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STILLWATER, Okla. – Mike Gundy isn't worried about his team focusing this week despite all the hype that comes with being part of the Big 12's game of the season.
After six straight wins, No. 11 Oklahoma State (9-1, 6-1 Big 12) will host No. 3 Baylor (9-0, 6-0) on Saturday in a showdown with league title and BCS ramifications.
Beating Baylor will be a significant challenge because the Bears have averaged 61 points per game (57 per Big 12 contest) and have not won any game by fewer than 10 points.
"We got our work cut out for us this week, playing the best team in the league," Gundy said Monday. "Baylor's pretty much had their way with everybody they've played this year, I think everybody would agree with that. They're very deserving of being ranked third or fourth in the country. A lot of credit goes to them, so it should be a lot of fun Saturday night."
While some might be concerned about the hype overwhelming them or having too many distractions with ESPN's College Gameday show in town, Gundy said he isn't worried.
"This is a good group, we've got good leadership," Gundy said. "I think they understand what our strengths are, what our weaknesses are. They realize the importance of last night's preparation, tomorrow's preparation. We're not good enough to look past one day and I think everyone understands that."
The players are thrilled to have the opportunity to show what they're capable of, now that they've earned back some national recognition, and vow not to be intimidated by all the attention.
"I don't think it's any pressure or nervousness, a lot of guys have been through this before the last two years, playing in big games," senior offensive lineman Parker Graham said. "I'm just really excited for it. Gameday's going to be here, and that's a really big deal for this fan base, so it's going to be a lot of fun. We're just going to go out there, put together our best game plan, and try to come out with a win."
Following a loss at West Virginia, it might have been difficult to envision the Cowboys still having a shot to win their second Big 12 championship in three years, but the team has improved every week since then — particularly the offense after senior Clint Chelf took over at quarterback and junior Desmond Roland assumed primary running back duties about four weeks ago.
"We never really got down after West Virginia, we kind of threw that away," said senior receiver Charlie Moore, who recorded a season-high six receptions and 83 yards, along with a touchdown, in Saturday's win at Texas. "We knew that wasn't who we really were. Gundy did a great job of getting us focused on our next game and we started building from there. We learned from our mistakes, learned from what we were doing well, and it's got us to where we are now."
And while the path wasn't quite the one anyone anticipated, Oklahoma State is playing for the Big 12 title, just like the pundits predicted before the season.
"People had an idea of who we were, and that's who we knew we were," Moore said. "We had a little slip-up, but we didn't let it stop us and we just kept that vision, kept that identity of who we knew we were and just kept working on it."
Now that the goal is finally within sight, they will not be content with simply getting this far. The Cowboys say they intend to beat Baylor.
"It's going to be sold out, packed, people everywhere," said junior safety Lyndell Johnson. "Everybody was talking all week about if we win and Baylor wins, we get College Gameday. Well, we did and we got it now, and yeah, it's fun, but for us, we got a job to do, we got to win. We got to go out there and make it fun for everybody and get the W."