Three reasons OU will run its non-conference slate:
1. Beneficial bye week-- Yes, the Sooners have to head to Tallahassee, Fla., for what figures to be a Top 10 if not Top Five matchup, but OU has a full two weeks to prepare for that trip. After taking on Tulsa Sept. 3 to open the season, the Sooners don't take on Florida State until Sept. 17, allowing them ample time to get ready for a huge game. And long times to prepare typically work more in favor of the road team than it would for a home team.
2. OU owns its home field-- This is a widely known fact, but it can't be stressed enough. The Sooners haven't lost a game at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium since Sept. 3, 2005. That means it will have officially been six years on the date of the season-opener, a streak that stands at 36 straight home victories. And two of OU's three non-conference games are at home this year, against Tulsa and Ball State, both very winnable contests.
3. Talent comparatively to opponents It doesn't necessarily hold true for Florida State, who will be able to match up with the Sooners all over the field, but without a doubt, they are a better team than Tulsa and Ball State heading into the season. On paper, there's no reason to believe either of these teams should give OU a run for its money on its home field just because they are the more physically dominant over either of the two. And in a battle of fairly even teams, OU should still be able to defeat Florida State because of their veteran presence.
Three reasons OU won't be unscathed through non-conference:
1. Difficulty of OU's one road game-- Let's face it: OU's only road out-of-conference battle is its toughest. When the Sooners play under the lights against Florida State, they'll be in for a very tough challenge. The Seminoles possess one of the most experienced teams in the country, and while OU carries loads of experience, it's hard to overcome that on the road in a hostile atmosphere.
2. Looking ahead to a conference game-- It's one of the rare times in recent years when OU has had a conference game mixed in between its non-conference slate. But that's the case this year, with Missouri looming in the balance the week after Florida State and week before Ball State. If the Sooners focus too much on revenge against Missouri and starting off the conference with a victory instead of taking care of business against FSU, it could spell trouble.
3. Overlooking its opponent In a scenario that Sooner fans dread, this team could think it's better than a non-conference foe, specifically Tulsa or Ball State, and let that sink into its play on the field. Teams that take their opponents lightly often have trouble with any of them, and that could happen. Given how much veteran experience the Sooners have, though, there's no major evidence heading into the year to believe this will be the case.
Stay tuned for tomorrow's version of the series.