STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) Whoever wins will become bowl eligible. Whoever loses probably won’t see the postseason.
That’s the bottom line when two of the Big 12’s marquee programs over the last decade – Oklahoma State and Texas – meet Saturday night.
Both struggling teams are trying to reach six victories to become eligible for a bowl. And both face more difficult opponents after this, meaning this game represents their best chance.
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Oklahoma State (5-4, 3-3 in Big 12) has lost three straight games by a combined margin of 124-33 before enjoying a bye last week. A school-record bowl streak of eight seasons is on the line.
”It’s an awesome tradition we’ve started here, but we’re just focused on Texas right now, we’re not looking past that,” Cowboys fullback Jeremy Seaton said. ”We’re not thinking bowl games. We’re just trying to get a win this weekend.”
Texas (5-5, 4-3) has played in a bowl for three consecutive seasons and in 15 of the last 16 years. The Longhorns have won their last two, including a 33-16 victory over then-No. 24 West Virginia last weekend.
”Forget the bowl, it’s about Oklahoma State right now,” linebacker Jordan Hicks said. ”If we can get this, obviously we’ll be bowl eligible, but we want to win this game. We don’t want to lose again. Like always, we hold ourselves to a very high standard.”
Some things to watch Saturday:
ROUGH ROAD AHEAD: Each team has difficult Big 12 opponents left. Texas hosts No. 5 TCU on Nov. 27 in its finale. Oklahoma State still has road games against No. 6 Baylor (Nov. 22) and rival Oklahoma (Dec. 6), which just dropped out of the Top 25.
LONGHORNS RISING: Texas seemed like a team sinking after getting dominated 23-0 by then-No. 11 Kansas State on Oct. 25, its third loss in four games. But the Longhorns have rebounded, most recently knocking off West Virginia 33-16 last weekend. A key reason is that running back Jonathan Gray finally looks healthy after a season-ending Achilles injury in November 2013. Last week, he gained 101 yards and scored three touchdowns on just 10 rushes. ”He made some jump cuts and then exploded,” said Shawn Watson, UT’s assistant head coach for offense. ”I feel like he’s very confident about where he’s at coming off his injury. He’s playing like he played last year.”
OGBAH SHINING: Sophomore defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah has blossomed lately for Oklahoma State, piling up six sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss in his last four games – all against Big 12 opponents. He now leads the entire Big 12 and ranks fifth in the nation among defensive linemen with nine sacks on the year and is fourth in the country among D-Linemen with 14.5 tackles for loss. He’s also forced a fumble.
BIG 12 PARITY: The Big 12 has had six members ranked among the Top 25 at some point this season, including four inside the top 10. While two teams still rank in the top six on the latest poll (No. 5 TCU and No. 6 Baylor), the league’s parity has also seen a number of good teams knocked out of the rankings after losing to other powerhouses. It’s also the only major conference that has had five different champions over the last five years. Said OSU coach Mike Gundy: ”It’ll be that way from here on out. And this league, slowly and surely over the next few years, will develop into what people thought about the SEC West.”
RESTED COWBOYS: OSU should be rested after a bye last week. It couldn’t have come at a better time, allowing several players to heal, particularly safety Larry Stephens and cornerback Ashton Lampkin. They have missed the past five games with injuries and could return Saturday. Then there was the mental fatigue that accompanies a three-game losing streak. ”It really helped us,” Ogbah said of the time off. ”We did get that rest that we needed.”