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OSU's defense, running game has them pointed at BCS

11/16/2009

It’s almost a certainty that Texas will end up in the BCS. The Longhorns need three more victories – all in games played inside their state – to earn a shot in the national title game.

But would it be out of the realm of possibility that the Big 12 would have two teams in the BCS this season?

Not if Oklahoma State finishes out the last two weeks like it has played down the stretch.

Since losing to Texas on Oct. 31, the 8-2 Cowboys have played as well as any Big 12 team. Their performance against Texas Tech on Saturday was a revelation on how strong that Mike Gundy’s team has become.

The Cowboys lined up and mashed the Red Raiders into submission in the second half when they piled up 207 second-half rushing yards, keeping the ball for more than 22 minutes in an impressive 24-17 comeback victory.

The Cowboys zoomed from 19th to 12th in the BCS poll after that win. And they could be poised for a similar ascension up the polls if they can keep winning.

OSU’s defense has improved substantially over the course of the season. Since yielding 45 points and 512 yards against Houston in their second game of the season, the Cowboys have limited five of its next eight opponents to score 17 points or less. Four have been limited to 300 total yards or less, including 275 amassed by Texas.

The Cowboys are leading the Big 12 in rushing after averaging 287 yards per game in victories over Iowa State and Texas Tech in their last two games.

Teams that can run the ball and stop the run are tough to beat – especially in November games in the Big 12. The Cowboys can do both equally well.

And with teams dropping in front of them in the polls, the Cowboys have been able to make a dramatic move.

In order to be considered for a BCS at-large team, several events must happen.

First, Texas must win the Big 12 title. If the Longhorns are upset in the conference championship, the North winner would earn the Big 12’s automatic berth and Texas would earn the at-large berth.

The Cowboys must finish in the top 14 in the BCS standings. Undefeated TCU appears to be a near lock if it can run the table. Another at-large spot assuredly will go to the SEC title game loser. That would leave OSU fighting with teams like Boise State, Iowa, the Cincinnati-Pittsburgh loser and Penn State for two BCS at-large spots.

It won’t be easy. OSU will have to beat Colorado on a short work week – perhaps without starting quarterback Zac Robinson who was dinged at the end of Texas Tech game and might not be ready for Thursday’s game.

From there, they will have to beat a disappointing Oklahoma team on the road. Bob Stoops’ team has lost two games at home in his 11-season career as a coach there. Nothing the Sooners would like better than to put a damper on the Cowboys’ hopes of cracking the BCS for the first time.

But if the Cowboys can run the table and finish 10-2, they will have as good a claim to a BCS bowl berth as almost any team from a major conference. It will be interesting to see if they can get there.