing with a bull’s-eye on its back.
Just ask South Florida, which was No. 2 in the initial BCS rankings released in 2007 and proceeded to lose its next three games. Or Boston College, who replaced South Florida as the No. 2 team that season but went on to lose consecutive games to Florida State and Maryland to begin the month of November. There are many other programs that have made guest appearances in the top 5 of the BCS standings only to fade away and end the season playing in a mid-level bowl game.
Gundy’s task is to keep his team focused each week. His players know the deal: Oklahoma visits Stillwater on Dec. 3 in what has the potential to be the biggest game in school history. Gundy, however, is well aware that Dec. 3 is only important if his team takes care of business in the weeks that precede Bedlam.
That is what makes Saturday’s performance against Baylor so impressive. The Pokes were able to deal with the distractions that come with the No. 3 ranking and play perhaps their best game of the season against a team that has spent much of the season ranked in the top 25.
“We’re not going to play under pressure,” Gundy said before the Baylor game. “We’re not going to coach under pressure. We want the players to enjoy the experience they’re going through.”
Around the Big 12
• Texas Tech was held to single digits at home (seven points) last week for the first time since October 2000 in a 56–3 loss to Nebraska.
• Missouri tailback Henry Josey is the first player in the league to 1,000 yards. He has 1,017 yards on only 119 attempts for a league-best 8.6-yard average. In the fourth quarter, Josey’s average is 11.8 yards per carry.
• Oklahoma’s Ryan Broyles has 18 receptions of 20 yards or more, the most in the Big 12 by five. Baylor’s Kendall Wright is next with 13.
• Kansas is 1–18 in its last 19 Big 12 games. The Jayhawks were 15–6 in the 21 previous league games.
• Baylor is the only team in the nation averaging over 300 yards passing and 200 yards rushing.
• When his team is losing by 1-7 points, Robert Griffin III has completed 30-of-42 passes for 487 yards with seven touchdowns and no interceptions.
• Kansas State dropped 31 spots (from 29 to 60) in total defense in the national rankings after the Oklahoma game.
• Texas A&M has only converted one fourth down this season, tied with five other teams for fewest in the nation.
The Tigers are 2-3 on the season and have four Top 25 foes remaining.
Gary Pinkel has had a successful run in his decade-plus at Missouri. After experiencing losing seasons in three of his first four years in Columbia, the veteran coach has taken Mizzou to the postseason six consecutive times. That six-year run includes three bowl victories and two Big 12 North Division titles, which shows that Pinkel has built a solid college football program and has had more than just a two- or three-year run with a great quarterback.
Bill Snyder's Wildcats are once again exceeding expectations
By Mitch Light
When Kansas State was trailing Eastern Kentucky, 7–3, late in the fourth quarter back in Week 1, even the most optimistic Wildcat fan would have had a tough time envisioning that this team would be 4–0 and that the K-State offense would be capable of scoring 28 points and 36 points in back-to-back wins over Miami (Fla.) and Baylor.
We may have just witnessed the most important 25 minutes in the history of Oklahoma State football. With a national television audience watching, the high-flying Pokes turned a 20–3 deficit into a 30–20 lead in 25 minutes of breathtaking football in front of a stunned crowd at Kyle Field. Oklahoma State improved to 4–0 on the season and recorded a breakthrough win that vaulted it into the top-5 in the Associated Press poll.
The sleeping giant in the Big 12 is no longer asleep. A program with tremendous facilities and seemingly unlimited financial resources is well-positioned to be a major player in a reconfigured league that no longer includes Nebraska and Texas A&M.
“You should be able to recruit there,” said one Big 12 assistant coach in the ‘Scouting the Cowboys’ section in our 2011 preview magazine. “Their facilities are unbelievable. They have a very personable head coach. They have a good recruiting base. In my opinion, they should be able to recruit better than Texas A&M and Texas Tech. Their facilities are like the Taj Mahal.”
The Pokes have been consistently competitive throughout the past four decades with some pockets of tremendous success — Pat Jones won 10 games three times in a five-year stretch in the ‘80s — but the program has never been a major player on the national level.
That could be changin, as Athlon's Braden Gall writes. The right coach is in place. The school has solid leadership. And the team is winning big games and doing so in exciting fashion — with an explosive offense. This will only help the Cowboys continue to attract top-flight talent to Stillwater.
Some might claim that Oklahoma State has a ceiling due to the presence of the University of Oklahoma — a top-5 program nationally — in its own state. I don’t buy it. Auburn recently won a national title, and the Tigers are a clear No. 2 in their own state. Florida and Florida State each won a national title in a four-year stretch in the late 1990s. (And yes, I realize that Florida produces a ton more talent than the state of Oklahoma, but both OU and OSU make a killing in nearby Texas, equally as fertile as Florida.)
Obviously, we don’t know how the rest of the 2011 season will play out, but if O-State continues to win games — and take a look at the schedule; it’s not overly taxing — we could be looking back at the comeback in College Station as the defining moment of a special season in Stillwater.
• K-State quarterback Collin Klein is very quietly having a great junior season. Klein has been efficient throwing the ball (34-of-57 for 335 yards, with four touchdowns and one interception) and is averaging over 100 yards per game rushing. In last week’s win at Miami (Fla.), Klein threw for 133 yards and two touchdowns and added 93 yards rushing and one TD.
• Missouri tailback Henry Josey’s 12.4 yards-per-attempt average leads the nation among players with at least 20 attempts. Josey has 533 yards on 43 carries.
• The Kansas defense has given up 14 plays of 30 yards or longer. That is tied with Clemson and North Texas for the most in the nation.
• In three games, Kansas has not forced a turnover. The Jayhawks’ offense has only committed one turnover.
• Baylor’s Robert Griffin III leads the nation with a completion percentage of 85.4, but the Bears have also completed five of the six passes that Griffin has not attempted this season. Backup quarterback Bryce Petty is 3-of-4 for 53 yards, and receiver Kendall Wright is 2-of-2 for 55 yards and one touchdown.
• Texas Tech ranks 111th in the nation in rushing defense, allowing an average of 225.7 yards in wins against Texas State (256 yards), New Mexico (109) and Nevada (312 yards). Good thing the Raiders don’t have Georgia Tech on the schedule.