NORMAN — Last year, Oklahoma was perfect at home. So far this season, too.
But to win a Big 12 title and stick in the national championship picture, the Sooners must do something they rarely did in 2009.
Play well away from Norman.
This week at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, that challenge begins.
"Going into our season, we talked about how there were going to be many tremendous road opportunities, counting this neutral site game, which will be away from home and in Cincinnati," said OU offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson. "We don't want to make a bigger deal than it is, but we do understand, to have a strong team and have a great year, we've got to play well on the road."
The success of OU's season will hinge on that.
The Sooners should take care of business at Owen Field the rest of the way. Two of OU's toughest home opponents, Florida State and Air Force, already are in the rearview mirror. Of OU's remaining home foes, only Texas Tech poses a threat.
Away from home, plenty of land mines await.
Saturday, OU will face the Cincinnati Bearcats, who haven't been strong themselves in two road losses already this season. Still, the Bearcats have won 22 of their last 24 games inside the Cincinnati city limits.
The following week, seventh-ranked Texas waits in the Cotton Bowl, where OU has lost four of five. Road bouts also loom at Missouri, Texas A&M and Oklahoma State; all three are undefeated through three games.
"We have some remaining conference games that are going to be great challenges on the road," Wilson said. "If we're going to have the year we hope to have, we're going to have to be pretty tough and pretty strong and pretty focused in those environments."
The Sooners weren't always tough, strong and focused in road environments last season.
Especially the offense.
Despite injuries to Sam Bradford, Jermaine Gresham and others, the Sooner offense still averaged 46 points a game on Owen Field last season.
Away from home, just 18 points, which includes OU's 31-point effort in the Sun Bowl win.
"We weren't particularly strong last year, and most teams aren't on the road," Wilson said. "But to be a great team, we have to be a team that plays well on the road and relishes that environment."
Now as a sophomore, will quarterback Landry Jones relish playing in a road environment?
And Cam Kenney and Kenny Stills?
And Donald Stephenson and Stephen Good?
OU's season hinges on it.
Take five Looking at the Sooners' five big games away from Norman: Sept. 25 vs. Cincinnati (Paul Brown Stadium): The Sooners' first test comes this weekend against the Bearcats. Oct. 2 vs. Texas (Cotton Bowl): The seventh-ranked Longhorns are coming off a big victory at Texas Tech. Oct. 23 at Missouri: The Tigers struggled Saturday vs. San Diego State, but moved to 3-0. Nov. 6 at Texas A&M: Like Mizzou, Texas A&M was sluggish in a home win, but the Aggies still boast a dangerous offense. Nov. 27 at Oklahoma State: Only Oregon has scored more points or gained more yards than the Cowboys.