Oklahoma State and Missouri realistically dreamed of conference championships and BCS bowl berths Saturday.
With those bubbles burst, Sunday instead brought the former conference rivals together.
The Cowboys and Tigers — once common Big Eight and Big 12 foes — will meet again, this time in the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 3.
While the stakes aren't as high as either would have liked, this 53rd meeting between the schools still shapes up as the biggest yet.
And solid storylines abound.
* There's an updated take on Mizzou's bolt to the SEC.
* There's the history between the two, which reveals a 29-23-0 series lead for the Tigers, but also Mike Gundy's 3-1 record as head coach against Mizzou. And this from the “Did You Know” file: in their last meeting, a 45-24 Cowboys win in Columbia in 2011, the Tigers featured current stars James Franklin and Henry Josey at quarterback and running back.
* And there's the significant Okie influence with these Tigers, from key defenders Kentrell Brothers of Guthrie and Edmond Santa Fe's Randy Ponder, to former Cowboys Josh Henson and Cooper Bassett on the coaching staff.
So there's a familiarity with these Tigers.
But are they the same old Tigers?
And that's yet another intriguing storyline.
“They've won on the road, they're moving the ball and scoring points,” Gundy said Sunday. “They run to the football.
“I know they have a couple guys that enjoy rushing the passer and linebackers that run and tackle … (to be in position to win the SEC title in their second year), it says a lot about their position and how they've grown up.”
When Missouri left the Big 12 for the SEC's 2012 season, it did so as a solid program, not a traditional league power. The Tigers made two appearances in the Big 12 championship game in the old North-South setup, only to get popped both times by Oklahoma.
Mizzou last called itself a league champion in 1969, when it shared the Big Eight crown with Nebraska. The Tigers haven't won a league title outright since 1960.
And their first step into the SEC was a stumble: 5-7 overall, managing conference wins against only Kentucky and Tennessee.
Expectations hardly were on the rise this season, with Mizzou picked to finish sixth in the SEC East, receiving not a single vote in the national preseason polls.
But the Tigers emerged as one of the nation's surprise teams, going 11-1 in the regular season before running into Auburn, which next plays for the national championship. Mizzou's other loss came against No. 9 South Carolina, 27-24 in double overtime, when it was without Franklin.
“Nothing really surprises me anymore in college football,” Gundy said, “but I think this is one of the best stories for a turnaround season.”
The Tigers did not, however, play Alabama or LSU, leaving some critics questioning their résumé.
Still, Mizzou looks the part, with a balanced offense that features multiple playmakers and ranks No. 15 nationally in scoring offense and No. 16 in total offense. The defensive numbers are strong, too, at No. 29 in scoring defense, allowing 22.5 points per game.