NORMAN — The great crowd controversy of 2008 began with the toss of a rather benign question to Bob Stoops. Why have his Sooners been so strong at home? In what was surely a calculated move to goose his fan base to rise up for Saturday’s showdown with No. 2 Texas Tech, Stoops all but dismissed fan involvement. Arguments aside, the question remains intriguing. What is behind OU’s stout 59-2 record on Owen Field during Stoops’ 10 seasons? The partial answer is simple. The teams wearing home red have been pretty good. But the other part of the equation reveals something else. The visitors haven’t been all that. During Stoops’ tenure, only 11 teams have entered Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium toting a ranking. That’s an average of barely more than one per season. And only one such team, No. 1 Nebraska in 2000, was a betting-line favorite. In retrospect, it could be said that the Sooners have bullied a bunch of teams they were supposed to beat. Now, let’s not dismiss what the Stoops squads have done. Going 59-2 is impressive, especially in a league like the Big 12, where plenty of upsets have gone down. And the Sooners’ current home streak of 23 games is the nation’s best. Texas Tech — note, despite the superior ranking, the Red Raiders are the underdog Saturday — hasn’t won in four trips to Norman under Mike Leach. Haven’t come all that close. "It’s tough to win there, you know?” Leach said this week. "They’re a good team, and they’re well coached.” Uh, no mention of the crowd? "I don’t know that there is one answer why we have been so successful at home in the last 10 years,” Stoops said. "I think maybe, just our overall focus and our play are probably the biggest reasons.” That, OU’s superior talent in most instances and an overwhelming lack of major challengers. The Red River Rivalry with Texas, played in Dallas, removes one scorpion from the schedule every other year. OU and Texas have ruled the rest of the South, with Tech trying to break through this season. For many of Stoops’ seasons, the North has been in decline. And the non-conference schedules have produced duds, although in some cases unexpectedly. Alabama, Miami, Washington, UCLA — all were attractive matchups when booked, yet all arrived in Norman during downturns in their programs. So OU’s impeccable home record, while impressive on one hand, is a bit bloated. The Red Raiders, alas, pose a real challenge. That rarity, perhaps, is what prompted Stoops’ appeal for some real noise.
Ranked, not ready
Oklahoma’s 59-2 home record — and nation’s-best 23-game streak — under Bob Stoops is worth celebrating. But a closer look reveals that the Sooners have rarely faced major challengers on Owen Field. Only 11 ranked teams have taken on Stoops teams in Norman. And while the Sooners beat each of those ranked foes, only one (Nebraska in 2000) was considered the favorite. 2008 →No. 2 OU 35, No. 24 10 →No. 4 OU 45, No. 16 Kansas 31 2007 →No. 6 OU 41, No. 11 Missouri 31 2006 →No ranked teams came to Norman. 2005 →No ranked teams came to Norman. 2004 →No ranked teams came to Norman. 2003 →No. 1 OU 34, No. 24 Missouri 13 →No. 1 OU 52, No. 14 Oklahoma State 9 2002 →No. 2 OU 49, No. 9 Iowa State 3 →No. 2 OU 27, No. 13 Colorado 11 →No. 4 OU 60, No. 24 Texas Tech 15 2001 →No. 3 OU 38, No. 11 Kansas State 37 2000 →No. 3 OU 31, No. 1 Nebraska 14 1999 →Unranked OU 51, No. 13 Texas A&M 6