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October 28, 2011

Thrice as Nice?

Three is the loneliest number that you'll ever do…

OK, fine. Maybe not. Maybe the loneliest number is indeed one. Even so, Oklahoma State currently holding down the third slot in the latest BCS rankings is some high, lofty and lonely territory for a program that was blowing games against the likes of Louisiana Tech a decade ago.

As OSU looks to its game against Baylor on Saturday, the Cowboys are in a prime position: They control their own destiny the rest of the way. Keep winning and OSU will have a great shot at the BCS championship game. And since spots one and two are held down by LSU and Alabama, respectively, the Pokes can move up to the second spot after Nov. 5th so long as they beat the Bears and Kansas State.

How 'bout them Cowboys, eh? (Probably a Canadian OSU fan there.)

No doubt, OSU is in fantastic position. But this is the time of year rankings like this can become an albatross for a team. Upsets can occur virtually any weekend heading forward. The Cowboys have to remain vigilant and keep up the work to ensure they'll have a shot for New Orleans at the end of the season.

Those kinds of thoughts, expectations and daydreams can be tough for any team, much less a program still in the process of trying to prove itself as one of the country's new elites.

That's up to head coach Mike Gundy to ensure the Cowboys continue to navigate the slate unblemished and don't hit any BCS-busting icebergs.

The question remains, though, how will OSU play from here on out given its lofty status at the moment?

"We're not going to play under pressure, we're not going to coach under pressure," Gundy said. "We want the players to enjoy the experience they're going through. There's way too much pressure in college football now, and so I want them to put that to the side.

"I want them to not have any regrets on what they do Sunday through Thursday, and then not have any regrets on their attitudes and the effort they give the team on Saturday. They understand that, and so hopefully that's been instilled in them for enough weeks now that they'll go out and practice and have fun and go play on Saturdays."

Even so, it's tough to not think about such a giant thing. Or to be reminded of it. Especially when your daily routine involves walking across campus to class and constantly being told about how great the team is doing this year.

"We're reminded every day," Markelle Martin said. "You've just got to put it behind you and keep rolling and keep being successful. Most of us seniors have been around long enough to know that the rankings can be here today and gone tomorrow. We have to keep the young guys focused. It's just a number. We have to continue to get out there and play."

And that's exactly what the coaching staff is stressing.

"Really, you can't get too caught up in thinking about that, said wide receivers coach Kasey Dunn. "We just have to go out there and go to work and let our kids play. I haven't heard our kids talking about it and they're through my office all the time. Nobody is running around with signs on their backs saying 'We're No. 3.' That's a good thing. We just have to be business as usual and keep playing and have fun and make sure that we handle our own business."

Which, in the end, is all OSU can really control anyway. Just win, baby. The rest will sort itself out. Youngster Joseph Randle summed it up appropriately:

"We are extremely confident in our ability to win games and we just want to continue doing what we do."


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