By JEFF LATZKE
AP College Football Writer
STILLWATER — Oklahoma State's surprising rise to Big 12 championship contender has a common thread with a similar run by Kansas three seasons ago: defensive coordinator Bill Young.
Young was a part of Mark Mangino's staff when the Jayhawks won the Orange Bowl in 2007, the school's first trip to a BCS bowl.
Now, he's trying to engineer that type of run by the 12th-ranked Cowboys (9-1, 5-1 Big 12), who play at Kansas (3-7, 1-5) on Saturday. Oklahoma State has never won the Big 12 South title, but leads the division by one game with two to play. With a win in the Big 12 title game, OSU would reach a BCS bowl for the first time.
"That's our goal, no question about it, and we control our destiny," Young said. "We've just got to keep winning."
The Jayhawks had six straight losing seasons when Young was brought in on Mangino's new staff in 2002. The program broke through with a bowl appearance in 2005 and just missed out during a .500 season in 2006, then capped a surprising 12-1 run the following year with a victory against Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl.
Oklahoma State's run isn't nearly as unexpected following back-to-back nine-win seasons, but the Cowboys were supposed to be rebuilding after losing starting quarterback Zac Robinson, NFL first-round draft picks Russell Okung and Dez Bryant, and nine defensive starters.
"I think there's a lot of parallels with that last season, but I think our program's a little farther along than they were," Young said. "From a recruiting standpoint, I know when I was at Kansas, I'd come to Oklahoma and the only people I could recruit were the people that Oklahoma State didn't want."