After failing to land a preseason top-10 selection last season for the first time since 2000, No. 3 Oklahoma returns this year as a legitimate national title contender. The Sooners take their first step Saturday at home against Conference USA opponent Louisiana Tech, which has been to three bowl games in the last 24 years. The schools never have played before, but Oklahoma is 87-5 at home under coach Bob Stoops - including 14-1 in season openers.
Entering his 16th season, Stoops has compiled the most wins in Oklahoma history (160-39) and won the national title in 2000. With the Sooners' brand losing its appeal in recent seasons, Stoops brought in his brother Mike as the defensive coordinator in 2012. The younger Stoops has put together one of the most intimidating units in the country, and it will be relied upon heavily should the Sooners make a run for the Big 12 and national titles.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, PPV. LINE: Oklahoma -38.
ABOUT LOUISIANA TECH (2013: 4-8): The Bulldogs, who were a combined 17-8 the previous two campaigns prior to coach Skip Holtz's arrival last season, have lost 20
straight games to ranked foes dating to 2000. Holtz, who spent 2010-12 at South Florida, did manage to improve upon the defense, chopping off 118 yards and 12 points from the 2012 season. Offensively, Tech returns its
top four rushers - including Kenneth Dixon, who ran for 917 yards and a
6.1 average last season.
ABOUT OKLAHOMA (2013: 11-2): The defense returns nine starters - including big-play linebackers Frank Shannon, Eric Striker and Dominique Alexander, the reigning Big 12 Freshman Defensive Player of the Year. Sophomore quarterback Trevor Knight, who battled Blake Bell for playing time last season, will be the pivotal offensive performer for the Sooners in 2014. He passed for 348 yards and four touchdowns in a 45-31 victory over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, prompting Bob Stoops to move Bell to tight end this season.
1. Oklahoma's defense yielded a Big 12 Conference-best 350 yards per game last season, its fewest yards allowed since 2009.
2. Knight can tuck it and run, racing for 485 yards a season ago - third most on the team - despite playing in just eight games.
3. Iowa transfer Cody Sokol will start at quarterback for the Bulldogs over dual-threat incumbent Ryan Higgins, who completed 59.1 percent of his passes as a freshman last season but threw six touchdowns against 13 interceptions.
PREDICTION: Oklahoma 49, Louisiana Tech 7