STILLWATER — Oklahoma State has taken its place above Texas A&M in the Big 12 pecking order.
Don't believe it?
Thursday night, the Cowboys could run their winning streak against the Aggies to three games. No other South Division team, save Oklahoma and its seven-year domination, has a current winning streak longer than that against Texas A&M.
Not Texas. Not Texas Tech. Not anyone else.
Had it not been for a needless roughing-the-punter penalty three years ago in College Station, the Cowboys would've won that game, too.
Heck, had it not be for an inexplicably blocked extra point in overtime four years ago in Stillwater, the Cowboys could've won that game as well.
Win those two games instead of losing both by a point, and the Cowboys' record in the series would've been well over .500 in the modern era of OSU football, from the Les Miles' days until now.
Of course, you can't go back and change the outcome of those games. Even those near misses, though, indicate the gigantic step that the Cowboys have taken in this series.
They could take another step Thursday.
Beat the Aggies on national television in what was purported to be a down year for OSU and an up year for Texas A&M, and the Cowboys make a serious statement.
OSU has moved up the food chain.
"That's what we've been wanting to do, whether it's Texas A&M, whether it's Texas or OU," Cowboy cornerback Andrew McGee said. "We know there's a lot of history in the Big 12."
"We want to establish OSU as a team that they have to fear," McGee said.
No doubt beating the Aggies year after year will get in their heads. But really, it's important for several reasons that OSU not only move ahead of Texas A&M but also staying there.
> Recruiting: OSU and Texas A&M compete against each other for players. More than 90 percent of the Aggies' roster consists of players from Texas while the Cowboys have built their recent success on the shoulders of Texans such as Kendall Hunter, Russell Okung and Perrish Cox. They need to continue plucking talent from the Lone Star State.
"If you can come out on the long side in the ballgame," Cowboy defensive coordinator Bill Young said, "it obviously helps."
> Conference realignment: Even though talk of conference realignment has quieted, no one believes it is dead. It is likely to come up again in the future.
OSU would've had a soft spot to land had the Big 12 split earlier this year. That was largely because of the Cowboys' improved facilities and upgraded commitment to football. But when conference realignment rears its ugly head again, domination over a traditional power such as Texas A&M would be another significant feather in OSU's cowboy hat.
> Competing with the big boys: Besting Texas A&M is not the be all, end all that it used to be. Time was, if you had the Aggies' number, you were in a national championship contender.
But if OSU wants to regularly contend for title — and the Cowboys say that they do — moving up in the pecking order is progress toward that goal. It shows sustained excellence. It demonstrates long-term commitment.
"You always want to beat OU and Texas," Cowboy receiver Hubert Anyiam said. "But you've got to take it step by step."
Lose to Texas A&M Thursday, and it's a step back for OSU.
Win, and it further cements where the Cowboys stand — in front of the Aggies.