OU Football: Next Three Games Will Be Major Character Tests

The OU football loss to Houston on Saturday wasn’t as big a surprise as everyone is making it. The surprise was the way the Sooners lost to the reigning champions of the American Athletic Conference.

Sep 3, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) walks off the field after a play during the fourth quarter against the Houston Cougars at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The sports talk shows and the college football commentary and conversations around the country this week are filled with banter about how bad a game Oklahoma played on Saturday in a game in which the stakes were just as high for the Sooners as they were for Houston, a team that finished No. 8 in the country in the final AP poll last season and is trying very hard to earn an invitation to become a member of the Big 12.

The final score of the Oklahoma-Houston game, 33-23, wasn’t really indicative of how dominant Houston was in the game. The Cougars made big plays on offense, defense, special teams and by the coaching staff. The Sooners did not, and that was pretty much the long and the short of it.

Hardly the type of performance you would expect from a team ranked No. 3 in the country and one of the choices by many college football experts to make it into the College Football Playoff this season.

The Sooners can’t do anything now to change the outcome or the way they played last weekend in the loss to Houston, but they can do something about what happens from here on out over the course of 11 more regular-season games.

In the aftermath of the Houston loss, Oklahoma has created the perception that this year’s edition of Sooner football is not as good as some wanted us to believe; some college football analysts are even reversing field and saying now, just one week into the new season, that Oklahoma will not be on top in the Big 12 at season’s end.

Sep 3, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Oklahoma Sooners head coach Bob Stoops before a game against the Houston Cougars at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

In his weekly press conference on Monday, head coach Bob Stoops said he and his team are not looking any further ahead than what they need to do to get better today and getting ready for the next game on the schedule, which will be the OU home opener on Saturday night against Louisiana-Monroe. That’s all that matters, he said, trying to get better in everything we do every single day.

“Everything we do has to be sharper, has to be better,” the Sooners’ head coach said.

Oklahoma has a brief reprieve this weekend, hosting a University of Louisiana-Monroe squad that went 2-11 and finished last a year ago in the Sun Belt Conference. The Warhawks already have one in the win column this season, however, defeating Southern 38-21 in their season opener last weekend.

The Warhawks rolled up 533 yards of offense in the victory over Southern, most of that coming on the ground. The only other time OU has faced ULM was three seasons ago, with the Sooners winning 34-0 in a game played in Norman. The Warhawks were held to just 38 yards rushing in the 2013 game and 166 total yards.

It will be interesting to see how the game this Saturday plays out. The Warhawks, I’m sure, are hoping to catch the Sooners with a letdown following the Houston loss. Most of the college football world will be watching to see how Oklahoma responds after stumbling in Week 1.

Regardless of what happens with Louisiana-Monroe, the three games that follow that one on the Oklahoma schedule are Ohio State on Sept. 17, at TCU two weekends after that and then on to the annual Red River rivalry against a Texas Longhorn team that looks vastly improved after pulling off the upset of Notre Dame in Week 1. Arguably one of the most difficult three-game stretches this early in the season anywhere in college football.

One network college football analyst described 4th-ranked Ohio State as a team that plays a lot like Houston, but with more talent. Not a particularly great prognosis for an Oklahoma team that has a lot of on-field issues to address and less than two weeks to get ready for another high-profile game against another ranked team.

Three of the Sooners next four opponents are against teams ranked in the Associated Press Top 20 this week.

One thing we know for sure, the next four games for the Sooners will be true character tests. Only two of the four are home games. Five weeks from now, any doubts about this Oklahoma team will either be validated, dismissed or a combination of both, any two of which will not be good news for Sooner fans.

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