December 30, 2007

Sub or Above?

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - There was a time when a 6-6 record meant that a team finished their season with a loss.

That was back when the only way teams could qualify for a bowl spot was by going 6-5 in the regular season.

Not anymore.

With the addition of a permanent 12-game season, a 6-6 record makes you bowl-eligible. The down side to that? It could also mean that a team could finish its season with a loss - and a 6-7 record.

That's definitely something teams at the .500 mark want to avoid. Is mentioning a bowl trip worth the trouble if it means going back home with a losing record? While just getting to a bowl is an accomplishment, finishing 7-6 is worlds better than ending up 6-7.

Last season, Oklahoma State managed to avoid that ugly losing record by defeating Alabama in the Independence Bowl. But once again, they're faced with the same proposition: Win and take home a bowl trophy and a winning record or lose and bring home nothing but more losses than wins.

So since the Pokes are in this situation for the second straight year, does this mean this year's 6-6 is worse or better than last year's 6-6?

"Oh I think there was progress made," tight end Brandon Pettigrew said. "I think there were times when we probably should have gotten it done, but we didn't. We lost some close ones that I definitely think we should have won, and some games we got beat, but I don't think the score really showed up like the game. I can't really say it's better. I mean, 6-6 is 6-6."

That last comment from the potential early NFL draftee rings is telling: even if there was progress made, did that progress matter since the record was the same?

'"I think we definitely took a step forward from last year, even though the record might not say it," quarterback Zac Robinson said. "It (going 6-6 again) definitely feels a lot different, because we played a lot of good football teams this year. We played a lot of good football teams last year, but for some reason, this just feels a bit different. It feels like we were in every game except for probably the last one."

"I think we're farther ahead than we were this time last year," head coach Mike Gundy said. "The question comes up a lot, you're 6-6 and you were 6-6 last year. I want to make it clear as a coaching staff and a representative of our players that we feel like we're working toward a goal to have an opportunity to win every game we play in the future. We prepared that way this year. There were three games that we weren't as competitive as we would have wanted to have been in the second half. The other games that we played, we either won or were competitive. Our goal is to win every game we played."

And while they won't have a chance to do that this year, they can still finish the season off on a high note by defeating Indiana in the Insight Bowl tomorrow evening inside Sun Devil Stadium.

Getting a second straight bowl win would bolster a program trying to rise up to the level of Oklahoma and Texas in the killer Big 12 South Division.

"I think it's real important for momentum, but also for the seniors to go out with a positive taste in their mouths," defensive end Nathan Peterson said. "I don't want my last memory of college football to be a loss. It's important to me and the other seniors to have the chance to go out with a win and have that last memory of college football at OSU to be a victory."

"It's going to be really important," said safety Ricky Price. "I want to be able to send this team off as champions to a great future. We're still striving for excellence. We're still trying to make a better progression. And even though the record is the same, I think we still have become a better team than we were last year. The senior leadership that we had this year was a little bit better than last year, the team's comment to practice - it was just a lot better than last year."

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