Let's get this out of the way before we go any further...
If you came here expecting Kansas to be on this list, then you should stop reading and continue working on the minutes from your last "THE U.S. WILL WIN THE WORLD CUP" fan club meeting.
Now, on to more serious conversation.
When polling our contributors it quickly became obvious that OU, Texas, and Florida State would occupy spots for various and legitimate reasons. Of the eight lists I received of the top 3 key games for the upcoming season, only 2 did NOT include all three of these teams in varying order (Florida State was left off both, TCU & Tech filled in).
Not suprisingly, the departure of Joe Wickline to Texas has brought additional animus towards the Longhorns, with UT pulling more #1 votes than OU or Florida State. OSU faithful should be particularly eager to see 50 sacks and -200 rushing yards when Texas visits Stillwater on Nov 15, and that might not be enough.
While I'm always going to agree with OU, I'm taking a slightly different tack. Here's my top 3 most important games for Oklahoma State in 2014:
If you think Bryce Petty and Art Briles AREN'T looking forward to hosting the Cowboys in shiny new McLane Stadium on 11/22, watch this...
That was an ass whooping of an extraordinary level on national TV. Their asses will still be very sore when OSU heads to Waco, and it will be the same whether the Cowboys show up riding high or struggling.
2. Bedlam in Norman
The last two versions of Bedlam, while utterly disappointing for Cowboy faithful, have been equally epic. I would expect nothing else this season as OU enters 2014 still hanging ten on the wave of the "Bama Beatdown" in the Sugar Bowl. By the time early December rolls around, we will know whether or not the Sooners are overrated and if OSU is rebuilding or reloading.
I'm also going to qualify this choice a little bit.
In my "old school" OSU fan book, Bedlam will ALWAYS be the most important game year in and year out. Other games will come and go on this list depending on the season, but there will NEVER be anything more important to me than beating OU EVERY SEASON. I'm sure there will be games that carry greater significance, but those games are often seen in hindsight. Gundy needs to take down Stoops in a year other than when he has the vastly superior team (2011).
That being said, here comes #1 for 2014...
I'll give you 5 minutes while you question my intelligence.
Now that you're done with that, hear me out...
Fresh off a win over Georgia in the season opener, the Cowboys spit the bit against Houston.
Now comes 2014 and defending national champ Florida State with the reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston.
While this contest is not viewed as the standoff that was Georgia-OSU 2009, it's still two prominent football programs in the opening game of the season. Anything can happen (we hope), but Cowboy fans will have VERY tempered expectations going into that game.
Missouri State will provide a nice, soft landing in Stillwater the following week.
Then comes Larry Coker and UTSA.
Almost every season it seems we have that one "stupid" game that OSU shouldn't lose, but sometimes does.
Iowa State 2011
West Virginia 2013
With the exception of Ames (extenuating circumstances and late in the season) most of the "stupid" losses have occurred prior to 10/1.
UTSA comes to Stillwater 9/13.
Remember what happened last season at the Alamo Dome? After running up a big lead and sitting the starters, the Roadrunners quickly (pun intended) closed the gap enough that the Cowboys HAD to score a couple extra times to once again relax.
This is a decent mid-major returning LOTS of players...bunches of seniors...and a serviceable veteran QB. Their offense moved the ball quite well for a lot of that game. They are well coached.
Here's where we find out whether or not Gundy is reloading or rebuilding. I'm very convinced of this. The defense will get tested by a veteran offense that's had a couple of games to get their wits about them (@Houston, Arizona). If the defense has found there way (and some bodies), then this should be an easy win. If not, this is a Travis Tritt song...
While excited, I'm not overly invested in the Florida State game. Weird stuff can happen, so whether or not OSU plays a great game or gets run out of the stadium doesn't change much how I'll view the rest of the season.
Feel free to call me on that if OSU wins and I go hyperbolic...
Honorable mention definitely goes to Texas. It's never a bad thing to beat the Longhorns.
Chime in with you opinions and your key games in the comments!