Thursday, December 1, 2011
See Bedlam for what it is, not what it isn't
By David Ubben
It's easy to see Saturday's Bedlam as 60 minutes that could have meant so, so much more.
For Oklahoma State, 60 minutes in Ames, Iowa, all but assured it wouldn't. LSU and Georgia will play an essentially meaningless SEC title game Saturday night. Win or lose, the currently undefeated Tigers will almost certainly play a one-loss team for the national championship.
Perhaps it will be Oklahoma State. It's much more likely to be Alabama, which is idle this weekend.
For the Oklahoma State-inclined, it's easy to look at Saturday's game against Oklahoma and see what it isn't. The dream of a national semifinal in which the Cowboys' BCS title opportunity comes explicitly at the cost of the Sooners is likely gone. Neither team will likely meet LSU to play for all the crawdads down on the bayou.
It may not lead to the BCS title game, but Justin Blackmon and Oklahoma State can reach unprecedented ground with a win over Oklahoma.
Oklahoma State should see Saturday's game for what it is: a chance to make some very meaningful history.
Six teams have won a Big 12 title. Oklahoma State can win its first Saturday, denying the Sooners a share in the process.
Doing so would mean beating rival Oklahoma for the first time since 2002. So, maybe coach Mike Gundy refuses to politick for his team this week, but that only means he grasps what this week means, rather than what it doesn't.
"We're in a situation that we have a chance to win a football game and win a conference championship for the first time in the history of the school," Gundy said, "and I just feel like that's more important than politicking for a spot in second place or wherever it would be in the BCS."
A win also would give Oklahoma State its 11th of the season with a chance for a school-record 12th in a BCS bowl, one more place Oklahoma State has never been.
For all of Oklahoma State's recent success, this season is an example of how things work in college football. Only one team has ever won the national title without first playing in a BCS game. Never mind that Oklahoma is the only team to do it.
What hurt OSU fans most about the gut-punch at Iowa State? This felt like "The Year" for every Pistol Pete disciple. Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon will be cashing NFL checks this time next year, an event sure enough that Blackmon, a junior, will take part in senior day festivities Saturday.
And maybe it is The Year. But there's plenty of reason to believe it's "A Year That Didn't Quite Work Out." Oklahoma has had plenty of those.
Weeden was a walk-on who spent a handful of years playing baseball. Blackmon was a three-star recruit. Both are special. But Oklahoma State is recruiting better than ever.
"We’ve got a lot of great guys in this program that are really young. We haven’t ever had kids like this around here," Gundy told me after a dramatic win over Kansas State this year. "I see a lot of things changing. It’s just different than it ever has been."
Why couldn't Oklahoma State recruit another Weeden and Blackmon? Oklahoma does it every season. Lose Sam Bradford? Enter Landry Jones. Ryan Broyles shatters records. Kenny Stills breaks Broyles' freshman records.
Oklahoma State lost a first-round pick at receiver and a record-breaking receiver after the nine-win 2009 season, along with four offensive linemen. Nobody gave the Cowboys a chance. They won 11 games. Gundy credits his culture within the program. Underclassmen know what's expected of them when it's their time.
The Cowboys are closer to Oklahoma than ever before. This season and the last, the Cowboys have been the better team entering the game, although Oklahoma knocked off the Cowboys to win the Big 12 South last season.
Oklahoma State might not hang with Oklahoma's near-perennial top-10 classes, but the Cowboys have consistently reeled in top-25 classes in recent years.
A win Saturday would continue a streak that only the coaching elite can claim: Oklahoma State will have won as many or more games as the previous season during all seven of Gundy's seasons.
In 2010, the big step was winning a share of the Big 12 South. This year, it could be winning the Big 12.
So maybe this isn't the year Oklahoma State wins the national title.