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How important is finishing 8-5 for Oklahoma State?

In the general scheme of things not gargantuan, but in a world where perception is everything there is still a LOT to play for.

NCAA Football: West Virginia at Oklahoma State Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports

The Cowboys have locked up a 13th consecutive bowl bid, as well as a 13th consecutive regular season without a losing record. For those who haven’t been alive long enough to remember wandering in the desert, let me remind you....

From 1960 to 1971 (12 seasons), OSU recorded 11 losing records and only once finished .500, averaging less than four wins a season. From 1989 to 2001 (13 seasons), Oklahoma State recorded 12 losing records, one winning record, and one WINLESS season (the only one since 1920), averaging exactly four wins per year (FYI...how the hell did we beat OU four times and tie once in this span of time?).

I’ve been alive for both.

Prior to Mike Gundy, OSU had never posted more than six consecutive winning records (1983-1988). From 1946 to 1971 (26 seasons), Oklahoma State posted just six winning records and finished .500 twice. Average wins per season?

Four...twenty-six consecutive seasons where four wins was OSU’s “Mendoza Line.”

Oklahoma State, with a win in either or both their final regular season contest and bowl game would mark the 13th STRAIGHT WINNING SEASON under Mike Gundy. In Gundy’s 14 years at the helm, the Cowboys have racked up as many wins (120 and counting) as OSU had in the 21 seasons prior to his arrival as head coach. If you include his time as OC under Les Miles, Gundy has had a hand in 142 wins over the last 17 seasons. You would have to go back 26 years (all the way to 1975) to surpass that mark. Since Gundy returned to Stillwater Oklahoma State has put up just TWO losing records.

Don’t come at me with your “Time for Gundy to go” blather. He’ll stay as long as he wants, and he’s earned it. Now, back to point of this post...

A losing record in conference is already in the books, which is just the second since 2006. Interestingly enough, the Cowboys have never done better than 7-6 overall when posting a losing record in conference play.

That mark for consecutive winning seasons has hung precariously on the ledge a few times, with bowl wins required to reach a 7-6 mark in 2006, 2007, and 2014.

I feel like the comp for this season is 2012, and the difference in perception of 8-5 and anything less for the current program is significant both nationally and as a fan base.

Should OSU reel off three straight to end the season at 8-5, not to mention going 4-2 after a bye week where we all speculated about impending disasters, it would rival the positive momentum going into 2013 and 2015. Recruiting results and spring practice would carry an air of eager anticipation. Phillip Slavin talks about how gaining bowl eligibility might be more important than actually winning the bowl game.

With the major turn-around following the bye week (how the hell did this team lose to Baylor???), it seems 8-5 should be the expected result. OSU finishes the regular season against an out-manned but feisty TCU squad, and will end up in a lower tier bowl against a team over which they should be easily favored. Oklahoma State has only lost twice in bowl games under Gundy when the signal caller WASN’T significantly hurt (2008 Holiday and 2013 Cotton).

Finish 7-6 or 6-7 and the taste left in our mouths will linger until next season. There will be little fanfare from the national media and the Cowboys will likely be picked in the bottom half of the 2019 Big 12 preseason standings. Storm home and that perception changes…maybe not demonstrably, but it will have a decidedly positive outlook for everyone watching.

As fans, you’re definitely on the side of a winning record in the regular season...