Stillwater, Okla. Already this season, No. 17 Oklahoma State has been able to celebrate its return to the Top 25 and its first undefeated start since Les Miles left for LSU.
The opportunity to take the next step and topple a highly ranked team presents itself today when the Cowboys (5-0, 1-0 Big 12) go to No. 3 Missouri.
Oklahoma State is seeking its first win against a top five opponent since 2002 and only its second 6-0 start since World War II. The last time the Cowboys started out 6-0, the streak ended with a 51-50 shootout loss to Missouri in Stillwater in 1997.
"You've got to love an opportunity like this, going in and playing a top five team in their home place. With the success that we've had, it's just an opportunity for us to try to showcase how good we really are," linebacker Andre Sexton said Monday.
"I was watching ESPN the other day and they were talking about the game, and they weren't giving us really any credit. But that's all right. We like it just like that."
A road win against the Tigers (5-0, 1-0) would bring immediate respect for a Cowboys team emerging from middling 7-6 seasons with its longest winning streak since 2003.
"Obviously we're on a big stage against a good team and people might say that we haven't had a test yet," quarterback Zac Robinson said. "It's definitely going to be a challenge, a great opportunity that we have, and we're all just really excited about it."
Despite whatever perception is out there, head coach Mike Gundy said he isn't preaching an underdog mentality to his team this week.
"I never have believed much in that," Gundy said. "I just believe in hard work and preparation. We've asked our staff to put their time and effort in, we've asked the players to commit throughout the week and do whatever it takes to be successful for the team.
"The only thing that I've ever believed in, whether we were 5-0 or when we were here our first year and we were not doing very well, is to work hard all day every day and do what it takes, work tirelessly and give the players a chance to win and ask them to play well. And then you go out there Saturday and you turn it loose."
The most noticeable progress for the Cowboys this season has come on the defensive side.
They've been able to provide sturdier resistance to opposing offenses, and last week scored a pair of touchdowns following interceptions by Ugo Chinasa and Patrick Lavine in a 56-28 win over Texas A&M.;
They'll need more of the same against a Missouri offense that ranks second in the nation in scoring and third in both total offense and pass defense.
"Everybody likes to hear that they're doing a good job, and so I think that helps them," Gundy said. "But you're only as good as your next game, and it's always going to be that way from here on out. They need to prepare well and play hard up there.
"Missouri's going to make some plays but we need to rally to the ball, we need to hit, strip, force turnovers - just what they did Saturday. If they make a play, you've got to hit them. You've got to be disruptive."