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Dean: Sooners Face Gauntlet Schedule To Open Season

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OU heads to Houston to face a Cougar club that is much tougher than when scheduled. Surely a quick conversation amongst Sooner brass on whether to put the Sooners in the fertile Houston market inside an NFL stadium.

Related: Breaking Down Houston's Dynamic Offensive Attack

But the rapid ascent of UH football has turned that easy scheduling decision into yet another quality opponent Oklahoma has been playing now for a prolonged stretch that now stretches over two seasons. Guess you could describe extremely admirable, character building and ridiculously difficult. And one that will say a lot about the state of the state of the Bob Stoops program.

With the quality number of young players, a top five 2017 national recruiting class committed, and a plethora of QBs in the system and verbally committed, if OU can survive this scheduling gauntlet with a season-defining momentum, the future will look awfully bright. If OU stumbles badly early in 2016, schedule-makers be damned; and hold on for a critical back half of Big 12 play.

A CLOSER LOOK

The final four games of 2015 were at Baylor, host TCU, at OSU and Clemson in the College Football Playoff. The Sooners won the first three games as they clinched the ninth Big 12 championship in the Stoops Era – although a sizable asterisk could be applied since OU back-up quarterbacks in each of those games. But it’s worth noting OU was rolling over TCU in Norman when Baker Mayfield went down from a dirty play and was forced out of the second half under concussion protocol. OU barely hung on when a 2-3 TD win looked reasonable when Mayfield had the Sooners rolling.

However Clemson brought its healthy first-teamer Deshaun Watson and in the high-profile national semifinal the Tigers brought OU back down to earth with a dominant performance in their Orange Bowl win.

FIRST BASE

This season kicks off Saturday morning at NRG Stadium in Houston against the hometown Cougars. All they have is the hottest young coach and motivator in the college game in Tom Herman, a Heisman candidate in duel-threat QB Greg Ward Jr., plus the luxury of playing seven miles from campus.

The Sooners get a rare breather in week two hosting the ULM Warhawks who won a grand total of two games last season. But then the Mighty Buckeye’s roll into Norman for a Big Boy heavyweight matchup on September 17. No need to waste our time in explaining the challenge the Sooners face here.

Related: OU's Mark Andrews Expects Bigger Role In Sooners' Offense

After an idle week, OU travels to Forth Worth to face its stiffest Big 12 competition. Vegas will see this as OU’s toughest test. The Sooners are 11.5-point favorites tomorrow and opened as a gaudy 9-point favorite over Ohio State. 

The treacherous stretch continues seven days after the TCU game in Dallas where OU has been outcoached and outplayed by big underdog Texas the last three seasons.

So in total, that’s a stretch of 7-of-8 games where OU will have faced teams nationally recognized and capable of taking them down. Haven’t seen that anywhere else, and don’t remember a period in OU history any tougher.

2015

No. 12    OU 44      No. 4    Baylor 34       Waco

No. 7     OU 30       No. 11  TCU    29        Norman

No. 5     OU 58       No. 9    OSU    23       Stillwater

No. 4     OU 17       No. 1    Clemson 37     Orange Bowl

2016

No. 3        OU       No.15 Houston        Houston

               OU                 ULM              Norman

               OU                 Ohio St          Norman

               OU                 TCU               Fort Worth

               OU                Texas             Dallas

The final four games OU played in the 2015 season against teams ranked No. 1, No. 4, No. 9, and No. 11. Going into those games, Baylor and Clemson were undefeated and a combined 22-0. TCU and OSU had one loss each and were a combined 19-2. Collectively, the four opponents were 41-2 before they played the Sooners. Go get you some of that.

Houston is ranked No. 15 right now. Ohio State will be Top 5. TCU will be Top 10. And Texas could be ranked. Or just be plain rank. Either way, winning in Dallas won’t be easy.

The sound thumping at the hands to Clemson in the College Football Playoff took a little shine off the stretch of the final three games last season. But the thing that will determine how this seven game gauntlet will be ultimately evaluated won’t be known until the gun sounds in Big D.

Enjoy the game!

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