It’s no secret that the expectations for Oklahoma football are high every single year. Anything less than a Big 12 title, and even in some circumstances a national title, is labeled as a disappointment. Coming into this season the expectations were high once again, as the Sooners were picked to win the Big 12 title, and were tabbed with a Top 5 preseason ranking.
Bob Stoops is the only coach to reach all four BCS games and the National Championship game
We all know how the story has unfolded so far, as the Sooners have dropped two home games against Kansas State and Notre Dame. Now in week 10, the Sooners find themselves in unfamiliar territory. A national title is out of the picture, and a Big 12 title seems very unlikely unless Kansas State loses twice. So the question now arises, what is there to play for?
"I don't think we are going to shut it down and say 'All right, let's just call it quits the rest of the year,” said Landry Jones. “There is some adversity coming with losing games and coming with different goals being out of the picture for sure. We are a prideful program. We have a lot of pride in what we do and we are not going to shut it down. When game day comes around we are going to put our best guys on the field and we’re going to play hard."
For the seniors on this team, being out of the national title picture this early is tough. However, Gabe Ikard says there’s still work to be done.
“That's why we come here, to play for national championships and conference championships. We still have a chance to play for a conference championship depending on what happens. Our focus has shifted to Iowa State. Disappointing performance against Notre Dame but now we have to worry about going to Ames and a tough conference game on the road. We've got to correct our mistakes and get prepared for the Cyclones."
After losing at home last week to Notre Dame, the Sooners only dropped four spots in the BCS to #12. That still leaves the door open for a potential at-large berth in a BCS bowl if they can win all of the remaining games on the schedule. A berth in a BCS bowl game is nothing to frown about, and the Sooners would be ecstatic if they found themselves in one at the end of the year. "We will still be excited to be able to go and play in a BCS game,” said Jones. “That would be great. It will be huge for our program and big for this team."
The most likely destination would be New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl against an SEC opponent. However, if Kansas State continues to win, and they find themselves in the national title game, the Sooners would be sent out west to the Fiesta Bowl, where one of the possible opponents could be a rematch against Notre Dame. Wouldn’t that be fun?
Instead of looking ahead however, the Sooners need to focus on the task at hand. An early 11:00 a.m. kickoff in Ames on Saturday against a feisty Iowa State team is certainly a tough spot, but Oklahoma is without a doubt the better football team. This game will depend solely on how the Sooners choose to respond.
"It all comes down to our preparation,” said Ikard. “We need to watch a lot of film, and get on some of their tendencies defensively. When it comes down to it, we need to play fundamental and physical football on Saturday. Their defense takes a lot of pride in the way they play and how physical they are at the line of scrimmage. We need to play well."
The Sooners will try to bounce back with a win this week in Ames. Oklahoma holds a 69-5-2 series lead over Iowa State
There’s still a lot on the table for this team. Not only would a win in a BCS bowl label the season a success, but if Kansas State somehow loses two games, the Sooners will have the opportunity to capture their eighth Big 12 title.
A good performance on Saturday could set the momentum for the rest of season. If this team comes out focused and plays the way their capable of, it could very easily create a spring board as the season progresses.
The correct approach for the rest of the season is simple, take things game-by-game and only focus on what you can control. Let everything else play out. There’s a lot of football still left to be played, and as we’ve seen before, anything can happen on any given Saturday. If this team can create some momentum and win out, you can bet they’ll find themselves in a good position at the end of the year.