Where Do The Pokes Stand? Where They Headed?

OK, with all the pre-season hype, some courtesy of yours truly, many had hoped that Oklahoma State would be 4-1 right now, maybe 5-0. The reality is the Cowboys are 3-2 with a 1-0 Big 12 record after the shootout of all shootout wins over Texas Tech. First, let's look at how the Cowboys arrived at this location, which by the way, isn't a terribly bad place to be. It is actually pretty good.

The Georgia game was a disappointment, losing 35-14. The defense wasn't ready and the offense couldn't sustain the early success in keeping pace. Georgia is a good team that plays in a very good home-field situation. This team simply wasn't ready to live up to an off-season filled with hype and a game built up in their own minds and those of all of their supporters as the biggest opening contest in the school's football history. That happens, and along with the expected wins at home over Florida Atlantic and Sam Houston, losing to Georgia was a disappointing but predictable result. There was no harm done, except for maybe two weeks later and the second trip down south.

The home opener came after a tough week following the Georgia loss and against a team that was much improved in Howard Schnellenberger's Florida Atlantic Owls. Thanks to Andre Sexton's first play interception and return for a touchdown the Cowboys rolled 42-6. The home fans were also a tonic to the pain from losing the opener at Georgia the week before. The negative was that this was the night that offensive coordinator Larry Fedora and head coach Mike Gundy became convinced that Bobby Reid wasn't getting the job done at quarterback. Zac Robinson came in and threw for 250 yards and ran the offense much more efficiently.

The second trip to the South was so much worse than the first. The team was still up tight, and I believe still in a funk over the Georgia loss. It was a bad combination for a team facing a squad, an entire campus and a town that was determined to chow down on a BCS opponent. The Cowboys, as they had at Georgia, cooperated with turnovers, penalties, sloppy play, and a defense still trying to figure things out against a quarterback that had all the answers. Shocking, yes, but also explainable was the 41-23 loss to the Trojans.

Fans can thank themselves for helping the Cowboys come out of the funk. During the nextweek of practice -- and reading, listening, or hearing about how frustrated their fans were -- the Cowboys had to discover what a lot of teams never do. Senior leadership stepped up in the form of Julius Crosslin, Adarius Bowman and Donovan Woods to convince the team that everything was up to them. The wagons were truly circled and the players also preached having fun. Crosslin was the main guy who was pleading to his teammates that they had to let things go, quit being so bottled up, and have fun playing the game.

Do I think it was that simple? A change in mood led to the shoot-out win over Texas Tech? No, but it was a big part of it. The offense really started clicking, and the coaches had a great plan on offense. Tech carved up the Cowboys defense, but when they needed it, the defense came up with two key stops to help win the game.

Saturday night against Sam Houston was just what it was supposed to be. The defense improved a little against a future NFL quarterback in Rhett Bomar and against an offense that is the worst nightmare right now for the OSU defense -- the spread. The offense was average by Oklahoma State standards, but it all resulted in a workman-like 39-3 win. That is really what is supposed to happen when you play teams from the Football Championship Subdivision, you go out there with minimal emotion and take care of business. There is so much the coaches can coach on this week, and that is good too.

Now before looking into any crystal ball, the Cowboys aren't where they wanted to be but where they need to be. How about the rest of the Big 12? While OSU lost to Georgia, Nebraska (USC), Texas A&M (Miami), Baylor (TCU), and Kansas State (Auburn) all lost their marquee non-conference games. Texas and Oklahoma fell short of their goals of being unbeaten when they play each other Saturday in the Cotton Bowl as both lost conference openers.

The next two weeks in this topsy-turvy Big 12 season are huge. The Cowboys will match up well against Texas A&M. Don't expect the Aggies to go pass happy in one week, so the Cowboy defense will see a more ground-oriented attack. It won't be easy, but the offense can steal the show in College Station if they eliminate turnovers and penalties and play its game.

In an effort to change up its road woes, the team will work out in Stillwater on Friday, eat the Friday meal there as they do for home games, fly to A&M on Friday evening and check in to the hotel and get ready for Saturday. Sounds good to me.

Wins over A&M and Nebraska would set the Cowboys up for challenging for the now wide open South Division. Splitting the two games could set up an upper division finish in the South. Losing both would leave OSU scrambling for six, maybe seven, wins and a lower Big 12 bowl appearance. Two weeks to decide whether this program is moving up or battling to hold its footing. I don't know about you, but I'm very interested in watching to see what happens.

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