Sooners embrace Big 12 Title preseason pick

DALLAS — It would be an odd year if the Sooners weren't facing heavy expectations, but still there's pressure involved with them.

Although they didn't fare so well under the preseason spotlight to be the potential national champion in 2011--albeit there were plenty of injuries and misfortune to go around to explain that--the Sooners are confident they can live up to their preseason hype this time around.

Picked to win the Big 12 and again be in the national title discussion, those representing Crimson and Cream at Media Days said they welcome that pressure with open arms.

"Yeah, I mean, that's just kinda what we get being an Oklahoma," said center Ben Habern. "You lose game and it's like the whole season's just down the drain. But I don't know. That's just something that kinda goes along with Oklahoma football. We're always competing for the Big 12 Championship and a national title and so we're looking forward to this season and, you know, basically all the teams that we're gonna face this year."

Said signal caller Landry Jones: "I mean, there's always pressure on us to perform. Everybody has this expectation of us being year in, year out in contention to win a national championship, so being preseason favorites it's just kind of an honor and it's a thing that kinda comes along with being at OU."

Said head coach Bob Stoops: "Well, we've had eight Big 12 Championship games at the end of the season. We've won seven of those, so in the end, those are big games. And so we've been used to playing them late in the year, so anyway. Hopefully we'll have more opportunities."

But this next one won't be easy by any means.

Two new members which won their respective leagues in 2011 in West Virginia and TCU have joined the conference.

And OU draws both on the road, plus last year's Big 12 Champion, Oklahoma State, at home.

Add it all up, and the Sooners must run through three conference champions in 2012 if they hope to win the program's eighth Big 12 Title and potentially get to South Beach for a shot at the program's eighth national championship.

"Hopefully we can be back to have a chance to once again compete for the Big 12 Championship," Stoops said. "I think it's fair to say our league, when you add West Virginia and TCU, two teams coming off bowl wins, two ranked football teams, you put them with the rest of what we've been doing here in the Big 12, that our league is every bit as strong as it's ever been, if not stronger."

The Sooners open up the 2012 campaign on the road at UTEP with a 9:30 p.m. CT/8:30 p.m. MT kickoff.

They'll host their first home game after that against Florida A&M in a September that features two off weeks.

OU also has home games in the conference against Kansas State, Kansas, Baylor, Oklahoma State and a non-conference matchup versus Notre Dame.

Road contests feature the two new teams plus Texas Tech and Iowa State, along with the annual neutral site game against Texas.

Get through that brutal slate, and OU could be well on its way to another special season.

"We can really be good if we just play ball, bond together, have fun and just go out there and just play Sooner football," said field cornerback Demontre Hurst. "So, we have something to prove to ourselves before we do it to anybody else."

And they'll get started on that when they open fall camp Aug. 4.

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