Friday, October 30, 2009

Who's Your (Sugar) Daddy?

Mike Gundy may be a man now (at least he thinks so), but part of his everyday challenge is very much the burden foisted upon every boy the world over - making his daddy proud.

Gundy's daddy, metaphorically speaking, of course, is T. Boone Pickens, a Texas oil man. A man who's given over a quarter of a billion bucks to the Oklahoma State athletic program. A man whose name graces the Cowboys' brand-spanking new stadium.

And Gundy has no better opportunity to please his (sugar) daddy than this week.

Oklahoma State's football program, thanks to the largess of Pickens, is trying to emerge from the shadows of Oklahoma and Texas and become a bona fide powerhouse in the Big 12. The trouble is, in order to be in their company, you have to beat them at least once in awhile.

Gundy has never beaten either since taking over as the Cowboys head coach in 2005. In fact, OSU last defeated Oklahoma in 2002 and has not won against Texas since 1997, which was the only time in history that the Cowboys managed to defeat both in the same season.

They have a chance to rewrite some history, beginning Saturday night when the Longhorns visit Boone Pickens Stadium, an invasion that's certain to draw a record crowd in Stillwater.

Texas is ranked No. 3, in line for its first BCS title game berth since 2005, and favored by 9 1/2 points. But the Cowboys, whose lone loss was at home to Houston, can seize control of the Big 12 South race with an upset victory. That would put them on course for the school's first Big 12 title, first BCS bowl game, and first 10-win season, ever.

It's a lot to play for. It's something to make your daddy real proud ... and rest assured he'll be there, since he never misses a game.

By all accounts, Pickens has not been the meddling type, but you'd be a fool to think that a man who's given OSU $400 million over the years doesn't exert some influence. Gundy, for example, got a new seven-year contract worth $15.7 million at the end of last season. We're just guessing that some (if not most) of that money comes out of Pickens' pocket.

For now, Gundy will have earn his keep without All-American wideout Dez Bryant, who has been declared ineligible for the rest of the season by the unforgiving NCAA. You see, even at OSU, there is a higher power that even Pickens' billions can't buy.

★★★★★ GAME OF THE WEEK: USC at Oregon, 8 p.m. ET (ABC). As important as the Texas-OSU game is, it doesn't quite take the top billing. Oregon has a chance to end USC's seven-year reign as the Pac-10's top dog, something the Ducks thought they had accomplished in 2007, but couldn't quite finish the job. The Trojans, despite playing a freshman quarterback, are in the thick of the BCS title race. A USC win at Autzen Stadium all but locks up, at the minimum, a record eighth straight trip to a BCS bowl.

★★★★ FOUR-STAR GAME: Texas at Oklahoma State, 8 p.m. ET (ABC). The Longhorns have beaten the Cowboys in the last 11 meetings and are 21-2 all-time against OSU. But the Cowboys have made things interesting of late, losing only 28-24 last year and dropping a 38-35 decision in 2007 after blowing a 21-point fourth-quarter lead. The winner of this game will effectively claim the Big 12 South and be a heavy favorite in the conference title game.

★★★ THREE-STAR GAME: Georgia vs. Florida, 3:30 p.m. ET (CBS). The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party has been reduced to merely The Coke-Zero Tailgate Hangout as the recession and Georgia's mediocrity both have put a damper on this rivalry. The Gators are still acting mad about the entire-team celebration stunt from two years ago. The Bulldogs, meanwhile, are not acting or saying anything for fear of a repeat of last year's beatdown.

★★ TWO-STAR GAME: Indiana at Iowa, noon p.m. ET (ESPN). Will Iowa's luck finally run out? They have pushed the envelope in just about every game this season, including last week's Houdini-like escape against Michigan State. This year's Hoosiers are actually not half bad, and if the Hawkeyes are already dreaming about the BCS or the Rose Bowl, they could be in for a sudden and rude awakening.

★ ONE-STAR GAME: Cincinnati at Syracuse, noon ET (ESPNU). The Bearcats seem to be on a collision course with Pittsburgh in the season finale for the Big East crown and a BCS bowl berth. But they still have a few more obstacles to overcome before they can get there and aim for an undefeated season. Cincy's task this week? Beat a standout basketball star in the biggest on-campus basketball arena.

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