Oklahoma has the second toughest schedule in college football this season, according to Phil Steele, editor and publisher of the annual College Football Preview magazine that bears his name.
Only Florida out of the football-dominant SEC has a schedule more onerous than the Sooners in 2013, according to Steele. The Sooners are one of three Big 12 schools that Steele has ranked in the top 10 in the country in terms of schedule strength. Iowa State, which ranked third nationally season based on the quality of the Cyclones' opponents, ranks sixth this season, and the Kansas Jayhawks, who have not won a Big 12 game in two seasons, are 10th in Steele's 2013 schedule rankings.
Steele ranked Oklahoma as having the 20th most difficult football schedule last season, in which the Sooners went 10-3 and 8-1 in the Big 12 and shared the conference crown with Kansas State. Two of OU's three losses last season were to teams that Steele's analysis had ranked in the top 10 for schedule strength (Notre Dame, No. 1; Texas A&M, No. 8).
The Sooners have one of the most formidable non-conference schedules in 2013, with a home date in the third game of the season against Tulsa, champions of Conference USA last season with an 11-3 overall record, and on the road at Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish finished third in the final USA Today Coaches' Poll last season and whose only loss of the season was to defending national champion Alabama in the BCS Championship Game
Coach Bob Stoops' team also has difficult road games at Baylor, Kansas State and at Bedlam Series in-state archrival Oklahoma State. Plus, the Sooners have the annual Red River Rivalry game with Texas at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.
The 2012 combined winning percentage of OU's football opponents in the coming season was 61.5 percent (96-60 overall). That ranks as the eighth best in the country.
It all starts up again in two weeks with the kickoff to the 2013 college football season. Oklahoma kicks off the new campaign with a home game Aug. 31 against the University of Louisiana-Monroe. To refresh your memory, that's the same school that upset Arkansas in overtime in Fayetteville last season and barely lost at Auburn in an overtime contest.
Stoops' teams are not shy about playing tough schedules, but they definitely will have their work cut out for them this season.
Here is a quick snapshot of the Sooners 2013 football opponents:
August 31 - University of Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks
ULM was 8-5 overall in 2012, including the huge win over Arkansas and narrow losses at Auburn and at home against Baylor out of the Big 12. This is the first meeting ever between these two schools, The Sooners are 25-2 in season openers in Norman (both losses to TCU: in 1995 and in 2006, when OU was ranked No. 7 in the country). Oklahoma is 24-0 in the Bob Stoops era hosting non-BCS opponents at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.
September 7 - West Virginia Mountaineers
When the Sooners and Mountaineers met last season in Morgantown, W.V., it was the first regular-season game between the two schools since 1982. The two teams have only played each other five times all-time. OU won last season's game in a come-from-behind 51-49 shootout, with the winning score coming with just 21 seconds left in the game. West Virginia defeated the Sooners 48-28 in the 2008 BCS Fiesta Bowl, when OU was ranked No, 3 in the nation. Oklahoma leads the all-time series 3-2.
September. 14 - Tulsa Hurricanes
Oklahoma has won the last six times these two in-state schools have played, most recently in the 2011 season opener, a 47-14 victory in Norman. Three of the six OU wins were shutouts, by an average score of 47-0. The Sooners lead the all-time series with the Hurricanes 17-7-1.
September 28 - @ Notre Dame Fighting Irish
The Sooners have won only one of the 10 games played between these two historically successful college programs. But that one win came at Notre Dame, where coach Bud Wilkinson's Sooners rolled to a 40-0 victory en route to an undefeated season and OU's third national championship in seven seasons. This will be the third time a Bob Stoops-coached Sooner team has played the Fighting Irish. Notre Dame won 34-30 in a game played at Notre Dame in Stoops' first season in Norman in 1999. The series was renewed last season, with the Fighting Irish claiming a 30-13 victory in Norman in a game that was tied at 13 apiece with just over five minutes remaining to be played.
