Oklahoma's defensive line heard the comments so often during two-a-days, you would have thought game show host Anne Robinson was standing in the locker informing them, “You are the weakest link.”
For the Sooners to win their eighth national title the biggest variable was whether they had a championship caliber D-line.
Through five games, punctuated by a dominant showing in a 55-17 win over Texas on Saturday, OU's defensive line has silenced critics.
“It's the best group we've had,” said defensive coordinator Brent Venables. “It's not an indictment on any other group. But the defensive line has been our best group, our most consistent. They've played well.
“I'm not acting like it's the Steel Curtain. But they've played really well. They've practiced that way. Coach (Bobby Jack) Wright and Coach (Jackie) Shipp have done an incredible job of getting them to play at a high level. I've been really, really pleased.”
Proving the skeptics wrong served as motivation.
“I told everyone before the season started, ‘watch out for us,'” said defensive end David King. “We knew everyone was calling us the weak link. The entire D-line has been playing very well, the defense in general. How many sacks did we have (against Texas)?”
Eight, which tied the school record. And continued a season-long trend.
The Sooners rank third nationally in sacks (19).
The Sooners rank 10th nationally in tackles for loss (40).
Defensive ends Frank Alexander and Ronnell Lewis have combined for nine sacks. Backups D-ends R.J. Washington and King have combined for three.
“Every day when we break, we use the term brothers,” Alexander said. “Brothers pick each other up. That's what we pride ourselves on. We're determined to prove to the world we can be a great D-line.”
OU scored three defensive touchdowns in the rout Saturday in the Cotton Bowl, including a 19-yard fumble return by King.