When Bob Stoops left the wide-open spaces of Kansas in 1996 for the swamps of Florida, Bill Snyder was peeved. Snyder, a man who prizes loyalty above all other virtues, could not appreciate the defection of a man who was destined to defect. Bob Stoops was simply too good to remain anyone's assistant.
And when Stoops lured his brother Mike, Brent Venables and Mark Mangino away from Manhattan to his recently formed staff at Oklahoma in 1999 insult was added to injury. As far as Snyder was concerned, the Big 12 battle lines were drawn.
Fast forward to October 14, 2000. The Wildcats were 6-0, riding an eight game winning streak and boasting the longest home winning streak in the nation. Oklahoma was coming off of a remarkable 63-14 pasting of Texas. Oklahoman's were still giddy over the resurgent Sooners but wary of the task awaiting Stoops and company in Manhattan. After a superficially friendly greeting at midfield between Stoops and Snyder, the game began and ended with Oklahoma on the long end of a hard-fought 41-31 score.
Round One Score: Stoops 1, Snyder 0.
But that wasn't the end of their competition in 2000 as both earned berths in the 2000 Big 12 Championship game. Another nail-biter resulted in Oklahoma edging the Wildcats 27-24.
Round Two Score: Stoops 2, Snyder 0.
The teams met next in Norman September 29, 2001. Both Sooners and Wildcats played effective offense, neither being able to consistently stop the other, in a wild 38-37 Oklahoma victory.
Round Three Score: Stoops 3, Snyder 0.
Big 12 scheduling prevented the teams from meeting in the 2002 and 2003 regular seasons, but they did face one another in the 2003 Big 12 Championship Game played in Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City on December 6th. The Sooners fielded what many had considered to be the greatest college football team of all time. But instead, the Sooner nation suffered one of the biggest college football collapses of all time as Kansas State manhandled Oklahoma 35-7.
Round Four Score: Stoops 3, Snyder 1.
The Sooners played the Wildcats in Manhattan on October 16th, 2004 and took advantage of a rebuilding KSU program as they avenged the B12C loss, 31-21.
Round Five Score: Stoops 4, Snyder 1.
As the two teams prepare to play for the sixth time in the Stoops – Snyder era, they seem to be headed in two surprisingly different directions. Oklahoma, breaking in a new quarterback behind a makeshift offensive line has been unable to get untracked in 2005. Adrian Peterson, who seemed able to excel either with or without blocking in 2004, has struggled mightily. After three games, Peterson is lagging far behind the pack of Heisman contenders and may be out of the running altogether if Oklahoma's fortunes do not change soon. Peterson, while more concerned with winning than with personal statistics, will need back-to-back all-america performances in the upcoming nationally televised games against Kansas State and Texas to put himself back in the Heisman shuffle.
Kansas State, on the other hand, is coming off of a 4-7 campaign in 2004 and was expected to suffer through a rebuilding year in 2005. Snyder's Wildcats, after playing three games, stand at 3-0 – not surprising when you consider the level of competition. While floundering in their first game against Florida International, the Wildcats displayed stamina and discipline in their 21-19 victory over Marshall. The Cats then wrapped up their typical Snyder pre-conference slate with a 54-7 sissy-slapping of North Texas.
Kansas State will enter Norman with confidence Saturday evening. They have watched film of the Sooners' first three games and are confident that their short passing game will work. And if their short passing game works, their running game will eventually come through for them as well. If there is a way to confuse, confound and exploit the unpredictable Oklahoma offensive line, Bill Snyder will probably figure out a way to do it.
In short, round six of the Stoops – Snyder slugfest should be entertaining, breath-catching football. Has time mellowed Snyder's resentments of Stoop's defection? Not much. And whatever hard feelings the passage of time may have ameliorated, the fact that Bill Snyder has lost four of the five head-to-head games to his pupil has assuredly been a bitter pill for him to swallow.
There would be nothing sweeter for Bill Snyder than to leave Norman Saturday night with a victory.
Saturday, October 1
Florida (-3 ½) at Alabama For those fans with green, scaly skin, concave-convex eyes and alligator breath, I've got good news for you. The Urban Express will keep on rollin' this weekend. Mike Shula has done a good job in '05, but the wheels are gonna come off the Tide on Saturday.
Gators by 14
USC (-16) at Arizona State Bad news for fans of Matt ‘Kiss-and-Tell' Leinart. This weekend won't be another easy romp. Koetter is a top-notch coach and the Devils are one hell of a team. This one could go down to the wire.
USC by 6
South Carolina at Auburn (-13 ½) Will the real Steve Spurrier please stand up? First, the old ball coach teased us by nipping UCF… then his team takes Georgia to the wire before losing…next Spurrier evidently goes golfing between his ears while his team stumbles through a loss to ‘Bama…and then they finally awaken and shellac Troy. What should we expect of Steve and his Game Cocks this weekend? Maybe an upset in the making?
