STILLWATER — If Oklahoma State is in the mix for a Big 12 Championship heading into December, the Cowboys will have earned it.
OSU released its finalized 2011 football schedule on Friday and it's safe to say the Pokes will be tested by their Big 12 Conference slate. The Cowboys will play five conference road games including at Missouri, Texas A&M and Texas.
Here's a closer look at OSU's schedule, ranked from toughest to easiest:
1. Oklahoma, Dec. 3
Why: Do you really need to ask? The Sooners enter the season as one of the top teams in the nation and have won eight straight Bedlam matchups against OSU. Led by quarterback Landry Jones and receiver Ryan Broyles, the Sooners should field a team that will be in the mix for a BCS title game berth.
Beating OU is the next step for Mike Gundy's program if it expects to continue its recent rise in the college football landscape. Fortunately for the Pokes, they have the offensive firepower to do it, lead by quarterback Brandon Weeden and receiver Justin Blackmon.
2. at Texas A&M, Sept. 24
Why: OSU barely escaped its meeting with the Aggies with a 38-35 win last season at Boone Pickens Stadium.
This year, Texas A&M could be just as good but the Pokes will have to knock them off in College Station, home of Kyle Field, one of the toughest atmospheres in the Big 12. To make matters worse, the Aggies should be led by a quarterback (Ryan Tannehill) who throws the ball to his teammates instead of the opposition when they face OSU this season.
3. at Texas, Oct. 15
Why: Never underestimate the Longhorns.
Texas is coming off of a disappointing season and their quarterback situation remains unsettled heading into the summer. But Texas is Texas.
The Longhorns will be looking for revenge after OSU dominated them in 2010 and this game could become even more important if Texas is coming off a loss to OU in the Red River Rivalry.
4. at Missouri, Oct. 22
Why: OSU's road game at Faurot Field is particularly difficult because it comes the week after the Pokes face Texas. Winning back-to-back road games in hostile environments is tough on any team.
Missouri loses standout quarterback Blaine Gabbert but the Tigers have a talented roster and play extremely well at home, finishing 2010 undefeated in Columbia.