Oklahoma State's football squad is on a mission this season. It's central focus is gaining national respect.
So far, so good.
The Cowboys have opened up with seven straight victories, including a 28-23 upset of second-ranked Tigers in Columbia, Mo. During that stretch, OSU topped the 55-point mark four times and averaged 46.4 points per contest. That eye-popping total is fourth-best in the country.
Racking up yardage and producing points is what coach Mike Gundy's team does best. Just look at the weapons the Pokes run out there every Saturday.
Speedy Dez Bryant is fourth in the nation with 809 receiving yards. Kendall Hunter ranks fifth in the country with 955 rushing yards. QB Zac Robinson has been on target with his passes 70.1 percent of the time, throwing for 1,488 yards and 14 touchdowns.
As offenses go, OSU is a bona fide juggernaut.
That's all well and good, but rolling up wins is what Gundy wants more than anything else. And to hear his players tell it, that line of thinking is shared by all.
"The only thing I care about is coming out with the 'W,'" said Bryant, after helping OSU beat Baylor on Saturday and thus record only the second 7-0 start in school history.
"My stats " I don't even think about that. If someone comes up and tells me (my stats), I'll tell them 'That's great.' But the only thing I care about is the 'W.'"
PILING UP 'W's'
With the Cowboys piling up 'Ws' at a program-record pace, people can't help but take notice, not only around the Big 12 Conference but across the college football landscape.
Of course, the fact OSU has surged its way up the polls and into the No. 6 spot in this week's Bowl Championship Series rankings hasn't hurt matters. It marks the Cowboys' first ever appearance in the BCS, which was initially established in 1997.
A team many believed would be hard-pressed to win eight games this season has positioned itself for a run at the Big 12 South title and possibly more. If the Cowboys can find a way to beat No. 1 Texas in Austin this weekend they would put themselves squarely in the Big 12 driver's seat.
But Gundy isn't about to put the cart before the horse. In fact, to hear him tell it, he's barely even aware his team is ranked No. 8 in the Coaches Poll and No. 7 in the Associated Press voting, much less ranked so high in the BCS standings.
"I didn't even know (the BCS standings) came out today. I don't pay much to attention to rankings or any of that stuff," Gundy told reporters during a Sunday teleconference.
SOURCE OF MUCH CONSTERNATION
What Gundy is keenly aware of is the fact OSU's defense " the source of much consternation the past few seasons " has started to come together behind back-to-back solid performances against Missouri and Baylor.
Earlier this season, the Cowboys surrendered 37 points to a decent Houston team and 24 and 28 points, respectively, to Troy and Texas A&M on consecutive weekends. But they limited Missouri's high-powered attack to 23 points and followed that up by holding Baylor to a single score.
Why the sudden success on the defensive side of the ball?
"Two things. The first thing is you have to give credit to the staff because they have to get (confidence) instilled," explained Gundy after the win over Baylor. "Then it's up to the (kids) to say 'OK guys, this is what we have to do. I don't care what anybody says " this is who we are and this is what we have to do.' That's what it comes down to."
With confidence growing and seemingly every player buying into the team's unvarnished mission statement, OSU fans certainly find themselves with plenty of reasons to cram their way into home games at the new Boone Pickens Stadium.
Watching a high-caliber offense in action is always sound entertainment, but witnessing a team piecing together a well-balanced attack on both sides of the ball is no doubt well worth the price of admission.
Oklahoma State has already thrown a bit of a monkey wrench into the whole national title picture by climbing so high in the polls. A win against Texas would truly legitimize the Cowboys as title contenders.
But are they ready for that challenge on the national stage?
OSU will answer the question in Austin this Saturday. "Jay C. Upchurch