"The Big 12 has a perception problem."
How rich would you be if I gave you a quarter every time you heard that throughout the course of this season?
Oklahoma State comes into this Sugar Bowl on a bit of a slump, losing two in a row to Baylor and Oklahoma. However, now is not the time to sulk. While it's not the College Football Playoff that we all so desperately wanted to be in, it is still a New Year's Six bowl game, and a victory against one of the SEC blue-bloods would pay huge dividends for Oklahoma State on the recruiting trail.
It felt as if some OSU fans were disappointed with the outcome of the season, and rightfully so. I understand the frustration of going 10-0 and then getting blown out twice in as many games with the conference and so much more on the line. In return, now is not the time to be down about the struggles the team had with Baylor and OU. That is over.
My hope is that the team, coaches, and fans, realize how big of a deal this Sugar Bowl bid really is. If I were to think back on my childhood, and growing up a college football fanatic, I would remember the years of being so excited for the BCS bowl games, and the Sugar Bowl always held a special place in my heart.
Maybe it's the Superdome. Maybe it's the steep history of the bowl. Maybe it's the sense of having "arrived" at the big boy party, and cementing your name into the upper echelon of college football programs.
If it's any of those things, Oklahoma State should have plenty of motivation to play in the Sugar Bowl.
This season, this bowl game means more to the conference than it does to Oklahoma State. Before you burn me at the stake, allow me to go back to my first point.
The Big 12 has a perception problem.
It has a negative image in the eyes of voters, ESPN talking heads, fans, and even recruits. Kyle at PFB wrote about how an Oklahoma national title would turn the tide for the Big 12. In my opinion, the tide turned when Oklahoma became the first Big 12 team to be placed in the College Football Playoff. If OU goes on and wins a title, of course it will be great for the conference, but there is still a huge matchup between the Big 12 and SEC in New Orleans.
If Oklahoma were to meet up with Alabama and the Sooners knock off the Crimson Tide in the championship game, would anybody be surprised? Probably not. ESPN's FPI currently gives OU the edge to win the whole thing.
If Oklahoma State were to knock off Ole Miss, a perennial SEC power in the Sugar Bowl, would anybody be surprised?
Everyone would be.
Oklahoma State is not a first tier team in the Big 12. Baylor and Oklahoma have that locked down for the time being. Ole Miss is a first tier team in the SEC. It took a 4th-and-23 miracle from Arkansas to keep Ole Miss from playing Florida in the SEC title game, and probably winning the SEC!
If a good-but-not-great Oklahoma State team goes in and beats an NFL talent-ladened team from the SEC, how could anybody discount the Big 12 as a conference?
The SEC is heralded as college football's best conference year-in and year-out, and the Big 12 is continuously scoffed at. The only people that believe the Big 12 can hang with the SEC are fans of teams in the conference.
Oklahoma State has a unique chance to turn the page on the Big 12, and prove to those outside the conference that while the Big 12 does play a different brand of football, it is a brand of football that only the best of teams can keep up with.