The popular refrain is that Oklahoma has nothing to play for after losing two of its first three games.
Sooners coach Bob Stoops isn't the least bit interested in advancing that theory.
Stoops feels winning the Big 12 title would rate as a big accomplishment and Oklahoma begins its hunt for the conference crown when it visits No. 21 TCU on Saturday (5 p.m. ET, FOX) at Fort Worth, Texas.
“We've won a lot of championships around here with a couple losses,” said Stoops, who has won or shared nine conference titles since becoming coach in 1999. “Keep fighting, keep improving. The better teams improve through the year and that's what we have to do. We have to keep improving this week to next week.”
The Horned Frogs (2-1, 1-0) also find themselves in must-win mode if they want to have a chance at becoming part of the College Football Playoff discussion.
TCU suffered a home loss to Arkansas earlier this season and there isn't any remaining wiggle room.
Horned Frogs coach Gary Patterson has been selling his team on the importance of the Big 12 title since the nonconference loss to the Razorbacks and his message only increased this week.
There is also the matter of starting a new home venue winning streak. TCU had won 14 straight at home prior to the Arkansas loss.
“One of the things you can't take for granted, the home crowd can give you emotion, but it can't be your emotion,” Patterson said. “That's one thing as a young football team you've got to learn. You can feed off of it, but you already have to have it.”
The Horned Frogs certainly are proficient on offense again this season — averaging 42.8 points per game — and junior quarterback Kenny Hill has led the way.
The Texas A&M transfer has been a solid passer by completing 66.1 percent of his throws for 1,487 yards and six touchdowns. He has topped 400 yards passing in two of his four games for TCU.
Hill also has been a potent force in the running game with 166 yards and six touchdowns. His rushing yards are second behind junior Kyle Hicks (314).
Another SEC transfer, junior John Diarse, has also made an impact. The former LSU wideout caught six passes for a career-high 139 yards in last Friday's victory over SMU, including a 75-yard catch-and-run touchdown.
He has caught 16 passes already this season after totaling 28 in two seasons at LSU.
“Diarse has been in big ballgames at LSU, and he transferred here because he wanted to catch more balls,” Patterson said. “The bottom line is he's done a great job.”
The Sooners have also been productive offensively while averaging 35.3 points. Junior quarterback Baker Mayfield has passed for 793 yards and seven touchdowns against two interceptions.
Mayfield sees the potential to do more individually. He's also got the same view as Stoops when hearing all the naysayers pontificating about how Oklahoma has nothing to play for.
“I mean, we can still end up playing in a New Year's Day bowl in one of the big-time bowl games,” Mayfield said. “It's not discouraging at all. If you can go end up and play in something like the Rose Bowl or the Orange Bowl again — I mean, I know the playoffs are in Atlanta and Arizona — but other than that, yeah, one of the other big-time bowl games is obviously a big accomplishment that we can go do.”
The Sooners have been suspect on defense and are one of seven teams nationally without an interception. Oklahoma is allowing 31.7 points and was drilled for 33 and 45 points in losses to Houston and Ohio State, respectively.
TCU's defense just got its first two interceptions of the campaign in the 33-3 rout of SMU. The Horned Frogs have allowed just 23 points over their last two games and getting torched for 82 over their first two.
Sophomore outside linebacker Ty Summers leads TCU with 39 tackles after recording a combined 29 over the past two games.
Oklahoma leads the series 10-5 and has won five of the six previous matchups in Fort Worth.
The Sooners won 30-29 at home last season and led by 17 points in the fourth quarter before the Horned Frogs staged a rally.