The excitement and pride surrounding Iowa State football is undeniably increased from years past.
ISU coach Paul Rhoads, in his fourth season, has generated enthusiasm from players and fans alike with his energetic personality, seen by millions in postgame speeches that went viral online.
“Paul's done a good job up there, and people have supported the program,” said Jay Norvell, OU's co-offensive coordinator and a longtime friend of Rhoads'.
“They're putting a good product out there. People believe they can win every week, and that's what you want your school to have. They haven't always had that there, but he's done a great job of giving them something to look forward to.”
This season has seen four of the 10 most-attended games in Jack Trice Stadium history, and three more on that list were played last season.
“I remember watching that (Oklahoma State) game on TV last year,” said OU center Gabe Ikard. “That atmosphere was very intense. The fans were really into it. I've never been there, but from what I've heard, Ames is a tough place to play.”
Ikard isn't alone; none of the current Sooners have played at Iowa State. Oklahoma made its last trip there in 2007, when the Big 12 was still split into divisions and teams didn't all play each other each season.
But to Stoops, none of the outside elements — grass, a raucous crowd, an unfamiliar environment, etc. — will matter Saturday as much as the players on the field.
“Just because a certain team isn't looked at as being a top five team, everybody has talent anymore,” Stoops said, citing scholarship restrictions and better coaching in high schools around the country.
“There's so many players ... Parity — and it's been this way for several years — is greater than ever.”