A quick glance at the 2014 schedule shows a nice setup for the Sooners. The best teams in the Big 12 have to come to Norman, and there isn’t one particularly brutal stretch. If you dig a little deeper, though, you will see that some of the more formidable opponents get to play the Sooners after a bye or a game against a lesser opponent.
Here’s a look at whom the Sooners’ opponents play in the weeks leading up to the OU game. We'll go all the way through the Red River Shootout in Part I and then finish off the second half of the season in Part II.
Aug. 30: Louisiana Tech
(Previous two weeks: Offseason)
If you take a look at this game from afar, you see a highly ranked team coming off a big bowl win playing a program that has had some recent success. It’s not a stretch to imagine a TV analyst picking this as the upset of the week on Saturday morning.
However, Louisiana Tech is coached by Skip Holtz, and there is little reason to believe that he and his staff can come up with a scheme to beat OU, regardless of the amount of time before the game.
Sept. 6: at Tulsa
(Previous two weeks: Offseason, Tulane)
Tulane finally made it back to the postseason in 2013, and the Green Wave knocked off Tulsa in New Orleans along the way. It’s a tough opener for the Golden Hurricane, as they try to rebound from last year’s 3-9 debacle.
Just like the Louisiana Tech game, it’s hard to see this game being a problem for the Sooners.
Sept. 13: Tennessee
(Previous two weeks: Utah State, Arkansas State)
The Volunteers are going to have to earn every win this year, and they will have to do it with completely rebuilt offensive and defensive lines.
If Chuckie Keeton is healthy, Utah State is a handful. Arkansas State has had a nice run of success, but the Red Wolves have a new coach (again) in Blake Anderson, who had previously been the offensive coordinator at North Carolina. Even with the recent surge in recruiting, Tennessee is probably going to have to play all four quarters in at least one of these games. Both of their opponents have question marks, though, so the Vols could be 2-0 when they come to Norman.
This Saturday really only has one big game in Georgia at South Carolina, meaning that this could be one of most anticipated games of the week. It could be a nice early season showcase for the Sooners.
Sept. 20: at West Virginia
(Previous two weeks: Towson, at Maryland)
In addition to the opener against Alabama, the Mountaineers have to play a Maryland team that beat them by 37 in Baltimore last season. Towson isn’t a pushover, either. In 2013, it beat UConn by 15 and made it to the FCS title game before falling to North Dakota State.
West Virginia does have some talent, and the 'Eers beat Oklahoma State last year. But, with a bye for WVU following this game, this may be the last stand for Dana Holgorsen if athletic director Oliver Luck wants to make an in-season coaching change.
Oct. 4: at TCU
(Previous two weeks: Bye, at SMU)
TCU has two byes before conference play starts. SMU will present a challenge for Gary Patterson’s squad, but the Horned Frogs should be in pretty good shape health-wise for the OU game. (And they better be because Baylor, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech are their next three games.)
A healthy TCU team with some extra time for Gary Patterson to prepare his defense could present a challenge for OU.
Oct. 11: Texas in Dallas
(Previous two weeks: at Kansas, Baylor)
We will know a lot more about Texas by the time Oct. 11 rolls around: Charlie Strong’s team has to play BYU, UCLA and Baylor before the Longhorns take on the Sooners in the Cotton Bowl.
The Baylor game will also be the first time that the Bears play anyone of note. The Big 12 race should become much clearer in these two weeks.