Times have changed in Stillwater, mostly for the better.
Still, OSU's recent run of sustained success does bring a focus beyond a national spotlight and widespread recognition.
It brings a target.
“As recently as a couple of years ago, we were able to sneak up on some teams,” said Cowboys coach Mike Gundy. “But as of last year, and I'm sure this upcoming season, those days are history.
“For the first time in football here at Oklahoma State University, we've established a little bit of tradition where people know who we are.”
Gundy said he and his staff have talked to the team about anticipating and handling the best every opponent has to offer.
“They have to accept that responsibility,” Gundy said. “The coaches have to accept it. And the players have to understand they need to put in the time and effort.”
COWBOYS KEEP QBS PROTECTED
Freshman Wes Lunt is sure to carry some anxiety into his transition from high school to college quarterback.
There is, however, reason for comfort.
Over the past five seasons, the Cowboys offensive line has carried out a protection plan that ranks among the best in the country.
Allowing a total of 61 sacks since the beginning of the 2007 season, OSU ranks No. 3 nationally in fewest sacks allowed spanning that five-year stretch. Notable, for sure, considering the Cowboys' pass-happy ways.
Among the top five in fewest sacks allowed, three teams are service academies that never eclipsed 380 passes in a season. OSU fired 595 throws a year ago.
“It was one of the most frustrating things I've been through. If I ever encounter something harder than that, boy, that'll be tough.”
– Cowboys cornerback Devin Hedgepeth, on coming back from Achilles injuries that derailed his 2011 season.
ONE MORE RANKING: COWBOYS NO. 9
The Fremeau Efficiency Index (FEI) rating is a football version of sabermetrics developed by Brian Fremeau of footballoutsiders.com that adds context when evaluating performance; factors such as pace of play, “garbage time” and strength of schedule.
This week, Fremeau released his preseason overall rankings, or 2012 “projected ratings,” and OSU comes in at No. 9.
Along with offensive and defensive FEI ratings, a lot of variables over a five-year program are taken into account, such as FEI ratings, recruiting success, returning starters and quarterback reliance.
Here's the FEI top 10:
1. Alabama .286; 2. Oklahoma .277; 3. LSU .267; 4. USC .223; 5. Florida .218; 6. Florida State .215; 7. Ohio State .210; 8. Oregon .206; 9. Oklahoma State .204; 10. Georgia .202.