"Fear The Stache" T-shirts and slogans were all the rage last year in Norman. Quarterback Landry Jones' facial hair grew in epic proportions on his face and across the nation.
When I first moved to Tulsa, I did not understand Sooner Nation. The fan base demands championships. It's an unrealistic dream every year. However, the university found a coach who has the same drive as the fanatics in the stands. He continues to instill the same goals in his squad each and every year.
This is not to say the fan base powers the team on the gridiron. However, they demand perfection. It definitely raises the bar for all involved. Expect the best, settle for no less.
Instead of another run-of-the-mill season preview, I turned to one of the highest profile unofficial spokespersons for Sooners football. He also happens to be the most famous voice in the history of professional wrestling.
Jim Ross grew up in Westville, Okla., in the '60s. He listened to the Sooners on a transistor radio. His enjoyment of Bob Barry and Mike Treps' broadcasts influenced his career path. Many rasslin' fans are thankful.
"We would stop farm work on Saturdays when OU played a television game, which was once or twice a year back then," Ross said. "It was like an unofficial holiday."
Asking him to choose his favorite Sooner of all time was akin to making a father pick a favorite child. Steve Owens earned the favorite tag, while Lee Roy Selmon, Sam Bradford and Billy Sims made the grade as well.
Ross remembers Bob Stoops' first press conference. "He talked about the tradition of the program, and that there would be no excuses," he said. Having Barry Switzer standing on stage with Stoops did not hurt his instant credibility, either.
The two are now close friends.
Stoops' passion remains strong for Oklahoma University. Passion is something Ross exuded during his time behind the microphone calling the action inside the ring. No wonder they get along.
Fans clamor every year for an undefeated season and a BCS trophy. This year is no different. Anything less is considered an off-year.
Ross is a bit more realistic; although nothing would please him more than to hang his legendary black hat on another championship.
"I see OU winning nine or 10 games, but I'm hoping that they can stay injury-free and run the table," he said.
The university stacked the schedule. The non-conference start is loaded. The offensive and defensive lines will need to gel immediately.
The Sooners begin the campaign at home for their first three contests. Utah State, Florida State and Air Force visit the friendly confines. A dangerous roadie to Cincinnati closes out their non-conference schedule. Then, it's Texas.
"I don't live and die with OU beating Texas like many fans do," Ross said. Of course, victory in the Cotton Bowl is always a plus.
He watched his first Red River Rivalry game in 1971. A "W" would be nice, but he would prefer a championship. "I'd be lying if I said that leaving the State Fair of Texas with a corndog and a win wasn't better than the alternative," he said.
The Oct. 2 clash in Dallas highlights the Big 12 schedule. The winner catapults itself into the national title picture. Texas ranks No. 5 in the preseason poll, while OU finds itself No. 7.
Defector Colorado visits Norman Oct. 30. If football Gods exist, the Buffaloes' uniforms will turn yellow that day.
Nebraska escaped to the land of opportunity otherwise known as the Big 10 without another shellacking at the hands of Stoops' Troops.
Many Sooners and Cornhuskers fans were saddened by the end of a rivalry, but truth be told, it was not much of a rivalry at this point. It was more like a feud.
During the past 10 years, OU has soundly defeated Nebraska by a combined score of 188-106. That's an average of 12 points each contest, which certainly did not make Tom Osborne smile. Enjoy your new Indiana showdown blackshirts.
Oklahoma State wraps up regular season play. It should not be a problem as Poke fans are content with 8 wins and going 0-2 against OU and Texas. Move along, move along.
We have come full circle as football typically does. Keep the turnovers low and give your team a chance to win. Landry Jones flashed brilliance a year ago.
If DeMarco Murray stays healthy and the O-line keeps Jones' jersey clean, the Sooners will be hunting once again.
Sooner fans took me to task last year. I felt it was one of Stoops best years at the helm. Forget the Sun Bowl berth for a minute and look at the entire campaign. Call me crazy, but it may have rekindled his fire for 2010. If he could take that squad and keep them competitive, just imagine what a healthy roster should be able to accomplish.
If not, Jones should immediately re-grow the stache. "(It) was a fun topic last year, and if Landry wants to 'try' and grow one again it's his call. I will say that if it helps him stay vertical and make first downs then I am all for it," Ross said.
"OU has no quarterback problems, but they might have concerns at the backup quarterback position. Let's hope that we don't have to address that matter."
I'm sure his good ole buddy Bob Stoops feels the same way.
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