Now those are some words that haven't been uttered around Oklahoma State in a while.
Haven't really been relevant, with the Cowboys posting double-digit win totals and chasing championships of late.
At 2-2, the Cowboys require four more wins to reach bowl-eligible status. It's reasonable to assume they'll get there — they've made six straight bowl appearances and employ a roster heavy with postseason experience — yet reaching the minimum of six wins is no gimme.
Not after taking two early hits: an upset loss at Arizona and a home setback to Texas, the program's first loss at Boone Pickens Stadium since 2010.
And not with a leaky defense needing an in-season overhaul in a league with overwhelming offenses.
No more rest for the bleary, either, with both bye weeks already in the books.
Ah, but there is some good news.
Coming up: a trip to Kansas this Saturday, followed by visits from Iowa State and TCU.
Clearly, it's feel better — and do better — time for the Cowboys.
The stumbling Jayhawks are 1-4 overall and 0-2 in the Big 12, outscored 76-22 so far in league losses to TCU and Kansas State. Iowa State remains offensively challenged, having split a pair of conference games, losing to Texas Tech and beating TCU, which suddenly has a quarterback quandary with starter Casey Pachall suspended indefinitely after an arrest on suspicion of driving while intoxicated.
So this three-week stretch offers opportunity to find some traction and momentum.
Demands it, even, if the Cowboys want to avoid the drama and questions about simple bowl eligibility and re-engage talks about their ability to contend in the Big 12 and stay in play for trips to sunnier and more satisfying December/January destinations.
OSU remains capable.
Offensively, the Cowboys boast the goods, seemingly regardless of who's at quarterback. And remember, they were one play (one blown call?) away from toppling Texas and joining the top of the Big 12 standings.
The defense has been a disappointment so far, yet still features the talent that projected the unit as a team strength entering the season.
“There's no concern,” OSU coach Mike Gundy said last week. “We feel really good about our players. As a coaching staff, we can only ask them to give us what they have. When they do, sometimes the scoreboard's not the real indicator of what the players did for us. We want to win them all, but we're certainly proud of their effort and we're encouraged with where we are right now.”
Encouraged, but not satisfied. Not by a long shot.
The Big 12 shapes up as a wild ride that could take a toll on any and every team. A two-loss champion is possible, if not probable.
That's the good news for OSU.
And the bad news, too, with parity creating toss-ups across the conference most Saturdays.
The Pokes can still climb back into conference contention. But this three-week stretch offers opportunity to find some traction and momentum.
After this, OSU plays three of its final five games on the road — at No. 6 Kansas State, No. 13 Oklahoma and Baylor. And one of the home dates is against No. 5 West Virginia.
So winning the next three weekends becomes critical, or the contention conversation will quickly shift toward chatter that hasn't as much as created a care since something like 2007.
Simply becoming bowl eligible.