How did Oklahoma State lose to West Virginia?
In Big 12 country, that’s the football question of the week.
The Cowboys (10-1, 7-1 Big 12) are the new class of the conference after their thorough 49-17 victory over the previously unbeaten Baylor Bears over the weekend. Oklahoma State used ESPN’s “College GameDay” into a day-long commercial for its football program. That’s how dominant it looked.
If it beats rival Oklahoma at home in the regular-season finale on Dec. 7, it will claim a league championship and represent the Big 12 in a BCS bowl. But it could have been even better. If not for a bizarre loss at West Virginia in late September, the Cowboys would be in the running for a BCS championship.
The Mountaineers (4-7, 2-6) failed to score in a lopsided loss to Maryland and failed to compete in a defeat at last-place Kansas. But they beat the Cowboys 30-21.
How, again, did Oklahoma State lose that game?
There are several explanations. The Cowboys weren’t set at quarterback the way they are now with Clint Chelf, who put on a show against the Bears by throwing for 370 yards and three touchdowns. They were using Chelf and J.W. Walsh, depending on who was hot. Their defense was also up and down.
And Oklahoma State was playing in a new environment. No one associated with the program had played in Morgantown before.
Whatever happened, Mike Gundy deserves credit for getting his team back on track after that game.
Chelf is now in command of a gifted offense, and the defense now ranks among the Big 12’s best. Oklahoma State has won seven straight and it could finish with a 12-win season.
“College football is a great teaching tool for life,” Gundy said. “We would like to win them all and we prepare to win them all. That didn’t happen. We didn’t play or prepare well that day. The team came together. We had a lot to play for and we were in tournament play at that time. We had to win the next game to get that next round. That’s the approach they took throughout the year and it is has worked out for them. They decided they wanted to be a good football team.”
Oklahoma State controls its owns destiny for a conference title and the Big 12’s automatic BCS bowl berth that comes with it, but four teams are still in the running.
Baylor, Texas and Oklahoma State all have one Big 12 loss and Oklahoma has two. And wouldn’t you know it: they all face each other on the final day of the regular season, with Texas traveling to Baylor and Oklahoma heading to Oklahoma State.
The Bears, Longhorns and Cowboys can all clinch at least a share of the conference title by winning out. Baylor and Texas can claim sole possession of the league championship by winning their final two games if Oklahoma State loses to Oklahoma. All four teams could potentially share the conference title if Oklahoma beats Oklahoma State.
With two weeks remaining in the regular season, here is a guess at where each bowl-eligible team in the Big 12 will end up this postseason.
If two Big 12 teams qualify for a BCS bowl, the Texas Bowl would have to look elsewhere for a team to play a Big Ten opponent.
Ranking this week’s games
Big 12 football rankings