But before Sooners Illustrated gets into the new conference portion of the schedule and analyzes all that, it's time to rank the three non-conference games in terms of difficulty.
3. Oct. 1 Vs. Ball State-- This matchup is a pretty clear third to the other two, considering this is a program that has finished with a winning record only twice in the last 14 years. Since taking over as head coach of the Cardinals, Stan Parrish has guided his teams to just a 6-18 record, including a miserable 2-10 mark back in 2009. In their toughest game last year, they were smashed by then-No. 18 Iowa 45-0 in Iowa City. There's no reason to believe a similar result or one worse than that won't occur when these two meet on the gridiron for the first time ever.
2. Sept. 3 Vs. Tulsa-- These two in-state schools have a little bit of history. They've met 24 times, and in those, the Sooners are 16-7-1 against the Golden Hurricane. The most recent meeting came back in 2009 when OU throttled TU 45-0 at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. In fact, the Sooners have taken the last five against the Golden Hurricane and haven't lost to them since 1996. But Tulsa is usually a fairly formidable opponent, and they will be that way again in 2011. They are led by senior quarterback G.J. Kinne, who can beat opponents both with his arm and on the ground, which he exhibited last year in throwing for 3,650 yards and 31 touchdowns, while also leading the TU rushing attack with 561 yards and seven touchdowns. OU's defense must limit his and the entire Golden Hurricane offense's production to win this game.
1. Sept. 17 @ Florida State This is almost sure to be a Top 10 matchup when the two meet in Tallahassee and could be a Top Five battle played under the mid-September lights. Even though the Seminoles lose quarterback Christian Ponder, they return a lot of playmakers on both sides of the ball, including cornerback and punt return specialist Greg Reid among others. They bring back 16 starters from last year's 10-win squad. So, the Sooners will have their work cut out for them. It will be a hostile atmosphere against a team the Sooners smashed 47-17 a year ago. If there's anything major that works in OU's favor, though, it's history. The Sooners have won the last five meetings and are 5-1 all-time against FSU after losing the first decision back in 1964. The two have never met in Tallahassee.
Stay tuned for tomorrow's version of the series.