What do Oklahoma, Penn State, Notre Dame, Oregon, USC, UCLA, Missouri, LSU, Auburn, Mississippi and BYU all have in common?
With just a month gone in the college football season, all of these traditional football powerhouses have lost at least two games and none have a winning record. BYU, Notre Dame, which fired its defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder this weekend, and Southern California all have 1-3 records. OU sits at 1-2 after painful losses to Houston and Ohio State. All the rest have 2-2 records.
Teams like Louisville, Wisconsin, Utah and Tennessee are undefeated and sitting atop the standings in the divisions of their respective conferences. Baylor (4-0) and West Virginia (3-0) lead the Big 12.
And LSU fired head coach Les Miles this week after 12 years, even though he had won a national championship for LSU. Miles formerly coached at Oklahoma State.
“It is difficult to win a national championship,” Stoops said. “Just look around. And it is tough to stay at a place for a long time.
“I like Les a lot. I really respect what he has done. (At) LSU and Oklahoma State, on through. It’s unfortunate. If he wants to coach again, he will have the opportunity. He’s done it really well for a long time. I hate it for him but I know this business. I’ve been in a long time and there’s a certain level of winning that people want…”
Stoops said having a top program doesn’t always translate to wins.
“The culture has been the same here for a long time. That doesn’t mean you win the same every year,” Stoops said. “We’ve won a lot of championships around here with a couple of losses. Keep fighting. Keep improving. Better teams improve through the year. And that’s what we have to do.”
Oklahoma must travel to TCU Saturday and face the prospect of a 1-3 start to a season once filled with promise. The Sooner, who fell out of the Top 25 this week after not playing, were ranked as high as No. 3 this year after playing in the College Football Playoff last season.
With two losses, hopes for a national title have been dashed but OU could still win the Big 12 title and go to a major bowl game. A win over TCU would boost the conference title hopes and put the Horned Frogs in a hole.
“They have always been a quality team,” Stoops said of the series with TCU. “These games have been that way. Gary does a great job coaching them. They have a lot of good, skilled players across the board and guys who can make big plays.”
OU must face red-hot quarterback Kenny Hill of TCU. Hill passed for a TCU career high 452 yards in a 33-3 win over SMU last Friday night.
That ranks as the sixth best total for a single game in school history. He completed 31-of-45 attempts, including 19-of-26 for 302 yards in the second half. It was his second 400-yard passing game this season. One of his passes was a 75-yard scoring strike to John Diarse.
“I think Kenny Hill is an excellent football player,” said Stoops.
Oklahoma has had some tight games with TCU since they joined the Big 12 Conference (along with West Virginia).
Last season, OU slipped past TCU 30-29 in Norman. The Horned Frogs scored late in the game and decided to go for two rather than kick an extra point for the tie. That pass was broken up and the Sooners went on to win the Big 12 title.
TCU fell to 4-4 all-time in Norman. The Horned Frogs had previously been the only team with a winning record against Oklahoma in Norman. Quarterback Foster Sawyer made his first collegiate start in that game.
OU quarterback Baker Mayfield was injured in that game and did not play in the second half. OU running back Samaje Perine has 189 yards against TCU, including a 72-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.
Oklahoma came out of the Ohio State loss with some banged up players.
“We will still be without some guys (for TCU),” Stoops said. “The majority of them are back practicing.
Stoops wants his defense to create turnovers and his offense to eliminate them.
“To me, it’s the number one stat in football in winning and losing,” Stoops said. “If you are on the wrong end of it, it’s incredibly difficult to win and when you are on the positive end, it will usually give you a boost to win.
“We’ve got to do a better job taking care of it and we’ve got to do a better job of getting our opportunities when we’ve had the chance at them.”
Stoops said both his offense and defense needs to be in more control of third-down situations.
“I felt we got markedly better last year from the first five games toward the end of the year,” Stoops said. “I think because we have kept a positive attitude of pushing ourselves.”
Stoops said the confidence of quarterback Baker Mayfield hasn’t diminished despite the losses to Ohio State and Houston.
“He’s the same,” Stoops said.
Oklahoma holds a 10-5 series lead over TCU. No. 25 TCU won 37-33 over No. 3 Oklahoma in 2014, the last time the teams played in Fort Worth. The Horned Frogs have won 15 of their last 16 home games.