NORMAN — The biggest obstacle preventing the Sooners from playing for the national football championship?
Veteran linebacker Travis Lewis didn't single out an early season showdown at Florida State, the season finale at Oklahoma State or the weekly grind of playing in the Big 12.
“It's ourselves, being too complacent, buying into the hype with what everybody is saying," Lewis said. "We're our own worst enemies.”
Coach Bob Stoops on more than one occasion has used a different word.
Stoops constantly reminds players that success is earned. Success is the byproduct of hard work.
Has the message sunk in?
“Some people listen in church better than others,” Stoops said. “You can preach it all you want. Whether or not they're listening, who knows?”
Stoops is confident this team has bought in, is fully invested. But the 2005 team is a reminder of what can happen.
Coming off back-to-back undefeated regular season finishes, the '05 team assumed success was automatic.
“Just signing your letter of intent, you almost feel part of it, but you haven't put in the work to be rewarded for it,” said Paul Thompson, quarterback of the 2005 team. “You just kind of show up and fall into the rut, ‘OK, this is what happened last year so it's going to happen next year.'"
J.D. Runnels, a fullback in 2005, said leadership was the primary problem.
"We lost 14 leaders," Runnels said. "We had 10 guys drafted, and four (NFL) free agents. We had some veteran leaders. We just didn't have quantity that trickles down.
"It starts with making plays. If you don't know who your leaders are, it's difficult for young players who don't know their roles."
Quarterback Landry Jones said a similar issue occurred on a smaller basis in 2009.
The Sooners were ranked No. 3 in preseason two years ago. The season was derailed when quarterback Sam Bradford, the reigning Heisman winner, was injured in the season opener vs. Brigham Young.
Other injuries mounted. The Sooners finished 8-5.
Was “feeling entitled” a factor?
“A little bit,” Jones said. "We felt when we stepped onto the field, our helmet with the OU logo on it was going to win for us, not players working hard in the offseason. That's the mentality that's changed around this place.”
Stoops has praised this team's work ethic dating back to the summer of 2010.
And unlike the 2005 team, this group has an abundance of leaders.
Wide receiver Ryan Broyles said last year's freshmen, possibly the best freshman class in the Stoops era, have a unique combination of working hard and enjoying the journey.
"A lot of our younger guys have enough experience, they can speak up now," Broyles said. "I feel that youth brings us more together. It's not too uptight, too serious. They bring a little more excitement."
Sophomore guard Gabe Ikard said Stoops has instructed players to embrace being ranked No. 1, but they must work hard, be fully invested and continue developing team chemistry to face the challenge of trying to remain No. 1 all season.
"We know we're going to get everyone's best shot, so we have to be focused every game," Ikard said. "You have to bring your best or else your title shot goes out (the window) just like that."
Lewis said veteran leaders must make sure younger players understand "the process."
"The coaches can't play for us as much as they would like to," Lewis said. "It starts with the players, what kind of leadership we bring, what kind of work ethic we bring."
Those type of statements are why Stoops isn't overly concerned this team will fall into the "entitled" trap.
“I don't feel this team is anywhere near that (2005) team,” Stoops said. “This team has had a great attitude, great chemistry. They did a year ago, and they carried it through the winter and spring, so we'll see where it goes.”