October 5 - TCU Horned Frogs
TCU and Oklahoma had played 11 times before last season, but the game last year, played at TCU, was the first time the two teams had met as members of the Big 12 Conference. The Sooners won last year's game 24-17, but the game ended with the Horned Frogs inside the OU 10-yard line and unable to convert on a fourth-and-goal opportunity. TCU has beaten Oklahoma twice in Norman: in 1996 and again in 2005. The Sooners own an 8-4 advantage in the all-time series, and are 37-2 at home against Big 12 opponents since 2002 (the two home defeats came against Texas Tech in 2011 and Kansas State last season).
October 12 - Texas Longhorns @ the Cotton Bowl in Dallas
Every season this matchup is one of the spotlight games of the season for both teams, and many years it is one of if not the featured game of the season in the Big 12. In the 17-year history of the Big 12 Conference, the winner of this game has gone on to win or share the conference crown in football eight times. The Longhorns hold a commanding lead in the series, 59-43-5, but the Sooners are 9-5 against Texas under Bob Stoops, including the last three in a row, won by the Sooners by an average score of 49-19. This year's Red River Rivalry game is the 108th meeting in the series.
October 19 - @ Kansas Jayhawks
The last time Kansas played host to Oklahoma, in 2011, OU held just a 10-point lead at halftime, 27-17, but the Sooners held the Jayhawks to just six net yards of total offense in the second half and outscored KU 20-0 in the second half to win going away, 47-17. Oklahoma has won 70 of the 103 games in the all-time series (70-27-6). Coming into the 2013 season, the Sooners are 13-6 in Big 12 road games since 2008. OU won last season's game with the Jayhawks 52-7 in Norman.
October 25 - Texas Tech Red Raiders
Sooner fans won't soon forget the last time Texas Tech came calling to Norman, in 2011. The Red Raiders pulled off the most stunning upset of the season in all of college football, beating the Sooners 41-38 and snapping OU's 39-game home winning streak. Up to that point in time, Bob Stoops had only lost two games at home in his 13 seasons as the Sooners' head coach. Prior to Texas Tech's road upset of the Sooners in 2011, the home team had won the previous seven games in the series. Oklahoma got a measure of revenge last season, winning 41-20 in Lubbock, making it two games in a row that the road team has won. Oklahoma leads the all-time series 14-6.
November 7 - @ Baylor Bears
When the Sooners lost at Baylor, 45-38, late in the 2011 season, it marked the first time Oklahoma had ever lost to the Bears in football. The Sooners have owned Baylor on the gridiron, winning 21 of the 22 games between the two schools. The last two times Baylor and OU have played, the two teams have scored a combined 83 and 76 points, respectively. Oklahoma won last year's game in Norman by a score of 42-34.
November 14 - Iowa State Cyclones
Oklahoma has dominated Iowa State more than any other team in the Big 12. The Sooners own a 70-5-2 advantage in the all-time series and have won the last 14 games against the Cyclones. The last time OU lost a game to Iowa State was in 1990 at Oklahoma, when Gary Gibbs was head coach.
November 23 - @ Kansas State
Oklahoma's final two games of the regular season - on the road against Kansas State and at Oklahoma State two weeks later to close out the season - may be the toughest two games of the year for the Sooners. Kansas State handed the Sooners their only conference loss of the season a year ago, pulling off a 24-19 upset at OU, only the fourth time Bob Stoops had lost a home game while coaching at Oklahoma. The last time this game was at Kansas State, however, OU broke up a close game at halftime and rolled to a 58-17 victory, scoring 35 unanswered second-half points in handing the Wildcats their first loss of the season after six straight wins. OU leads the all-time series 71-18-4.
December 7 - Oklahoma State Cowboys
The Sooners are still smarting from the 44-10 pounding their Bedlam Series rival put on them the last time OU visited Stillwater. Many believe this game will decide the Big 12 champion for 2012. Another statistic worth noting: The last time the Sooners lost back-to-back games at Oklahoma State was in 1930 and 1932.