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OSU Out To Prove 2011 Was Just The Beginning

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STILLWATER, Oklahoma -

Oklahoma State made history on Dec. 3, 2011.

In a rivalry where the Cowboys are short on success and long on agony, OSU bucked the trend emphatically on a national stage against Oklahoma by a resounding 44-10 margin.

The dominance on the scoreboard did more than just brings smiles to OSU fans' faces, it allowed the throngs of orange-clad faithful in attendance plenty of time for the record-book-shattering magnitude of the victory to settle in before storming the field in jubilation.

That night signified plenty of important firsts for the football program: first Big 12 title, first BCS bowl berth, first 11-win regular season, first conference title since 1976, first win over OU in nine tries, and the first time this team had maximized its potential during the Mike Gundy renaissance, ushering in the golden age of Cowboy football.

While an important feat, the fact that the win came against traditional powerhouse and arch rival Oklahoma was just icing on the proverbial cake.

Related Story: Sooners Looking To Avoid Repeat Of 2011 In Stillwater

Transition to this Saturday and the setup is extraordinarily similar: The 10-1 Pokes host 9-2 Oklahoma on a cold December day, entering as the odds-on favorite to win the conference title on their home field and book another flight to Phoenix for the Fiesta Bowl.

Similar as the settings might be, a victory this time around wouldn't be accompanied by the long list of firsts that came two years ago, but it could establish something else entirely — a trend.

Yes, Oklahoma State has proven itself nationally the past several seasons with 59 victories since 2008 and having already reached double-digit wins for the third time in four years. But a second-straight home win over Stoops' Troops accompanied by Big 12 title No. 2 in three seasons would validate OSU's standing in the league pecking order and cement the Pokes place among the current list of national powers.

It would prove that 2011 wasn't an aberration and allow OSU to climb further out from under the schooner-sized shadow that has loomed over it for decades.

And, at least on paper, this team has the horses to get the job done.

The scorching-hot Cowboys are a double-digit favorite for a reason and will be gunning to cap off the regular season the way it was predicted — atop the Big 12 standings.

Clint Chelf has established himself as not only OSU's sure-fire starter, he also had the best quarterback rating in college football for the month of November. Offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich has settled in, OSU's running game has found traction, the young receiving corps has blossomed and the veterans of the unit have produced at a steady clip, and the offensive line has flourished after a few midseason adjustments were needed to bolster the unit.

The special teams have steadily improved now that the dominant return duo of Josh Stewart and Justin Giilbert's has been joined by an ever-improving Ben Grogan in the kicking game and more consistency from Kip Smith and the punting unit.

And last but not least: the defense. This senior-laden group has carried the Pokes this season and has only gotten better over time. The often-maligned OSU defense has undergone a transformation under Glenn Spencer, leading the Big 12 in scoring defense, rushing defense, total defense and turnover margin during conference play.

As a result, OSU's seven-game win streak has only built steam, as each successive victory has been more impressive and dominating than the last. The Pokes' two most recent victories have served as their launching point back into the national consciousness.

In fact, those two wins — 38-13 at No. 24 Texas and 49-17 vs. No. 4 Baylor — not only put No. 6 Oklahoma State in the conference driver's seat, but they also came against both teams that have beaten the 17th-ranked Sooners this year by a combined 77-32 margin.

Weather could throw a wrench in the mechanism, as the temperature at kickoff will likely be lower than the teams' combined rankings, but a victory against OU would warm Cowboy fans right up.

But wins against the Sooners, though few and far between, are no longer the determining factor in what makes a successful season in Stillwater. That now comes from competing for conference titles and BCS berths (or playoff appearances starting next year).

No, a national title shot won't be coming the OSU's way this year either, as a one-loss Cowboy team would be left on the outside looking in for the second time in three seasons. But another notch in their belt against OU and more verifiable proof of their place among the elite can help break down those barriers in years to come. And that's the point OSU is out to prove on Saturday morning: there will be a next time.

Winning on a big stage consistently, accumulating conference titles and making BCS appearances is what gives teams like Alabama, Florida State and Ohio State — and Oklahoma for that matter — the benefit of the doubt in the eye's of the voters.

And at 11 a.m. Saturday morning, the Pokes have another golden opportunity to take a huge step in that direction.

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