Gundy Has a Grasp on Winning Bowls

John Helsley

Picking bowl games is risky business. So to anyone who fancies the betting life, particularly betting football bowl games, best of luck.

You’ll need it.

That said, Oklahoma State may offer more certainty.

Why is gauging bowl games so sketchy? The unknown.

Pegging winners during the regular season can be tough enough. And the postseason doesn’t align with the trends of the previous months.

There’s the time off, and how the teams respond to it. The guys haven’t played for real for weeks and the rust can show.

The bowl is the reward, so in some ways getting there is the end game, and not so much the result, unless it’s a high stakes affair. That can bleed through in practice effort and even off-the-field actions, as Oklahoma knows.

Premium players headed for the NFL are deciding more and more not to play in bowl games. In OSU’s favor, star running back Chuba Hubbard decided to play while he delays word on his future. A&M isn’t so fortunate, with its top defender, defensive lineman Justin Madubuike skipping Friday’s game.

And as OSU knows, coaching turnover and rumors can come into play during the carousel portion of the season. At worst, they can impact chemistry and preparation.

Still, the Cowboys have one significant factor on their side: Mike Gundy.

Let’s start with the consistency of getting to the postseason. For the 14th straight season, Gundy has delivered OSU to a bowl, with only his debut year of 2005 the exception. That streak is the ninth-longest in college football and, by far, the longest in program history.

Gundy is 9-4 in the postseason, and his teams have won four of five entering bowl games entering this clash with the Aggies. The Cowboys haven’t looked like a distracted or checked-out squad in any of their bowl games under Gundy.

To Gundy’s credit, he seems to have found a sweet spot for balancing fun and seriousness when it comes to prepping for the postseason.

“These bowl games are really important for the players,” Gundy said. “Sometimes people say bowls are fading and they’re not that important — that’s not true at all. This is a great time.

“You have to remember, these young men don’t (usually) get to do things like this. They don’t get to be somewhere for a week, in a really nice hotel, eat nice food, and be involved in (fun) activities. They’re making memories lasting the rest of their lives.”

Advantage Cowboys?

Not necessarily. A&M coach Jimbo Fisher is 6-2 in the postseason and talks, too, about managing the lead-up to the game.

“There’s an art to getting your team ready to play in bowl games,” he said.

And then, there’s the other stuff.

OSU will be without two of three starting safeties for half the game, and down one – injured Kolby Harvell-Peel – for all of the Texas Bowl. Tre Sterling must sit the first half after getting ejected for targeting in the Bedlam game. That puts a lot of pressure on youngsters Tanner McCalister and Jason Taylor II as they’re forced into elevated roles.

A&M is down to two scholarship running backs for the game, starter Isaiah Spiller and reserve Connor Blumrick. Backup Cordarrain Richardson is not with the team, for unspecified reasons; former starter Jashaun Corbin is out with injury; and two other backs have entered the transfer portal.

Advantage who?

The game looks like a toss-up, although there are plenty of other pending storylines to consider, including how much Spencer Sanders plays at quarterback.

Some good news for Cowboys fans: Gundy’s teams have a history of playing competitively, and winning, in the postseason.

"I think we're all excited,” said Dru Brown, OSU’s other quarterback. “We've been practicing for quite a while now, so we just want to play the game already."

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