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After Bedlam Celebration, Cowboys’ Focus Shifts to Baylor, Big 12 Crown and CFP

Cowboys already projected to make Final Four.

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[Devin Wilber/PFB]

While most of Stillwater’s population woke up in a state of Bedlam bliss, the players and coaches that earned the historically rivalry win have to get back to business.

“We have to go back to work tomorrow at 4,” said Mike Gundy on Saturday night. “Baylor is going back to work tomorrow. I told them I wish you had a week to enjoy this, we don’t have a week to enjoy this.”

I guess the Cowboys will have a few more hours to soak in the win, but they’ve got bigger fish to fry. Bears, actually.

Between the Pokes and the school’s second-ever Big 12 title stand the Baylor Bears, a 10-win team that handed Oklahoma its other loss on the year and, therefore, holds a tie-breaker over the Sooners for conference contention. The Bears’ two losses came in Stillwater and Fort Worth.

To secure their trip to Arlington, the Bears withstood a rally from Texas Tech on Saturday sans their starting quarterback Gerry Bohanon. In his stead, redshirt freshman Blake Shapen performed admirably throwing 20-for-34 for 254 yards and two scores. No word on who will take snaps in Arlington. Baylor still had to fight off a late-surging Texas Tech team and a previously perfect nails kicker. Jonathan Garibay, of walk-off 62-field goal fame, missed a 53-yarder as time expired.

The Cowboys were headed to Arlington before Bedlam festivities commenced, but the trip has taken on a whole new feel. If we ignored the Crimson elephant in the room for a second, the prospect of losing to any team at home and then having to face them again a week later for hardware is problematic. That’s what the Cowboys were facing had they succumbed to their turnovers, missed tackles and special teams snafus. But they didn’t. This team has more grit than that.

“Game of a bunch of emotional swings with the special teams plays, kick return touchdown, couple really good returns, dropped punts,” said Gundy “Both teams gave each other a touchdown then we gave up a safety with it.

“I told them it was a culture win to be behind [and win]. Their body language was good, attitude was good. They learned to play the next play.”

Coaches can coach and players can motivate themselves to play in a conference title game regardless of the opponent. But leaving that red behemoth at home and facing a Bears team you’ve already bested is the preferred route. With that monkey knocked off its back, Oklahoma State can go make history.

This win over OU could end up as the most impactful ever depending upon how the Cowboys finish. A Big 12 championship and 12th win next week would match what the 2011 team accomplished. That’s not the ceiling for this team. An a inclusion in the College Football Playoff is very much a possibility depending on how things shake out in conference title games all over the country.

Sunday morning CFP projections, like this one from CBS Sports’ Jerry Palm, already have the Cowboys making the playoff. He’s got Georgia at 1, Michigan at 2, Cincinnati at 3 and Oklahoma State at 4. Imagine the Pokes’ defense lined up against Georgia’s. Here’s how that probably shakes out.

No. 2 Ohio State, like Oklahoma, got boxed out of its conference championship game by a fierce rival, so the two-loss Buckeyes are out. Michigan will move into the Top 4 on Tuesday night and face Iowa for a Big Ten trophy on Saturday. Win and Wolverines are in.

Alabama looked ready to giftwrap the Cowboys a present in its in-state rivalry game before the Crimson Tide took advantage of Auburn’s version of Squinky and won the Iron Bowl in four overtimes. But the Tide has looked human this year and still has to play an unstoppable-looking Georgia defense in the SEC title game. OSU fans should root for the Bulldogs.

Any hopes of a Pac-12 CFP berth died with Oregon’s loss to Utah last week. Future Big 12 comrade Cincinnati is already in the Top 4 and plays another future Big 12 program in Houston for a chance to go 13-0. No reason to bump the Bearcats for finishing undefeated and added a conference title to their resume.

Then there’s Notre Dame, currently a spot ahead of OSU at 6. But a win against a three-win Stanford team pales to Bedlam. The Cowboys could leapfrog the Irish on Tuesday, and Notre Dame has no conference title game to pad its resume with.

You can never say for sure what the committee is going to do, but it would be hard for the Cowboys to be left out with a Big 12 crown and finishing the year with consecutive Top 10 wins. But just to be sure, the Pokes should make it a convincing win.

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