4. Spencer Sanders is making plays.
He’s not perfect, but Spencer Sanders has grown even more comfortable under Mike Gundy and has limited his big mistakes. OSU’s quarterback can feel pressure, he throws the ball when necessary, and he can bounce back from a mistake better than before.
Sanders is making plays with his feet, and he’s thrown for eight touchdowns and only one interception in his past four games. With a steady hand at quarterback who is capable of making big plays, the Cowboys can realistically hope to win their next three games (including a Big 12 title game).
3. OSU has quality wins.
The Cowboys have beaten five teams in the ESPN Top 50 FPI rankings, which attempt to rank each college football team among the 130 FBS member schools each season. The Cowboys will have a chance to burnish this mark, of course, with the regular-season finale against Oklahoma (No. 5 in the current FPI and No. 13 in the CFP rankings).
From road wins against Texas and Boise State to home triumphs against Baylor and Kansas State, OSU has played and beaten quality competition all year long. OSU is currently ranked No. 6 in these FPI rankings.
2. OSU could finish as a one-loss conference champion.
Despite getting less love from national media than the SEC or the Big Ten, the Big 12 is a competitive power conference and is significantly better than the Pac-12 or the ACC this season. A couple scenarios that would earnestly help the Cowboys would be: a decisive win by Georgia over Alabama in the eventual SEC championship game, a late-season stumble by either Notre Dame or Cincinnati, and a messy Big Ten title picture.
Even several of these aforementioned events happen, the Cowboys would be in a good position to advance into the CFP top four. Of course, OSU would need to beat Texas Tech, OU, and win the Big 12 championship game for all of this to happen.
1. OSU has a dominant defense.
Oklahoma State ranks among the top five teams in the nation in the following categories: total defense, rushing defense, third-down defense, sacks, tackle for loss, and first downs allowed.
In short, the Cowboys are riding a historically dominant defense that may be the best in the nation after a certain team from Athens, Ga.
They say that defenses win championships while offenses sell tickets. It’s certainly true that defenses travel: consider that the Pokes have ridden the Jim Knowles-coached unit to crucial wins on the road all season, ranging from a scoreless second half by Boise State in OSU’s 21-20 victory and a 24-3 drubbing of West Virginia in Morgantown.