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Who Are These Oklahoma State Cowboys - Pretenders or Contenders?

It's been easy to judge the Oklahoma State Cowboys as being the Little Engine That Couldn't over the past several years.

Forget that Nebraska hasn't won in Stillwater since 1995 - the Huskers have only played there twice since then, so it's not like Oklahoma State has built a huge winning streak. The Cowboys have won the last three of four against Nebraska, including the 45-14 disaster in Bill Callahan's last season, but those have little to do with the "fail" moniker attached to Cowboy football. 

What I'm saying is - leave Nebraska out of the equation altogether, and you're still left with a team that's seen some good seasons but hasn't ever been able to put it all together a win a championship. 

In 2009, Oklahoma State finished second in the Big 12 South for the first time, which sounds like a great season until you remember that the Cowboys were destroyed 27-0 by their Sooner rivals at the end of the season, then lost the Cotton Bowl 21-7 to Ole Miss - another "fail". 

In 2010, Mike Gundy entered his sixth season, with a 36-27 record, which doesn't sound all that impressive until you consider that his Cowboys have gone to four straight bowl games and had consecutive nine-win seasons for the first time in school history.

2010 is the second time in three years the Cowboys have started 6-0, but only the fourth time in school history. They've been 7-0 only twice, once in 1945, and two seasons ago when they finished the season 9-4 after running into Texas, Texas Tech in Lubbock, Oklahoma, and Oregon in the Holiday Bowl. (Fail again, you sense a pattern here?)

This year everyone expected a giant bundle of suck from the Cowboys. Phil Steele, who likes to remind you of how accurate he is, picked the Cowboys to finish sixth in the Big 12 South, along with most of the other national magazines. They already won their first two conference games, having defeated Texas A&M and Texas Tech, winning in Lubbock for the first time since 1944, so you can throw those predictions out the window. 

So are the Cowboys on the verge of a break through? 

That's what Saturday may be about. Win, and the Cowboys will take another step towards proving they're a contender. Lose, and while their season isn't over, it's certainly proof that they've been beating up on less than stellar competition, and it does nothing to shake the 'nearly there' that's described Cowboy football for decades.