It's been well documented how OSU turned last season's prognostications upside down and finished as the Big 12 South co-champions after being pegged by numerous pundits as the worst team in the south division.
One of the reasons for the Cowboys' breakout season in 2010 was the stellar play from quarterback Brandon Weeden. Weeden said the difference in attitude between the two years is evident.
"Last year, no one really knew what to expect. This year, we've got a lot of our pieces back. Overall, we're excited obviously, but I think the OSU fan base expects a lot out of us," Weeden said. "That's normal; I expected it after winning 11 games, but I think it should be like that. If there was no anticipation, something would be wrong."
While he said he doesn't mind the team having a target on its back heading into the 2011 season ranked in No. 8 nationally in the polls, he did enjoy last year's out-of-nowhere appeal.
"I personally would rather be the hunter," Weeden said. "You still have to prepare. Like last year, we prepared well and everything went well like we had planned, but last year no one had a clue who we were and that's not going to be the case this year, everyone's going to know who we are. We are going to have a target on our back, but we kind of deserve that in a way.
"Regardless, we play in the Big 12 and you have to play everybody now, so you still have to come out and play."
Sophomore running back Jeremy Smith said he likes the high expectations but he's keeping it in perspective because, just like last year, one can't read too much into the pre-season rankings.
"That's a good thing, it's a blessing," Smith said. "Of course, once the season starts, we have to take it one game at a time, and the rankings don't really mean anything. Our main goal is to go to the national championship."
Sophomore linebacker Shaun Lewis said living in the past off what happened a year ago and buying into national rankings before a kickoff has even happened would be foolish for the team.
"There's really only one way to look, and that's ahead. We can't look back at what happened in the past," Lewis said. "It was a good season, but next year we have to improve upon what we did last year for us to be considered better than we were last year.
"People are certainly starting to pay more attention to Oklahoma State, but it's not where we start, it's where we finish. So we're just working hard every day to finish better than where we started."
And while expectations for a potential conference title and BCS berth are very real among Cowboy fans and college fans nationally, the expectations within the Cowboys' own locker room might be the highest of them all.
"They're pretty high. We're talking BCS," Martin said. "We want to go undefeated, and we want a national championship."
Senior defensive end Richetti Jones seconded his teammate's enthusiasm and confidence on the matter.
"Every group of players that comes through Oklahoma State wants to be the best and to be the greatest team to ever come through," Jones said. "Well, last year we had 11 wins so the only way to top that is to get 12 or 13. So that's the mindset of everybody on the football team right now, to work hard and win every game we play.
"I'm looking forward to winning every game and breaking the record … I want to leave a legacy here. I want a national championship."