NORMAN — Oklahoma's upcoming Cotton Bowl clash with Texas A&M marks the 18th time for Bob Stoops and one of his former assistants to match wits, and the first such battle with Kevin Sumlin.
“It's really not different,” Stoops said when asked about games against his former assistants. “Kevin and I are great friends. ... In the end, once you get to playing, you're playing.
“It's something you've got to go do.”
It's something Stoops has done in all but two of his 14 seasons that he's been Oklahoma's coach; he only went through 1999, his first season, and 2011 without meeting an opposing head coach who was once on his OU staff.
The Jan. 4 Cotton Bowl will be a little different, though, as it is the first time Stoops and a former assistant face off in a nonconference game.
Ten of the 17 prior meetings with former assistants came in Oklahoma's annual Big 12 South game against Texas Tech, led from 2000-09 by Mike Leach, Stoops' first offensive coordinator. Stoops was 7-3 against Leach's Red Raiders.
Mark Mangino left Oklahoma to become Kansas' head coach in 2002, and went 0-4 against his former boss.
Bo Pelini was Oklahoma's co-defensive coordinator for the 2004 season, then left to join Les Miles' LSU staff. After he became Nebraska's head coach in 2008, he met Stoops' Sooners three times, winning once and losing twice.
Pelini was the last former assistant to face Stoops. In the 2010 Big 12 championship game, Oklahoma rallied to beat Nebraska inside Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas — the same venue where Stoops and Sumlin will meet.
Sumlin coached under Stoops from 2003-07, leaving to become Houston's head coach. This is Sumlin's first season leading Texas A&M.
“Come Jan. 4, we're gonna go out there and go at it,” said OU assistant Bobby Jack Wright, who's been with Stoops since he arrived in Norman.
“It's not gonna change anything. We're gonna be friends at the end of the day, but for about four hours, we're gonna try to beat them, and for four hours they're gonna try to beat us.”