Auburn by 2
Baylor at Texas A&M (-22 ½) Wouldn't it be exciting if Baylor could go into College Station and repeat last year's upset? Quit dreaming. The Bagels will be toasted by the second quarter.
A&M by 32
Colorado (-4) at Oklahoma State I've received dozens of emails from individuals asking about my use of the epithet (and in this case it is an epithet) ‘Aggie' in reference to Oklahoma State. So, for the uninitiated, before the university was ‘Oklahoma State' it was ‘Oklahoma A&M' and their nickname was officially the ‘Aggies.' Since their conversion from Aggie to Cowboy, Sooner fans still refer to them as ‘Aggies', using the nickname to remind OSU fans of their earthy, humble beginnings. So now that we've settled that issue, let's turn to the game. I've got a riddle for you: What do you get when you put a group of angry, embarrassed Buffaloes on the same field as a group of feckless Aggies? Answer…
Colorado by 7
Iowa State at Nebraska (-4) The last time I checked most Nebraskans were packing up and driving north to Pierre to avoid the gale-force winds and flooding associated with Hurricane Rita. But be that as it may, any damage that might be inflicted by the aforementioned Rita will pale in comparison to the psychological damage these Cyclones will inflict on erstwhile Husker boosters everywhere.
ISU by 9
Kansas at Texas Tech (-17 ½) I know what everyone out there is thinking… "This line is silly"… "Tech is too powerful offensively for KU"… "Whoever the heck is playing quarterback for Leach should pass for about thirteen acres and still be on the bench by the third quarter." Well not so fast, sports fans. Mangino has something to prove in Lawrence and may have the talent to prove it. Big Mark knows that while the university is displaying the requisite patience while allowing him to build a program, their patience is not infinite. Mangino also knows that it is time to show some tangible progress. And the 17 ½ point line is a strong indication that the football gurus believe the Jayhawks can hang in there as well.
Raiders by 6
Michigan at Michigan State (-5) As predicted last week, Michigan went belly-up against Wisconsin. The Big 10, well, "she ain't what she used to be" as has been evidenced by the antics of the Ohio State, Michigan and Iowa comedy team. And as if things weren't bad enough, Lloyd has to get someone to jump-start the team bus for a weekend day trip to East Lansing. Can you remember the last time Michigan started the year 2-3? Me neither.
Spartans by 10
Texas (-14 ½) at Missouri This game has trouble written all over it for the Longhorns. Texas is literally slavering at the bit to get at what they perceive to be a poor Oklahoma team and therefore it is probable that the Longhorns will be looking ahead one week. And if that weren't enough, they'll have to play a Missouri team that is quite capable of competing with Texas. Toss in two cups of Brad Smith and a teaspoon of desperate Pinkel and Mack just might have a recipe for disaster on his hands.
Texas by 9
Notre Dame at Purdue (-2 ½) Coach Weis allowed a terminally ill child who happened to be an Irish fan to call the first play of the game in the victory over Washington last weekend. The play, a screen pass right executed from the Irish one yard line, went for eight yards. But the child didn't live to enjoy the moment – he passed away the Friday night before the game. Gotta love a coach with that kind of class.
Irish by 4
Minnesota (-2 ½) at Penn State Joe Paterno and his team have inspired the nation (or, at least the northeastern seaboard) by doing something that hasn't been done around State College for a good many years…winning four games in a row. But unfortunately, the four teams PSU has beaten were not top-notch competition. The door of prosperity will slam in JoePa's face Saturday afternoon as Minnesota comes to visit. And in spite of their less than awe-inspiring nickname (Golden Gophers), Minnie is no Mouse this year.
Gophers by 6
Washington at UCLA (-21) UCLA just beat Oklahoma so the chances are excellent that they're still celebrating. Tyrone needs something to hang his hat on and needs it quickly and badly. Way too heavy a line here.
UCLA by 10
Kansas State at Oklahoma (-6 ½) Kansas State is 3-0, but their record is misleading. On the other hand, the Sooners are 1-2 and their record is not misleading. Oklahoma, by Bob Stoop's admission, has played extremely poor football thus far in 2005. This is as much an indictment of the coaches as it is of the players. The Sooners are lacking in conditioning, execution of fundamentals and are excelling in mental errors. After spending their bye week working on fundamentals, Stoops has projected an air of cautious optimism. But you have to wonder how much catching up one team can do in one week. The bottom line this Saturday night will be that a mentally shaky Oklahoma team will be hosting a self-assured Wildcat team. Oklahoma certainly has the edge in talent, but Snyder's team has the edge in confidence. This game is a toss up.
Oklahoma by 3
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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College Football Gazette
You can also contact Wann Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org
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