While USA Today and CBS Sports both went with the Oklahoma Sooners to finish atop the Big 12 Conference in 2017, Sports Illustrated became the first major publication to put Oklahoma State in the 2017 College Football Playoff. Releasing their preseason predictions on Wednesday, SI had the Cowboys at No. 4, grabbing the final spot in the playoff field. Ranked ahead of Oklahoma State in the SI rankings were Alabama, Florida State and Ohio State.

A good-but-not-great Pitt (Sept. 16) is the Cowboys’ most challenging non–Big 12 matchup. That’s not to say Oklahoma State needs to be perfect; a loss to a ranked conference foe might not doom the Pokes, should they go on to win the title showdown. – Sports Illustrated

The Cowboys return quarterback Mason Rudolph (featured on one of four regional covers), who is most likely the top NFL quarterback prospect in the conference, along with a talented group of receivers led by James Washington.

Mark Cooper, of the Tulsa World, asked O-State head coach Mike Gundy about the cover, with Gundy responding, “It was a long process for us to get to a point where people across the country say, ‘We respect Oklahoma State football.’”

OSU has been the conference runner-up the last two seasons and finished 10-3 in 2016, including a 38-8 thrashing of Colorado in the Alamo Bowl.