By Nick Snow
CNHI News Service
STILLWATER – It used to be that the Oklahoma State University football team broke their team huddles by chanting “Big 12.” These days the Cowboys are thinking a little bigger than just the team’s second Big 12 title.
“When we break down our huddles, we chant, ‘BCS,’” Oklahoma State senior offensive lineman Parker Graham said. “I guess it’s a sign of how much our program has progressed.”
A Bowl Championship Series berth seems even more possible with the release of the Associated Press preseason Top 25 poll. For the first time in the 63-year poll, the Cowboys came in as the top team in the Big 12 – debuting at No. 13, just ahead of No. 15 Texas and No. 16 Oklahoma.
“We have a lot of respect for the media, and we’re pleased that people see us as a quality football program,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said. “Obviously we have to go play our game.”
But while Oklahoma State comes in as the highest rank team in the Big 12, the Cowboy players haven’t really taken much stock in the polls – especially after Sports Illustrated kept the Cowboys out of its preseason top 25.
“It’s not about how you start, it’s about how you finish,” Oklahoma State senior receiver Tracy Moore said. “It’s good that we got a pretty high ranking, but we want that No. 1 spot.
“It’s all a matter of opinion. Sometimes the guys haven’t even played the game before and don’t really know what’s going on. They don’t know what teams have coming back and stuff like that, so a lot of times it’s a little difficult to judge a team. Everybody has their opinion, but the only thing that matters is where you stand at the end of the season.”
That seems to be the consensus around the Oklahoma State team as the final day of fall camp wrapped up with a scrimmage Saturday in the Sherman Smith Training Center.
Some hadn’t heard the news prior to the scrimmage, while others chose to ignore it.
“I didn’t even know it was coming out,” Oklahoma State senior linebacker Caleb Lavey said. “I really don’t check the polls very much, anyway. That’s one of the great things about this team, is that we really don’t pay much attention to those things. We haven’t proven anything yet, and that’s a great place to be as a team. We’re hungry. We know that we might be ranked high, but we still have a long way to go and we haven’t arrived anywhere.”
Even in a year where the Big 12 doesn’t have it’s usual reputation – failing to put any team in the top 10 for the first time since 1992 – the news of being picked as the top team in the Big 12 has only added excitement to the program. Earlier this summer, the Associated Press picked the Cowboys to win the Big 12 – another first for the program.
And while occasionally players like Lavey will be reminded of those high expectations, the senior linebacker said the Cowboys haven’t let that pressure get to them.
“I remember Coach Gundy mentioning something about it at the beginning of the year about how Oklahoma State has never really been picked to win the Big 12,” Lavey said. “Honestly, the coaches do a great job of never mentioning that. I had no idea that we were ranked so high until the media has enlightened me on all this. It’s good to know that it really doesn’t matter to our football team. We’re fired up to play Mississippi State, and that’s the mindset of everybody and the mindset of a team that’s ready to have a good season.”
– Nick Snow is a sports writer for the Stillwater NewsPress.