Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said Saturday's home game against Notre Dame is “the most anticipated game since 2000” when Nebraska came to Norman ranked No. 1.
The quarterback on that national championship Oklahoma team, Josh Heupel, is now the Sooners' co-offensive coordinator, and he was asked after Oklahoma's 52-7 rout of Kansas to compare the 2000 team with this year's squad.
“That team in 2000 struggled early and was fortunate enough to find ways to win ball games,” Heupel said. “Got better as the year went along. Got hot. Was highly competitive throughout the year in the way they approached practice every day and how they performed on Saturdays.
“This team, we are getting better every week. We've made strides.”
When Nebraska visited Norman in late October 2000, it was ranked No. 1 in the BCS standings, and Oklahoma was second. The Cornhuskers quickly took a 14-0 lead, but Oklahoma scored 24 second-quarter points and added a defensive score in the third to win 31-14.
Saturday's Notre Dame game has a similar feel — late October, top-10 matchup and a traditional power visiting OU.
Plus, the Irish represent one of Heupel's losses he never had an opportunity to avenge. Oklahoma lost 34-31 at Notre Dame in 1999, Stoops' first season as coach and Heupel's junior season, his first as OU's quarterback.
JEFFERSON CONTINUES STELLAR SEASON
Junior safety Tony Jefferson finished Saturday's rout of Kansas with a team-high 11 tackles, and eight of them came in the first quarter alone.
For the season, Jefferson is Oklahoma's tackles leader with 48; the next-highest Sooner tackler, fellow safety Javon Harris, has 34.
In defensive coordinator Mike Stoops' scheme, most tackles are funneled to the secondary. Three of OU's top four tacklers so far this season are defensive backs.
“The sky is the limit for how our secondary plays,” Jefferson said. “We are a close group, and we're playing together really well right now.”
Senior defensive tackle Casey Walker, on playing big games like next weekend's against Notre Dame:
“You can be the best in the country, just running over everybody, but if you don't get a chance, how do you know how good you actually are? I'm excited for the game.”