NORMAN, Okla. – When it comes to 2-0 starts, Oklahoma’s ranks somewhere between uninspiring and sluggish.
Unimpressive in a road victory over a UTEP team which managed to score all of 10 points at Ole Miss. Uninteresting and uninterested in a rout of Florida A&M.
Now the Sooners get Kansas State on FOX. That’s 3-0 Kansas State, ranked No. 15 in the country and attention-grabbing with its season-opening rolling of Miami.
Watch any college football preview show and the talk will be about K-State, its success and its quarterback, Collin Klein.
You’ll probably also hear things like: BCS Buster, Upset Watch, etc.
But when it comes to Kansas State vs. Oklahoma, there’s another term that may be more applicable:
OK, the Sooners haven’t stunk this season. Yet, the sixth-ranked Sooners haven’t exactly been a breath of fresh air either, but putting Oklahoma on notice against Kansas State is closer to an overreaction than anything else.
Since Bob Stoops took over as coach in 1999, the Sooners are 14-0 at home against ranked teams. Texas Tech in 2011? TCU in 2005 and Oklahoma State in 2001? None of them were ranked. Upsets may happen in Norman, but good teams seem to get OU’s attention.
Great teams get blown out.
And K-State doesn’t beat the Sooners.
“Oh, I don’t know about any Upset Watch,” said Oklahoma co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell. “Everybody always has Oklahoma on every watch. I just know we have to be ready to play.”
That’s never been an issue when quality teams show up in Norman. Last year, the Sooners played five ranked teams, but all were away from home. In 2011, OU beat No. 17 Florida State 47-17. In 2009, OU beat No. 11 Oklahoma State 27-0. In 2008, OU topped ranked teams TCU, Kansas and then No. 2 Texas Tech. None of the three games were closer than 14 points. Throw in wins against Nebraska, Missouri and Oklahoma State and you have a list of powerful perfection.
“It’s just a different mindset against ranked teams,” said linebacker Corey Nelson. “We just have a hunger to be better. We know we’ll get the best. It creates a higher intensity level. We’ve had slip-ups, but we tend to lock in more for the ranked teams.”
And since Stoops took the reigns before the 1999 season, no one has brought out the intensity like Kansas State has.
Stoops played at Iowa when Kansas State coach Bill Snyder was an assistant. He then worked alongside Snyder with the Hawkeyes and followed Snyder to Kansas State as an assistant.
It has resulted in a 7-1 record for Stoops against his former boss, including a 58-17 win at Kansas State last season. Only two of the eight wins have been decided by less than 10 points. The lone loss came in the 2003 Big 12 title game and OU went on to play in the national championship game that season.
“We weren’t beat because of the helmet they were wearing,” Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein said to the Associated Press after last season’s loss. “They’ve just made plays and we haven’t.”
Maybe not, but Kansas State’s biggest issue under Snyder has been Oklahoma. In 2000, Kansas State was ranked No. 2 before losing to the Sooners, then falling again in the Big 12 title game.
The ‘Cats were unbeaten in 2005 before losing to an Oklahoma team that came into the game 1-2 overall. K-State was impressive at 7-0 before getting wiped out last year in Manhattan, Kan.
So, here they are again. Unbeaten behind Klein, who brings a renewed passing attack to complement his running game. Klein ranks fourth in the Big 12 in total offense and has accounted for nine touchdowns.
Meanwhile, OU quarterback Landry Jones the same number of passing touchdowns as Klein in the past seven games. Jones has a lower passer efficiency and has not exactly lived up to Heisman stature this season, despite being a school record-holder in nearly every passing category.
The talk is all K-State, seeing as how the Sooners haven’t played a big-name team and haven’t played well after lesser opponents.
“We know we haven’t played our best football yet,” cornerback Demontre Hurst said. “We know it for a fact.”
Hard to say the same can be said for Kansas State. While slogging around in wins against Missouri State and North Texas, the Cats were near perfect against Miami, getting the nation’s attention as well as the Sooners’.
“This is our first big game,” said left tackle Lane Johnson. “Our first big test. We’re approaching it like a championship game.”
Well, that might be a bit of an overreaction, too. The Sooners don’t need to treat Saturday night’s game like a title match.
They’d be better off just treating it like K-State is coming to town.
That’s been good enough in the past.
“I’d like to think our attention to detail and focus is the same (each week),” Stoops said. “But sometimes we’ve played pretty well. There’s no exact science to it.”
Maybe there’s no science to it, but the formula is simple to spot.
When there’s a ranked team in Norman, the Sooners step their game up.
“We want to go out there with no doubts,” Johnson said. “We take a different focus and approach when good teams play us. I think it intensifies. It changes our focus.”