Best- and worst-case scenario: Okla. State
The Cowboys are my pick to win the Big 12 in 2013, but here's how high they could fly, and how low they could fall.
Other best- and worst-case scenarios.
STILLWATER, Okla. -- The Cowboys began their season with a victory against an SEC team, and ended it with a loss to one.
The Cowboys rolled through their nonconference slate with three wins all by at least 20 points, including a rout of Mississippi State. Early struggles in their Big 12 opener at West Virginia gave way to 21 consecutive second-half points and a 17-point victory. OSU took a top-10 ranking back home and made it look easy against Kansas State before TCU brought the first real fight to the Cowboys. Both defenses starred, and Clint Chelf was able to come back from a sack/fumble courtesy of Devonte Fields that gave TCU a fourth-quarter lead. Josh Stewart's four catches on the eventual game-winning drive pushed OSU to a 24-20 win in Stillwater.
Ames and Lubbock have been difficult places for the Cowboys to win at times, but OSU proved the better team in both trips, which were largely incident-free and pushed OSU to 8-0; a KU rout a week later meant 9-0.
The pressure was officially built for the home stretch. The trip to Texas to face a top-10 Longhorns squad had plenty of hype, but OSU's turnover-free performance helped it hold off a late Texas rally for a 31-27 win. Baylor brought its big guns the next week and embarrassed the OSU defense, but Blake Jackson, Tracy Moore and Stewart answered, helping Chelf rack up 400 yards and five scores in a 47-44 win, giving OSU a spotless 11-0 record heading into Bedlam. No surprise here: Another classic for bragging rights in the Sooner State, which won't be a Sooner State for the next year after the Pokes' overtime victory. Last year, Blake Bell broke the Cowboys' hearts. This year, it's Jeremy Smith's turn, breaking two tackles for the game-winning score, setting off another field-storming and a trip to the national title game. A loss to Alabama at the Rose Bowl tasted bitter, but nobody's forgetting these Cowboys anytime soon.
FINAL RECORD: 12-1
STILLWATER, Okla. -- You know how you can predict whether or not a season's going to be a disappointment? Losing as a two-touchdown favorite in the season opener is a great start, and that's what OSU fans who traveled to Houston got. The Cowboys survived their first two conference games against West Virginia and Kansas State, but an ugly loss to TCU had fans wondering whether or not it was still possible to bring Wes Lunt back.
Chelf won back some doubters with a fourth-quarter comeback in Ames against Iowa State the next week, but a trip to Lubbock sent the Pokes to a disappointing 5-3 mark with the toughest stretch of the schedule to come. Just like last season, Oklahoma State narrowly avoided an embarrassing loss by holding off KU late, but Stillwater braced itself to face three of the Big 12's best teams in a big finish to 2013.
Predictably, all three sent Oklahoma State home disappointed and ended a hyped season with a modest 6-6 mark. The Pokes got tangled up in the Big 12's depth and proved that, just like West Virginia in 2012 and Texas A&M in 2011, if you don't turn in a high-quality performance for 60 minutes every week, there are many teams in the Big 12 who can beat even the league's most talented squads. Welcome back to the Heart of Dallas Bowl, Oklahoma State.
FINAL RECORD: 6-6
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