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After BCS snub, Oklahoma State makes case as nation's best team

by | CBSSports.com College Football Insider
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Big 12 champion Oklahoma State (12-1) and its fans probably would prefer a playoff. (US Presswire)  
Big 12 champion Oklahoma State (12-1) and its fans probably would prefer a playoff. (US Presswire)  

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The BCS says the national championship game will be held next Monday in New Orleans between No. 1-ranked LSU and No. 2 Alabama.

A victory by No. 1 LSU will make the Tigers the undisputed champions of college football. A victory by No. 2 Alabama, however, and the national champion isn't so clear cut. It could still be LSU (13-1) or Alabama (12-1) or -- yes -- even Oklahoma State.

That's because the No. 3-ranked Cowboys edged No. 4 Stanford 41-38 in overtime on Monday night in the Fiesta Bowl

And like it or not -- and folks from the SEC won't -- the Cowboys have a strong argument for a share of the national championship if LSU loses to the Crimson Tide.

"It played out the way it played out," Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon said after earning Fiesta Bowl most valuable player honors. "I think we do have the best team in the nation."

At halftime of the Fiesta Bowl, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott was asked if the Fiesta Bowl winner between Oklahoma State and Stanford could make a claim for part of the national championship if LSU should lose.

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"Someone could make that argument," Scott said.

OK, I'll make that argument. Oklahoma State has more quality victories this season than Alabama. Oklahoma State has a bigger wart, though. It lost on the road in double overtime to Iowa State, which according to Alabama and SEC fans is: The. Worst. Loss. In. The. History. Of. The. World.

Basically, the argument against Oklahoma State is that one loss should erase everything else Oklahoma State accomplished this season, even though the Cowboys won the Big 12 Conference, which was rated by the BCS computers as the nation's toughest conference.

Oklahoma State also had five victories against teams ranked among the top 26 of the final BCS' rankings: Kansas State, Baylor, Oklahoma, Texas and Missouri. By comparison, Alabama defeated only two top 26 BCS teams: Arkansas and Auburn.

Oklahoma State booster T. Boone Pickens said the Cowboys' victory "would throw everything into flux if Alabama beats LSU."

However, without a playoff, or a Plus-One system, Alabama is the only team with the opportunity to unseat LSU for the BCS national title. Alabama already played LSU once at home and lost. So who's to say Oklahoma State, Stanford or even Boise State shouldn't deserve a shot at the national title and fare as well as Alabama?

"There's going to be a close argument who deserves to be No. 1 and who deserves to be No. 2," Oklahoma State safety Markelle Martin said. "We feel like we have deserving rights to be mentioned as No. 1, too [if LSU loses]."

Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert said the Cowboys made their case in the Arizona desert.

"We proved it tonight," Gilbert said. "When we came out on top."

On top of the Big 12 or near the top of the college football world is something Oklahoma State is not accustomed to. The Cowboys had never won a Big 12 Conference title before this season and had never been to a major bowl since the 1946 Sugar Bowl.

The biggest reason for Oklahoma State's resurgence can be traced to the hiring of coach Mike Gundy and Pickens' incredible financial support.

In seven years at Oklahoma State, Gundy is 59-30. Like Oklahoma State against Stanford, he also started slow. He was only 13-15 before his well-documented "I'm a man, I'm 40 rant" in September 2007. Since then, Gundy is 46-15.

"Obviously these guys have set the bar very high," Gundy said. "Oklahoma State football has come a long, long way. This was a very special win."

It was also special for Pickens, whose donations have allowed the school to build some of the nation's top athletic facilities.

"I've got my money's worth," Pickens said. "It [Oklahoma State's success] has happened faster than I expected. Hell, you've got to go fast at 83.

"I'm very satisfied with my investment and what is happening at Oklahoma State. There are so many other things here other than football games. I think the school is a different school than it was when I got out in '51, and all that is good.

"The attitude is different. We know that we are competitive now and that's what I said when I gave the $165 million. I said I want us to be competitive: I'm tired of leaving the stadium looking down at my shoes. I don't do that anymore."

Pickens might have been glancing down after the opening 15 minutes. For the first time this season, the Cowboys were scoreless in the first quarter. OSU's struggles prompted LSU wide receiver Russell Shepard to question the Cowboys on Twitter.

"And Coach Gundy said they were going to score how many points against us?" Shepard said about Gundy saying a potential LSU-Oklahoma State matchup would end up 39-36 as opposed to LSU's 9-6 victory against Alabama.

But in the second quarter, the Cowboys offense came to life. After being held to 27 yards in the opening quarter, Oklahoma State erupted for 223 yards and three touchdowns in the second quarter to rally from a 14-0 deficit and pull even at 21 at halftime.

Behind Andrew Luck, Stanford twice took seven-point leads in the fourth quarter, only to watch the Cowboys rally.

Ironically, the Cowboys, who lost at Iowa State when Quinn Sharp missed a field goal in the final few minutes of regulation, ended up with the victory because Stanford's Jordan Williamson missed a 35-yarder on the final play of regulation.

Williamson had made 11 of 12 field goals this season inside 40 yards before pulling the potential game-winner wide left.

"I had this feeling there was a chance we would block it or he would miss it," Gundy said.

Williamson did miss at the end of regulation and then missed again in the first overtime and Oklahoma State won it on Sharp's 22-yard field goal. It was the only time Oklahoma State led the entire night.

The Cowboys proved against Stanford they have the nation's best wide receiver in Blackmon, who had eight receptions for 186 yards and three touchdowns. They also have one of the nation's top quarterbacks in Brandon Weeden, who threw for 399 yards.

But do the Cowboys also have the nation's best team? Not according to the BCS. However until there's some type of playoff, we'll never know that answer for sure.

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