Then they won five out of six, with the only loss coming at eventual Big 12 champ Kansas State.
Then came the two-game skid to finish, which turned into a slide to a lower-tier bowl that is greatly overshadowed in its host city by Johnny Heisman and Jerry World and Friday's Cotton Bowl Classic.
Gundy admits this is different from last year, when OSU won the Big 12 and was preparing to face Andrew Luck and Stanford in the Fiesta Bowl. And he said it's fair to ask what's left to play for.
Purdue interim coach Patrick Higgins pointed to a flag that flies above the stadium only when the Boilermakers win. A victory over the Cowboys means recruits, players, coaches and fans would see that flag for months and remember the work put in during December and January.
For OSU, 8-5 simply looks much better than 7-6 when the season is only 13 games long.
“It's not like baseball. It's not like basketball where you get to go play 35, 40 games,” Gundy said. “We get 13 opportunities to compete. Our players have a responsibility to themselves and the team and the university to go compete.”