The Bob Stoops’ era in Norman has been rather up and down. He started off well, winning the 2000 National Championship against Bobby Bowden and Florida State, earning him the nickname “Big Game” Bob, but in the coming years, OU was always the team that could get there, but not finish the job.
Since that title run, the Sooners have gone to three more championship games, losing all three, and have only gone 2-5 in BCS bowl games.
Stoops enters his 15th season, needing only nine wins to surpass the great Barry Switzer for most career wins at Oklahoma. On July 25, it was announced that the Sooners had extended Stoops’ contract through the 2020 season.
First thing’s first for the Sooners and that’s to name a starting quarterback. Three are fighting for the spot; Blake Bell (AKA Belldozer), Kendal Thompson and Trevor Knight. Bell is in line for the job, but Thompson and Knight haven’t backed down from the opportunity.
Things ended bitterly for Oklahoma last season. The Sooners won their final five regular season games, which included back-to-back thrillers, 50-49 over West Virginia and 51-48 in overtime at Bedlam. Those five wins pushed them into a tie for the Big 12 title, earning them their 8th and 44th conference title overall. Due to tiebreakers, Kansas State went on to play in the BCS.
The Sooners were left to play at Cowboys Stadium against former Big 12 rival, Texas A&M and Heisman Johnny Football in the Cotton Bowl, where Manziel literally ran over the Sooners, rushing for a FBS bowl-record 229 yards and accounting for 516 yards and four touchdowns.
Oklahoma starts its 119th season in just a month, having lost 20 seniors from last year including Landry Jones, Justin Brown, Lane Johnson and Tress Way. They also lost receiver Kenny Stills and defensive back Tony Jefferson, who both declared for the NFL.
The 2013-14 team has quarterback issues, but otherwise, looks sharp at every other position and is led by seniors Trey Millard, Brennan Clay, Aaron Colvin, Gabe Ikard, Corey Nelson, Jaz Reynolds and Jalen Saunders.
The Sooners open up the season playing at home in the first three games and four of the first five. After week six, Oklahoma will play five of the final seven games away from Norman.
First up will be the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks, who finished 8-5 in the Sun Belt last season. The Sooners then play West Virginia and Tulsa before heading to South Bend on September 28 for a date with the Irish of Notre Dame. Last season, the Irish routed the Sooners in Norman, 30-13.
They tune up on October 5 with TCU before heading to the Cotton Bowl for the annual Red River Rivalry. Stoops is 9-5 versus Texas and the Sooners have won the last three by an average score of 49-19.
Oklahoma then plays at Kansas, versus Texas Tech, at Baylor, and versus Iowa State before ending the season on the road versus Big 12 champ Kansas State and in Stillwater for Bedlam against the Cowboys.
Kansas State defeated the Sooners last season in Norman, snapping the Sooners’ 39-game home winning streak.
All in all, the Sooners’ 12 opponents this year had a combine record of 96-60 in 2012 and 11 of their foes went on to play in a bowl game, with Kansas being the only exception, and 10 of those teams were ranked at least once in the AP or USA Today top 25.
It’s a tall task for Stoops and the Sooners, but if all the pieces fall into place, we could be looking at Oklahoma’s 8th national championship and the return of “Big Game” Bob.