STILLWATER — OSU opened the 2007 season between the historic hedges. Georgia’s Sanford Stadium. The Cowboys weren’t steamrolled, trailing just 21-14 at halftime, but Georgia pulled away to win 35-14.
And Mike Gundy was blunt. “We weren’t ready for the big time,” the Cowboy coach said that night in the Deep South.
Next week, OSU plays top-ranked and defending national champion Florida State in Arlington. The Cowboys will be big underdogs. They will be inexperienced and perhaps overmatched. They might get steamrolled.
But they won’t not be ready for the big-time. Too much success, too much program-building, has gone on in the last seven years.
“We don’t play just to be average,” said cornerback Kevin Peterson. “We play to be the best. We play to win Big 12 championships and hopefully national championships. That’s what we push for in practice. We preach to be champions.”
That’s big talk. But it’s talk the Cowboys have backed up. The program has changed in recent years. Expectations have soared. Results have matched. OSU has become a nationally relevant program, playing in a bevy of big games and winning their share. The Cowboys have won one Big 12 title and would have more if not for their Bedlam stigma; OU still dominates OSU, which is no small thing but is a regional phenomenon. Nationally, the Cowboys stand tall.
One of the best ways to measure success is conference record. It’s tougher to win in the SEC than, say, the ACC, but conference record shows a program’s consistency and contention level. And in the last six years, OSU ranks ninth among schools in the major conferences in league record, slight percentage points behind Virginia Tech, Michigan State and Florida State, and otherwise trailing only Alabama, Oregon, Ohio State, OU and Stanford.
Ahead of Nebraska. Ahead of Michigan. Ahead of Penn State. Ahead of Southern Cal. Ahead of Wisconsin, which seems to live in the Rose Bowl.
So while this seems like a rebuilding year, with only 25 or so returning players with any experience at all, the Cowboys have shown that this is not a boom-and-bust program.
“There’s always going to be questions from people on the outside looking in, but we know what we have here,” said linebacker Ryan Simmons. “We know what we’re supposed to do.”
Continue reading this story on the...