Non-conference games in the Stoops Era

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September is an interesting month for college football. It isn’t just the beginning to a new season, but brings games fans don’t get to see every year. Out-of-conference is huge, and sometimes they can provide bowl game-like atmospheres in the early days of autumn.

In the Stoops era, we’ve seen some dandies. Some of the series include Alabama, Oregon, Cincinnati, Miami, Florida State, and this season begins one with Notre Dame. Yes, the fans have been treated nicely. Sure there have been a few East Popcorn States on the schedule every now and then, but OU has more than compensated for those tune-up games with big name match-ups. Looking back at the past thirteen seasons, though, how does 2012 stack up to past out-of-conference slates in the Stoops era?

1999: Indiana State, at Louisville, at Notre Dame

Stoops’ first season with OU was the only time he had more road non-conference games than home. Indiana State wasn’t a concern, and the Sooners proved that with a 49-0 win. However, trips to Louisville and Notre Dame right before OU-Texas? Not exactly ideal. Oklahoma took care of business against the Cardinals, who finished 7-5 that year. Though, Oklahoma dropped their first game of the year in South Bend, losing to a Notre Dame team on a three-game losing streak and would finish 5-7. This was definitely not a bad slate, especially considering the two road games. Grade: B

2000: UTEP, Arkansas State, Rice

Cupcake Wars would have been impressed with OU’s southern take on scheduling light. None of these teams really had much of a chance against an Oklahoma team on the rise, though no one really had Oklahoma as a contender for the championship. The Sooners blew out all three on their home field, and this season just goes to show you don’t need big names on your out-of-conference schedule, just as long as you win convincingly. Grade: F

2001: North Carolina, at Air Force, North Texas, Tulsa

Not a stellar year for non-conference games. The pre-season third-ranked Sooners knocked off the Tar Heels at home, and then blew out the Falcons on in Colorado. And no matter the opponent, blowout wins on the road are commendable. North Texas and Tulsa weren’t exactly world beaters, but are still to this day two teams Oklahoma can easily get to take a butt-whooping from them. Grade: C-

2002: at Tulsa, Alabama, UTEP, South Florida

An SEC school?! This HAS to be at the top of the list by default! The Sooners were perfect this year out-of-conference, and in retrospect, Bama was a 10-3 team that season. Also, South Florida went 9-2, losing to only Oklahoma and Arkansas that year. It was nice of Tulsa to host a 37-0 OU rout of the Golden Hurricane, and UTEP couldn’t produce a winning season like they did in 2000 the last time the two met. Overall, not too shabby. Grade: B-

2003: North Texas, at Alabama, Fresno State, UCLA

Looking back, this was an odd slate. The two non-AQ teams were above .500, and the two AQ teams weren’t. North Texas had a nice 2003, and so did Fresno State. The Sooners were too much for both the Mean Green and Bulldogs, however, Oklahoma struggled on the road against a weaker Crimson Tide team from the pevious season, and needed a little Sooner Magic. Though, they demolished the Bruins in a high-scoring game in Norman. Grade: B