Saturday, October 25, 2008
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More than just OK: State's 3 teams near perfect

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[October 25, 2008]  LONDON (AP) -- This was supposed to be the year that basketball took Oklahoma by storm and gave the state a major-league sports identity for the first time. College football, the state's first love, isn't ready to loosen its grasp just yet.

Just in time for the NBA's Oklahoma City Thunder to debut, all three of Oklahoma's major college programs are in the Top 25 for the first time since World War II.

Oklahoma is No. 4, Oklahoma State is No. 7 and Tulsa joined the rankings at No. 22 this week after its 7-0 start. Only Texas and Florida - with more than four times as many major programs and 10 times the population - can match Oklahoma with three ranked teams.

"It kind of gives you some Oklahoma pride," said Sooners defensive end Auston English, himself a native of the Texas Panhandle.

The three programs are a combined 20-1 this season and, get this, it's the Sooners dragging the total down. Only their loss to Texas in the Red River Rivalry has spoiled the state's perfection.

And the offensive numbers are just silly. Tulsa's David Johnson, Oklahoma's Sam Bradford, Oklahoma State's Zac Robinson sit 1-2-3 in the nation in quarterback rating and have thrown for 6,405 yards and 71 touchdowns with only 17 interceptions. Their teams are first, third and fourth in scoring - putting up a combined 150 points per week.


"All three offenses ... are pretty highly ranked and tearing it up," Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Gunter Brewer said. "That's very, very unusual to be where everybody is and I think there's some office pools going on of which one was going to lose first, and I think some people lost some money on that one probably.

"We're hoping we'll be the last one and not have a blemish."

The glut of success has come as Tulsa and Oklahoma State experience their best seasons in decades. Tulsa is 7-0 for the first time since its Sugar Bowl season of 1942, while Oklahoma State has hit that mark for the first time since its own Sugar Bowl season in 1945. The Cowboys have their highest ranking since 1985.

For Oklahoma, of course, it's nothing new to be in the Top 25. The Sooners have been ranked for 42 straight weeks, and only three teams in college football have been in the Top 25 more often in the poll's history. Earlier this season, Oklahoma surpassed Notre Dame for the most times holding the No. 1 spot.

All three teams can share the high hopes now.

The Sooners debuted at fourth in the initial BCS standings, with Oklahoma State in sixth and Tulsa in 19th. The Golden Hurricane need to get into the top 12 to get an automatic bid to a one of the big-money bowls, as long there isn't another BCS buster in the mix.

Even that's not a complete surprise, though. After last year's 10-win season, Tulsa players went into the season with the prospect of going undefeated as a real possibility and the BCS seeming like a reachable goal for the first time.

Coach Todd Graham still has that target in his sights, and he doesn't see any way the Golden Hurricane will get left out of the BCS if they're able to go 12-0 and then win the Conference USA title game.

"There's just not that many teams that can go undefeated. That's the hard thing, to go undefeated. We've got a long way to go to do that," Graham said.

While Tulsa can boast the biggest turnaround, only six years removed from back-to-back one-win seasons, Oklahoma State is perhaps the biggest surprise of the threesome. The Cowboys had languished near the bottom of the Big 12 for much of the conference's 13-year existence, but they've already matched their win total from each of the past two seasons.

"I was actually quite surprised that Oklahoma State was up there because in the past they haven't had the greatest of seasons," Sooners fullback Matt Clapp said. "But I think it's great. I think it's great for our conference and for each team. It makes our league more competitive."

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Though none of the three teams is more than a two-hour drive apart, they might as well be in different worlds. There's no contact between the three prolific quarterbacks, and even Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy and Oklahoma running backs coach Cale Gundy - who are brothers - go weeks without talking during football season.

"It's great for the state, obviously, to have three college teams being that successful. It's a good thing," said Bradford, from Oklahoma City. "But I can't really say I'm that concerned with what's going on at the other two places. I'm more concerned with what's going on in Norman."

Oklahoma offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said he won't really start paying attention to Oklahoma State until closer to their Bedlam rivalry game in the regular season finale Nov. 29. And neither of the Big 12 teams face Tulsa this year, although the Golden Hurricane play at least one of the other schools in each of the next seven seasons.

There was more of a connection last season, when Oklahoma played both of the other in-state teams.

"It's kind of hard," Wilson said. "The other day I was walking by and a pro game was on, and it was kind of hard to even sit down and watch for a couple minutes because you're thinking about your team this week."

Oklahoma can't really claim much of a common thread among the players on the three rosters. Texans outnumber Oklahomans at all three schools, Robinson is from Colorado and Johnson from Oregon.


"In time, it'll probably be good for a lot of high-school kids around the state that are probably in the fifth and sixth and seventh and eighth grade," Wilson said. "They're going to see a lot of good football, and a few years from now you'll see probably some great recruiting classes from some young, little kids that are loving watching their teams play."

"You've got to give credit to Tulsa's staff and OU's staff for developing a good program, and the state's got to be proud that you've got three teams there that are represented from top to bottom with class and a lot of integrity," Brewer said. "It's good to see."

[Associated Press; By JEFF LATZKE]

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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