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College football top 25 countdown: No. 25 Oklahoma

The Sooners have one of the toughest schedules in the nation, but Oklahoma seems to fare better when it has to fight its way up the BCS standings.

August 03, 2013|Chris Dufresne
  • Oklahoma Coach Bob Stoops answers a question at a news conference Saturday in Norman, Okla.
Oklahoma Coach Bob Stoops answers a question at a news conference Saturday… (Sue Ogrocki / Associated…)

Don't get mad, Sooner Nation, get nostalgic.

Ranking Oklahoma at No. 25 seems almost sacrilege until you rewind tape of last year's Cotton Bowl drubbing by Texas A&M.

Johnny Manziel embarrassed Oklahoma's defense for 516 total yards in a 41-13 win that ended for the Sooners a very disappointing, if not oxymoronic, 10-3 season.

This just wasn't the Oklahoma we've all come to love or, in Austin, Texas, loathe.

The rush defense finished No. 89 nationally behind schools such as Rice and Hawaii.

The Sooners lost two games at home (unheard of), albeit they were to Kansas State and Notre Dame.

And now the Sooners need to find a starting quarterback, return only four starters on defense and play the nation's second-toughest schedule according to Phil Steele's tiny-type preseason magazine.

Do the math: It adds up to preseason 25, and you'll thank Rankman for this later.

Truth is, Oklahoma has fared better in the Bowl Championship Series era when it has had to scrap, fight, kick and punch. The Sooners are not good front-runners, having captured just one national title despite owning a record 20 weeks on top of the BCS standings.

So let's just pretend this is 2000, the year after second-year Bob Stoops led a downtrodden program to a respectable 7-5.

The 2000 Oklahoma Sooners opened the year ranked No. 20 in the USA Today coaches' poll and No. 19 in the Associated Press index.

While no one was paying attention early, the Sooners kept winning, debuted at No. 2 in the first BCS standings and went on to win the national title.

Oklahoma needs that kind of mentality in this year of transition. The Sooners are losing 50 career starts and 16,646 passing yards from Landry Jones and trading it for the unknown.

Junior Blake Bell, the presumed starter, enters the season with more career rushing touchdowns (24) than passing attempts (20).

Bell has been the short-yardage specialist the last two years and earned the appropriate nickname "Belldozer."

Stoops says it is inaccurate to suggest Bell can't throw or that he's even going to be the opening-day starter.

"We've never recruited a guy that we didn't feel would be a great passer," Stoops said, adding, "We've never been really excited about naming a guy too early."

The fall fight was going to be a three-way competition among Bell, Trevor Knight and Kendal Thompson.

That was before Thompson recently fractured his foot and will be lost for an extended period.

Stoops said all three guys had "uh-oh moments" even before the competition began.

Whichever quarterback emerges is going to face a schedule that wily fox Kansas State Coach Bill Snyder, Stoops' mentor, would run from faster than dinner with a reporter.

The nonconference slate features a tough home game against Tulsa, last year's Conference USA champion, and a trip to Notre Dame in late September.

The Sooners also have Big 12 trips to Kansas State and Oklahoma State and the annual Texas State Fair game against what Coach Mack Brown prays is a much-improved Texas team.

The schedule strength gives Oklahoma plenty of poll-top closing speed should the Sooners start stringing together victories.

As 2000 Oklahoma quarterback Josh Heupel could tell you, it's not where the Boomer Schooner starts the season that counts.

It's where it finishes.

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