STILLWATER — Among all the optimism and soaring expectations attached to this Oklahoma State football season, a tempering caveat looms.
More specifically, the road schedule: at Tulsa, at Texas A&M, at Texas, at Missouri, at Texas Tech and at Iowa State.
In the era of the Big 12, OSU is a combined 9-23 in those locales and without a winning road record against any of those squads.
Time for a reality check? Maybe.
“It's an extremely difficult schedule,” said Cowboys coach Mike Gundy.
Or maybe not.
Maybe, just maybe, it's time to check the perception of reality.
OSU went undefeated on the road a year ago, winning at Texas and Texas Tech in the process, by 17 points at each place. In fact, the last time the Cowboys visited each of the six stops on this season's schedule, they won.
“We've won road games,” said OSU wide receiver Justin Blackmon.
And it's just that matter-of-fact response, which is common among these Cowboys, that reveals another reality-check factor for the equation: attitudes have swung. These Cowboys have won on the road.
While the most difficult trips out of Stillwater used to end badly for OSU, these Cowboys leaders don't recall them.
“We're going to have to do the same thing we did last year,” said Josh Cooper. “We got a lot of big road wins last year and we've got a lot of big games on the road again this year.
“So we're going to have to come out and do the same thing.”
OK, so it won't be easy.
A&M has emerged as one of the buzz teams of 2011, ranked one spot higher than OSU in The Associated Press' poll at No. 8, returning 18 starters from a team that won six of its last seven games.
Texas stumbled stunningly a year ago, yet can't be counted on to remain in free fall, not with the talent recruited to Austin on an annual basis.
Missouri may face a question mark at quarterback, but the Tigers also boast some 12 players being eyed for the NFL Draft — more than any other program in the Big 12.