NORMAN — Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones was asked last week if the Sooners' 58-17 win over Kansas State was their best performance in 2011.
“I think one of the best,” Jones said. “As an offense, we definitely played really well. We moved the ball through the passing game and also did some good things in the run game. It was one of the better games we did play last year.”
The rout in Manhattan, Kan., was also important because of what had happened just a week earlier. Oklahoma, the preseason No. 1-ranked team, was embarrassed at home by Texas Tech, and many around the country were down on the Sooners.
A convincing victory over the then-unbeaten Wildcats was enough to — at least temporarily — put OU squarely back in the conversation of legitimate national-title contenders.
So far in 2012, Oklahoma held a tenuous, three-point lead in the fourth quarter before pulling away to beat traditional doormat UTEP 24-7 in the season opener. The next week, OU routed Florida A&M at home, but beating up on a Football Championship Subdivision opponent did little to make the country forget the West Texas squeaker.
A barrage of injuries and suspensions over the past several months has also damaged the way OU is perceived.
The two major college football polls provide clear evidence of Oklahoma's weakened standing in the college football world.
Even though then-No. 2 USC was upset Saturday, and subsequently tumbled out of the top 10, OU was leapfrogged by Florida State in both the AP and coaches' polls.
In the latter poll, the Sooners — on a bye this week — were also overtaken by Georgia and dropped to No. 6.
Could a heavy dose of Kansas State again be the antidote to Oklahoma's perception problem? Any win over the No. 15 Wildcats would be great for OU, but a dominant one — like in 2011, when OU scored the game's final 44 points and pitched a second-half shutout — would do wonders.
“We respected them last year; we respect them every year,” said senior defensive tackle Jamarkus McFarland. “We know they have major talent at
quarterback and with their line. They can get some plays on our defense. We have to be prepared for it.”