During his post-game comments after the Oklahoma loss to TCU, Bob Stoops was asked if he thought the loss might have been a carry over from last season's Orange Bowl. Stoops replied that one had nothing to do with the other.
I beg to differ.
The Sooners' loss to the Trojans was so total, so complete and so humiliating that residuals must have carried over. Teams with pride and attitude do not allow opponents to score fifty-five points in a national title game before a national television audience without suffering some trauma.
It just doesn't work that way.
The swagger that Bob Stoops has worked to instill in the Sooners over the past six years took a direct hit last January 4th in Miami. If Matt Leinart is to be believed, the Sooners were even doing the unthinkable – pleading with the USC offense across the line of scrimmage to "ease up" and run the ball, and the clock. Forgetting for a moment that Leinart violated one of the basic rules of sportsmanship by publicly divulging this fact, indications are that he was telling the truth. And if he was telling the truth, Oklahoma appears to have left a good deal of pride and self-confidence scattered on the Orange Bowl turf.
This loss of attitude and self-confidence translated directly to the Sooner's hanging their heads and looking beaten after lost fumbles and interceptions during the TCU game.
Stoops' task now is no simple one. He must once again instill in his team the firm belief that they are champions…that no one can enter the sacred realm of Memorial Stadium in Norman and leave with a check in the win column. He must exorcise the demon of Januray 4th, 2005. By comparison, the job of fixing the psychological bruising that occurred during the late 1990s under Schnellenberger and Blake was a cakewalk. Stoops was able to enter the picture in 1999 and start from square one. It was a new administration, a new outlook, a new start. The players bought into it and succeeded immediately in 1999 and grandly in 2000.
But this is different. Dangerously different. Stoops must somehow convince the players exactly what it means to play for the University of Oklahoma. He must somehow bring back the swagger. It's time to pull out the old game clips and parade past Sooner legends in the locker room and on the sidelines. It's time to give them an infusion of Sooner tradition. It's time to call Barry.
It's time to go back to square one.
Thursday, Sept 8
Oklahoma State (-17) vs. Florida Atlantic (Dolphin's Stadium, Miami) Florida Atlantic, a fairly good 9-3 team last year, won't be nearly as good this season after losing seven offensive starters. But be that as it may, Schnelly's Owls will still give a decent accounting of themselves. Oklahoma State, still reeling from the late-summer personnel purges of new coach Mike Gundy, will be expected to make Florida Atlantic victim number two this season but don't expect it to happen without a certain amount of Aggie Anxiety. Gundy will get number two but not by the spread.
OSU by 7
Saturday, Sept 10
Southern Miss at Alabama (-11 ½) Brodie Croyle's coming out party against Middle Tennessee was somewhat less than impressive, considering Middle Tennessee is a lower level middle echelon lower tiered team. I'll pause a second while you try to figure that last sentence out. Anyway, Croyle's 211 yard single touchdown performance should be taken in the context that MT would have a hard time (and, in fact DID have a hard time) stopping Akron (31 points), Arkansas State (45 points), Idaho (34 points) and Louisiana-Monroe (37 points) in 2004. Any further enthusiasm for the Tide should be tempered by the fact that the injury-prone Croyle is backed up by John Parker Wilson, who went 1-1 for 2 yards on Saturday. Thanks to the not-so-gentle mercies of hurricane Katrina, the Southern Miss Golden Eagles' game with Tulane was postponed last weekend making their trip to Alabama, in effect, their season opener. Nod here goes to the Bear's old team.
Tide by 17
Arizona State at LSU (-9 ½) at Tempe This game, originally scheduled to be played in Louisiana, has been moved to Tempe because of hurricane Katrina. Les Miles gets to open his coaching career with LSU in the desert, which somehow seems biblical. Hard to see how the Bayou Bengals can be favored by this much, if at all. Have to take ASU and the points in this one.
Arizona State by 3
Mississippi State at Auburn (-16) Interesting combination in this one. Croom's Bulldogs sent Murray State back to Paducah with their tails between their legs last weekend and Auburn did precisely what I told you they'd do…lose. Now we have a schizophrenic MSU team visiting an angry Auburn team who is eager to redeem themselves. Sylvester would do well to call in sick on game day.
Auburn by 24
Central Florida at Bye – These Knights lost ‘em all in '04 and are steaming for a school record in '05. Their loss to South Carolina last week got the ball rolling for them.
Bye by 10
Cincinnati at Penn State (-21) Old Joe is on a roll…one straight. But Penn State is still no juggernaut and Cincinnati, while having lost most starters to graduation, is still no patsy. We'll take Paterno here very, very cautiously.
PSU by 6
Louisiana Tech at Florida (-29) Loo Tech, from where I'm sitting, looks a lot like Gator bait.
Urban by 35
South Carolina at Georgia (-17) The Gamecocks didn't look impressive in last week's early game with UCF. Spurrier's ‘cock and shoot' offense may be firing blanks against a solid Bulldog defense. Hope the ol' ball coach brought his golf clubs along.
Georgia by 24
Iowa (-7) at Iowa State Could be a long day for the Cyclones. Iowa is the real deal this year and should have no problem sending McCarney to the showers.
Hawkeyes by 14
Kansas State (-10) at Marshall This is a grudge match made in hell for Bill Snyder. The ‘Cats are looking to avenge the '03 loss to Marshall and will make that their rallying cry on Saturday. They should do it, but it will be touch and go until the final whistle.
KSU by 2
Notre Dame at Michigan (-7) Did my eyes deceive me or did Charlie Weis actually make the Irish look like a football team last weekend? Or could it be that Dave Wannstadt simply brought the same mediocre approach to coaching with him to Pittsburgh that he's been using all over the country the past dozen years? My guess is that it's a little of both but mostly the latter.
Michigan by 10
Wake Forest at Nebraska (-7 ½) This much I can promise you: even though Bill Callahan managed to beat Maine 25-7, the natives in Nebraska are neither impressed nor relieved. The Huskers produced 15 first downs to Maine's 10, and their porous secondary allowed Maine 151 yards through the air. The Huskers led only 9-0 at the half, 15-0 at the end of three and 15-7 early in the fourth before "putting the game away." Wake, on the other hand, racked up 472 total yards in a losing effort to Vandy and should have Callahan abusing Maalox by halftime.
Huskers by 7
Texas (-1) at Ohio State Oklahoma fans will find themselves in a very awkward position come Saturday night. They'll be pulling for Texas simply because they'll want Texas undefeated and ranked as highly as possible on October 8th. But it will be to no avail. Mack isn't good at situations like this: high stakes road games against quality opponents. Expect Vince to blow his Heisman chances with a couple of fumbles and a trio of ints.
Ohio State by 7
Tulsa at Oklahoma (-31) Stoops has taken the only sane path for Saturday after posting two consecutive stinkeroos against USC and TCU; he's starting Bomar at quarterback. Does he have another offensive line he can start too? The woeful Golden Hurricane are coming to Norman at the worst time imaginable; after a rare OU home loss.
Sooners by 35
Wann Smith has served two years as national columnist for the Pigskin Post, contributed to the College Football News (a contributor to Fox Sports and the Sporting News) and is currently the editor of the College Football Gazette. Smith lives in St. Louis with his family.
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