Oklahoma is no stranger to national rankings, where the Sooners reside at No. 12 this week. And contending for a Big 12 title is the norm in Norman. But what is unique for the Sooners somewhat surprisingly is playing a midweek game.
For just the fourth time in the 18-year Bob Stoops era, Oklahoma will play a non-Saturday game when it travels to Iowa State on Thursday night (7:30 p.m., ESPN). It marks just the second time under Stoops that the Sooners, who cruised to a 56-3 victory over Kansas on Saturday, will have played a game with a shortened week. The other time was in 2007 when Oklahoma played Tulsa on a Friday night.
The Sooners' other two non-Saturday games during Stoops' tenure have come with either a bye week immediately preceding (Baylor, 2013) or to start the season (Tulsa, 2001).
“It's challenging to a degree but at this point of the year, it's not like all the sudden you start all over and have a whole new offense and defense,” Stoops said.
Stoops did say the coaches started working on a game plan for Iowa State late last week before the Kansas game after they were comfortable with where their team stood in preparations for that game.
The Sooners (6-2, 5-0) usually get Sunday off but had to practice this week to try to get ready for the Thursday trip.
“It's a different mindset, for sure,” Oklahoma receiver Mark Andrews said. “Usually you are able to relax and limp around all day. With this practice, you had to bounce back, get your mind right and get over the last game and get ready for a new one.”
Offensive tackle Orlando Brown said it's usually not until Tuesday during a week where he feels fully re-energized after a game.
“Fortunately, we didn't have to play the whole game (against Kansas),” Brown said. “There's a bunch of reps right there that were cut out. Obviously guys will still be sore but it's not as bad.”
Stoops said he wouldn't address Iowa State's midweek success much with his team. The Cyclones beat previously undefeated Oklahoma State in 2011 on a Friday night and took Texas down to the wire in 2013 before falling 31-30.
“It will be mentioned but not overly because those are different teams,” Stoops said. “Those are different coaches at the time, different players at the time. So our focus is mainly on what we can control and that's being our best in how we compete and play.”
Stoops also could lean on offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley for changing up preparation for a midweek game. When Riley held the same position at East Carolina, the Pirates often had to play Thursday and Friday games, and he's drawing on that experience this week.
“We went back and looked at what we did at East Carolina and some stuff worked and some stuff didn't so we've changed it up some,” Riley said.
On paper it wouldn't seem to make much difference what day the two teams played. The Sooners have won 17 consecutive games in the series, with Iowa State's last win coming in 1990. The Cyclones (1-7, 0-5) haven't beaten the Sooners at home in 22 meetings, with their last win coming in 1960.
Iowa State comes into the contest just five days after a 31-26 home loss to Kansas State. The Cyclones are 10-3 in their last 13 Thursday night games. The first night game at Jack Trice Stadium was on Oct. 20, 1984 and Iowa State nearly pulled off the upset, falling to No. 2 Oklahoma, 12-10, on ESPN.
Iowa State, which has lost four consecutive games since a 44-10 nonconference win over San Jose State on Sept. 24, will have to find a way to slow down an Oklahoma offense that ranks fifth nationally in scoring (45.4) and third in total offense (568.0) to have a chance at pulling the upset.
Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield, who threw for 342 yards and three touchdowns in a 52-16 win over the Cyclones last year in Norman, has thrown 27 touchdown passes compared to just five interceptions and leads the nation in passing efficiency (195.8) while senior wide receiver Dede Westbrook has had more receiving yards in the last five games (881) than all but 11 FBS players have had in their entire seasons.
Sophomore running back Joe Mixon leads the Big 12 and is third nationally with 195.4 all-purpose yards per game.