Also, Cowboys fans are optimistic after watching the offensive line coming together during that final three-game stretch, the return of standout defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah and cornerback Kevin Peterson, and just the buoyant attitude that seems to permeate the program.
Now this week, ESPN.com brings even more reason to be excited with Brad Edwards, their numbers cruncher for the all things college sports from College Football Playoff to Bracketology and the NCAA Basketball Tournament projecting the Cowboys as one of his way too early predictions for next season's College Football Playoff.
How's this sound? Ohio State and USC in the Orange Bowl and Oklahoma State facing Auburn in the Cotton Bowl semifinal.
Edwards projections are made based on several categories including quarterback play where Rudolph did make a dramatic impression in those last three starts. He also looks at overall talent returning and the Cowboys have eight starters returning on offense and eight on defense from the Cactus Bowl.
Schedule is a big factor as well, and while it likely won't impress the committee, the Cowboys have a relatively easy non-conference schedule at Central Michigan and Central Arkansas and UTSA at home. More important to Edwards is the Cowboys Big 12 schedule that has TCU, OU, Kansas State, and Baylor all coming to Boone Pickens Stadium.
It's a lot to digest and I'll be honest, I love the optimism but there is another team in the Big 12 that has the same number of returning starters and a quarterback slated to be a Heisman Trophy candidate in TCU and Trevone Boykin.
I'm always optimistic and I can see this team being whatever they want to be and even what Brad Edwards predicts them to be, but although it is spring there is a dose of reality or their reality coming from other media like Fox Sports Southwest's Big 12 reporter David Ubben.
"I think for Oklahoma State, I do buy into a little of their hype for next year," Ubben said. "People start talking about them as a playoff team and that seems a little presumptuous, but certainly they are a dark horse to win the league next season.
"TCU and Baylor will open the season on paper looking like they are better than everyone else. It will be tough for anybody to knock those two teams off but if anybody is likely to do so then I think it would be Oklahoma State."
Ubben agrees with ESPN's Edwards on one facet of his analysis on the Cowboys and that is that Rudolph is a difference maker at quarterback. "It's amazing that the biggest reason why is a guy that looked like he was going to redshirt the entire season," Ubben added speaking of Rudolph.
Now there is the opinion on a national level that the Big 12 will lack full appreciation as long as Texas and Oklahoma are not in contention. Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma State may not be a strong enough list of schools at the top of the league. The problem is those three don't appear to be going away.
With the exception of last season, Oklahoma State has been consistently good and in contention since 2008. TCU and Baylor have been the latest to rise, and Kansas State is another school that should be included in the conversation.
Oklahoma State and Baylor have won undisputed Big 12 championships, and TCU and Kansas State have also tied for Big 12 titles since Texas has had a sniff of a crown. Oklahoma tied Kansas State in 2012 but lost the game between the two head-to-head.
"Obviously, the Big 12 has had quality teams during this stretch where they have had six different champions in six years and when you talk about TCU, Baylor and Oklahoma State in 2011 these are all teams that could make they case that they were the best in the country," Ubben said.
"For the casual fan and others around the country it is easy to see Oklahoma and Texas not at the top of the Big 12 and think that the league has had a down year. I don't think that is the case."
I would agree with the co-host of Big 12 Live in the fall on Saturday night's, a show that recaps the action each week in the conference. There may be some that don't pay attention, but times and schools at the top have changed in the Big 12 and the level of football really hasn't.<./p>
I know that some Big 12 teams took it on the chin in bowl games, but ask Mississippi and Washington what they thought of the two teams that may have the best chance of representing the conference for the first time ever in the College Football Playoff. I think they will tell you the Horned Frogs and the Cowboys are both pretty good.