Oklahoma State's loss to West Virginia just appears more inexplicable in retrospect. And it was bad enough at the time that the Cowboys' Big 12 title hopes appeared over.
But the No. 6 Cowboys (10-1, 7-1 Big 12) responded by winning seven straight, including a dominant 49-17 blowout over then-No. 3 Baylor Nov. 23, and now have just one more obstacle to overcome before claiming their second conference title in three years.
Only their cross-state rivals, No. 18 Oklahoma (9-2, 6-2), can spoil the storybook ending for Oklahoma State, which has lost nine of the schools' past 10 meetings.
A win Saturday would land Oklahoma State a major BCS bowl game and help solidify its newly earned status as a national power, and demonstrate how it has closed the gap on its more celebrated foes. Even if its only blemish is from a team that finished 2-7 in the conference.
''I feel as if we've helped take Oklahoma State to a new level. It wasn't really well-known back when I got here,'' said OSU senior fullback Kye Staley, who rushed for 25 yards and two touchdowns against Baylor. ''Every year we've progressed as a team. I feel like we've put Oklahoma State on the map and they're going to accomplish more as the years go on.''
With both squads coming off bye weeks, each should be well-rested and ready to go.
''We understand that it's a big challenge,'' OU coach Bob Stoops said. ''I feel like that week off should have hopefully helped us just with some of those nagging injuries and hopefully that will make us a little stronger coming into this game.''
Five things to watch for as Oklahoma State seeks its 10th straight win at home:
1. COLD PLAY: With the temperature expected to be around 20 degrees Fahrenheit and with winds of 10 mph, the conditions won't be pleasant, although the Cowboys defeated Baylor in similar weather. ''Our view is both teams have to deal with it. It's not like it's bad for one and not the other,'' Stoops said. ''I think the wind affects the game much more than just the cold does.''
2. KNIGHT RIDERS: Since replacing Blake Bell at QB early in the second quarter on Nov. 16 against Iowa State, freshman Trevor Knight has sparked the Sooners' offense. He rushed for 123 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries that day, while passing for 61 yards, and then at Kansas State on Nov. 23, Knight added another 82 yards and a score on 14 rushes, while also completing 14 of 20 passes for 171 yards.
3. TRICK OR TREAT?: Oklahoma State added some gadgetry to their offense, catching Baylor off-balance defensively, and may do so again. In addition to adding Staley to the mix as a runner, OSU tried a flea-flicker pass and had receivers Josh Stewart and Charlie Moore each complete passes, one of them to QB Clint Chelf for 48 yards.
4. TOUGH IT OUT: Oklahoma senior cornerback Aaron Colvin fought through the pain of a shoulder injury against K-State and despite healing some during the bye week, will try to do so again. ''I feel better, but being able to play through that type of pain, I just can't think about it,'' Colvin said. ''I don't want to have any regrets when I leave this university. I've just got to leave it in God's hands and try to grind through it.''
5. BROTHERLY LOVE: Even though he'll be facing his younger brother Cale, who has been OU's running backs coach since 1999, on the other sideline, OSU head coach Mike Gundy downplays any discomfort that might cause family relations. ''The truth is, a lot of times, I forget he's even over there,'' said Gundy. ''You're always thinking about the next play and the call you're going to make.''