The last time Bob Stoops faced Urban Meyer was January 2009 when Oklahoma played Florida in the Orange Bowl for the national title.
The crowd made it seem like a home game for the Gators. Stoops and the Sooners lost 24-14 even though the offense was directed by Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford (later the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft).
Florida quarterback Tim Tebow was also a Heisman winner. It was the first game all year in which OU didn’t score on the first drive. OU’s outstanding running back DeMarco Murray (now with the Tennessee Titans) was knocked out of the game in the first minutes.
Oklahoma, who will play at Ohio State next season, doesn’t shy away from marquee matchups.
“I think it’s exciting for college football fans,” said Stoops. “Even for those who aren’t Ohio State or Oklahoma fans. Everybody likes to see these kinds of matchups.”
“Everyone around here is excited about it,” said OU tight end Mark Andrews. “The coaches are going to be amped up this week. Everything is going to be one step bigger.
“It’s a big game. Everybody knows that.”
Stoops grew up in Ohio watching Ohio State football, including Coach Woody Hayes.
“I can’t say that we were Buckeye fans,” Stoops said. “Everyone watched them and paid attention. Everybody knew of and loved Woody Hayes. He had great teams.”
No. 3 Ohio State defeated Tulsa 48-3 Saturday and is 2-0 after an opening win over Bowling Green. OU is 1-1 after falling to No. 6 Houston in the season opener and beating Louisiana-Monroe 59-17 Saturday in Norman.
The Buckeyes return only six starters this year and Saturday’s trip to Norman will be the first road trip for a lot of key players.
Unlike the 2009 Orange Bowl, Oklahoma will have the crowd advantage Saturday. OU’s stadium has been expanded and last Saturday was the first game played before 87,000-plus fans.
“I thought it was great, the little I paid attention to it,” Stoops said “It’s really hard, you know, I’m not looking there, I kind of stare right at my guys on the field and occasionally a replay on the board. But, I took it in. When we first went out there, I thought it looked cool, looked great. It sounded loud.”
“I think it enhances the environment and tonight was a warmup for next week where it’ll be a different atmosphere when Ohio State comes in,” said OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops.
Mike Stoops was pleased with his defense against ULM after Sooners gave up 33 points to Houston in the opener.
“For me personally, I know we can and will get better,” Mike Stoops said. “Regardless of the opponent, I see the areas we need to improve on every day. Trying to find things that work for our players and adjusting our scheme to fit our players. Next week we’re going to play a very talented team that has tremendous players and they execute very well, they’re well coached, so we’re going to have to match that with a great performance defensively. Better than we played a week ago in Houston.”
Meyer has concerns about OU’s defense.
“You’re not going to run — you have to be really on your target to run the football on them,” Meyer said. “They’re big, gigantic guys inside. Very similar to Alabama defensive line. They played the odd four-I defense which is going to negate gaps and makes it very difficult to run.
“And obviously skilled secondaries. So I just think they’re the whole package. They have a pass rusher that’s outstanding, No. 31 Ogbonnia Okowonkwo).
“We have to be balanced. You have no chance in this game if you think you’re going to go just pound the ball. Their defensive system is not to allow the inside run. Their base defense that they want to install is to negate the run, and so we’re going to have to be very balanced.”
Bob Stoops said Ohio State’s offense is very similar to what OU faced against Houston.
“There’s some advantage there that we have dealt with a guy (quarterback) who is similar,” Stoops said.
“You tweak and adjust some things you thought you could have done better. The other side of that is that they see how you want to play against that. They get to make their adjustments as well.”
Meyer and Stoops both indicated that the staffs at Houston and Ohio State have visited this week to discuss how to play against Oklahoma.
“We had a lot of conversations with people as well,” Stoops said.
Stoops said he was concerned about the play of the Ohio State quarterback and the balance of the Buckeye offense.
OU offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley liked how his players responded to Houston loss with a good performance against ULM.
“I’m just happy with how our guys responded,” Riley said “We all were incredibly disappointed with our performance, especially in the second half, last week. We’ve got to make improvement. Whether we won that game in Houston or not, you have to make jumps if you’re going to be where you want to be at the end of the season and have a chance to play in some really meaningful games.
“Our group made a really great jump this week. They really responded to all the things we put forth. We coached them, not that we don’t always, but we coached them incredibly aggressive this week and they did a good job this week.”
In terms of the college football playoff, Ohio State could weather a road loss to Oklahoma but a Sooner defeat could end chances to play for the national title.
“A win would be a huge boost,” Stoops said. “To be heading into Big 12 play the following week, it’s always a big boost when you can win a big game like this.”