Sooner Football: No-Brainer Pep Talk on No-Win Clash at Kansas


The Sooner football season takes a breather of sorts the next two weekends as the No. 14 team in this week’s Associated Press rankings takes on the two bottom teams in the Big 12.

It would be easy to let down your guard a little and take the Kansas Jayhawks this weekend and the Iowa State Cyclones next for granted. Just add two more checks to the 2015 win column and move on, right?

While the challenge may be less, the next two games mean as much to the Sooners’ season as any that came before or will follow. It is not wise to go into any game or week of pregame preparation with the mindset that, either as individuals or as a team, you can just turn it on and off at will and make everything come out fine at the end.

Oct 24, 2015; Norman, OK, USA; Oklahoma Sooners running back Joe Mixon (25) runs the ball against the Texas Tech Red Raiders during the second quarter at Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The next two games represent an important test of character for the Oklahoma football team. The Sooners are coming off of back-to-back dominating performances against Kansas State and last weekend at home vs. Texas Tech. As much as anything, the way the Sooners prepared for and played in their last two games was a result of not being as ready, physically and mentally, as they should have been in losing to their longtime Red River rival Texas.

You may recall that the Sooners were pegged as 17-point favorites over the Longhorns in this year’s annual get-together in the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. They would never admit it, of course, but I believe the OU players, and perhaps even members of the coaching staff, read and bought too much into the headlines and hype declaring that the seemingly down-and-out Longhorns were down for the count this season and would just roll over and be stampeded by the much-better team from the northern side of the Red River.

For longtime followers of the OU-Texas rivalry, this year’s game was like a self-fulfilling prophecy. How many times has the team billed as the underdog in this game risen up to defy all the predictions and expectations of the self-acclaimed experts? The answer is: more than you might expect. And it happened again this year.

The Sooners can still overcome the unexpected but deserved loss to Texas, but they just as easily could have averted the disappointment had they taken that game more seriously than it appeared they did. It also could be said, however, that the Texas wake-up call just might have saved OU’s season.

You cannot convince me that what happened against Texas didn’t have anything to do with how well the Sooners performed in the subsequent games with K-State and Texas Tech. I’d say quite the contrary: The Texas game had everything to do with the focus, determination and alpha-dog-like aggressiveness the OU football team displayed the past two weekends.

Kansas and Iowa State, for sure, are not Texas, but if Oklahoma learned nothing else from this year’s Red River game it was that you can’t just roll into and out of town and expect your opponent not to put up a fight.

OU offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley knows the danger of thinking the Kansas and Iowa State games are nothing more than tune-ups for the championship gauntlet the Sooners have to go through on successive weekends in November, when they face Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma State to close out the regular season.

"“Everybody wants to think like that, but that’s a dream world,” Riley told the Oklahoma City Oklahoman this week. “These guys (Kansas and Iowa State) have got scholarship players. They’ve got good coaches. If we live in that world (the ‘dream world’), we’ll get beat.”"

I expect the Sooners will have a big offensive day at Kansas – and against Iowa State next weekend the game is in Norman, so you know they will be motivated in front of the home fans – but I don’t think they will perform with the same emotion and intensity that they did against Kansas State and Texas Tech. OU should win both games decisively, but it also provides the opportunity to give a lot of players game experience and protect your top players, as much as you can, from serious injury when the game is well in hand.

The Jayhawks and Cyclones may be down in the standings, but these are still meaningful games for the Sooners. OU has nothing really to gain, but everything to lose if it doesn’t approach its next two opponents seriously.