"You've got to go down there first of all and get off the bus believing that you can win a game," said McCarney. "A lot of teams are already beat in games like this against teams like Oklahoma before the game even starts. I think that's pretty obvious. So the players and coaches in this program have to believe we can win this game.
"(In the past) there were probably some kids that thought we could win and some that hoped we could win. Now this team will go down there believing we can win. It may seem crazy going down there with a team that's 30-2 over the last 32 games and ranked number two in the country, but all I can base that on is what I see every day being around this team. And we have already been against some tremendous teams."
But unlike in previous trips to Norman, this ISU team is not short on confidence after victories over Nebraska, Texas Tech and Iowa during its six-game winning streak. A lot of that confidence, however, rides on the play of quarterback Seneca Wallace, who will need to get over any pre-game jitters and play well early.
Contain big-play tailback
After his 248-yard effort against one of the nation's top defenses in Texas last week, tailback Quentin Griffin should be a big focus of defensive coordinator John Skladany's plan. Even though Nate Hybl has put up decent numbers through six games (81-of-145 for 1,145 yards and eight TDs to four INTs), success against OU will take a stout defense against the run.
Griffin has had a Jekyll and Hyde type of season as the Sooners' starting tailback, with 200-plus yard efforts against Tulsa and Texas, but just 13 combined yards on 12 carries against the likes of Alabama and South Florida. ISU will look to replicate Alabama's effort by shutting down the run first and putting the game in Hybl's hands. That approach nearly led to an upset victory in Norman when the Crimson Tide held OU to minus-23 rushing yards on 23 carries.
ISU has already proved it can shut down a vaunted rushing attack when it held Nebraska to 81 yards on 30 carries, but now the challenge comes of doing that against an opponent that's much more balanced.
No bail-out from defense
Seneca Wallace and the Cyclone offense put far too much pressure on the defense last week through the opening 30 minutes. Facing the Big 12's second-ranked offense in Texas Tech, ISU mustered one Adam Benike field goal through two quarters. Luckily, the defense played one of its best games this season and in Dan McCarney's eight seasons on the job.
ISU cannot expect to score three points and still be in the game come halftime Saturday, especially in hostile territory against a team that hung 35 points on the Longhorns one week ago. However, the way Skladany's defense has fared in recent weeks against Texas Tech and Nebraska, the offense should stand a good chance of an upset by clearing the 30-point mark for an eighth consecutive game.