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OU's schedule does not get any easier

Tigers, Cowboys should give Sooners tough tests
BY JAKE TROTTER, Staff Writer, Modified: October 6, 2010 at 10:01 pm •  Published: October 6, 2010

NORMAN — At 5-0, Oklahoma survived a difficult first portion of the schedule going into its off week.

The second half of the season, however, doesn't get any easier.

The Sooners still have to visit No. 24 Missouri and No. 22 Oklahoma State, as well as Texas A&M and Baylor.

Combined, those four teams are 15-2.

Missouri, OSU and Baylor appear to be tougher games now than they did before the season. And Texas A&M, just as tough.

"The South is stacked," said OU linebacker Travis Lewis. "You go from A&M to Oklahoma State. Those teams jump out at me. Even Baylor. Baylor is playing some great football.

"It's not just a two-horse race anymore. Used to be if we beat Texas, Texas beat us, that team was in the Big 12 Championship. It's not going to be like that anymore."

The Oklahoman breaks down the second half of OU's schedule, examining what we thought we knew before the season about each Sooner opponent, and what we know now:

Oct. 16 vs. Iowa State

What we thought before the season: The Cyclones were an improved program but still destined to battle Colorado for last in the North.

What we know now: The Cyclones are even more improved, coming off an impressive 52-38 win over Texas Tech. Iowa State now seems to have a great chance of finishing no worse than fourth in the North. The Cyclones pose little threat to the Sooners in Norman, but they will be a tougher out than initially projected.

Key player: Returning from an injury to his non-throwing shoulder, senior QB Austen Arnaud unleashed the best performance of his career, throwing for four touchdowns with no picks in the win over Tech.

Oct. 23 at Missouri

What we thought before the season: With QB Blaine Gabbert, the Big 12's top returning passer, flanked by veteran running back Derrick Washington, Missouri figured to be the biggest threat to Nebraska's claim to the North championship.

What we know now: Washington has been booted off the team and Gabbert has struggled (eighth in Big 12 in passing efficiency), but Missouri is 4-0. If the Tigers get by Texas A&M in two weeks, they'll probably be undefeated when OU visits Columbia. This game looks every bit as difficult for the Sooners as it did before the season.

Key players: Since Washington's removal, the Tigers have relied on a running back platoon comprising Kendial Lawrence, Henry Josey and De'Vion Moore, among others. Whoever it uses, Missouri needs to sustain a running game to take pressure off Gabbert.

Oct. 30 vs. Colorado

What we thought before the season: With several starters back offensively, Colorado had a chance to go to its second bowl game under Dan Hawkins.

What we know now: Thanks to a big home victory over reeling Georgia last week, Colorado's bowl-game hopes remain intact despite an embarrassing 45-point loss at Cal. Games against Texas Tech and Kansas look particularly winnable, which would put the Buffs one game away from being bowl eligible. Winning in Norman, however, is still a long shot.

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