Bob Stoops was a hard-charging defensive back at Iowa. Biopsy his brain and you would likely find tiny square-chinned, no-nonsense Nitschkes squirming around underneath the microscope.
So what is it about his quarterback magic? Stoops has won four Big 12 titles this decade with four different quarterbacks. One of the quarterbacks won a Heisman (Jason White, 2003). Another won a national championship (Josh Heupel, 2000).
|Sam Bradford has come out on fire, with eight TD passes in only two games. (AP)|
The redshirt freshman already is off to what is probably the best start ever for an Oklahoma quarterback. How do you argue with the nation's No. 1 passer (NCAA pass efficiency) who has eight touchdowns, no interceptions and an 83 percent completion percentage? In the middle of that was a streak of 22 completions in a row over two games, two short of the all-time record.
"Two games does not a season make," former OU great Jack Mildren said, "but this guy has played better than anybody thought he could. The numbers are so astronomical it's hilarious."
Heupel threw eight touchdowns in his first two games as a starter in 1999. But that was along with three interceptions for a team that finished 7-5. It wasn't until the next season that OU won the national championship and Heupel finished second in Heisman voting.
White gutted through two devastating knee injuries, but didn't start until midway through his second season. The other two OU quarterbacks to win conference titles this decade -- Nate Hybl and Paul Thompson -- will never be known as great passers or runners.
Bradford can do both. It all shows how incredibly resilient this program has been at the position. Heupel was an unknown, even after throwing for 30 touchdowns in 1999. White missed 2½ seasons because of the knee surgeries but came back to win the Heisman, setting school career records for touchdowns and yards.
Thompson was an emergency starter last season after the Rhett Bomar scandal. The quarterback-turned-receiver was asked to revert back to quarterback when Bomar was kicked off the team. An 11-3 season resulted.
All of it came under three coordinators -- Mark Mangino (now at Kansas), Chuck Long (San Diego State) and, currently, Kevin Wilson. Heupel is the current quarterbacks coach, tutoring ...
A month ago, Bradford, a highly regarded recruit from Putnam City North, was supposedly locked in a quarterback battle with Joey Halzle and Keith Nichol. After throwing five touchdown passes against Miami, he should be showing up on Heisman lists.
"Oh yeah, we've got a quarterback," Oklahoma center Jon Cooper said after the game. "He's proven himself. He's doing a great job. They named Sam the starter (and) we were like, 'All right, let's roll.' "
Bradford has completed 40 of 48 passes in his first two games. Four of those incompletions, observers contend, were drops for a team that should now be the favorite to win the Big 12 and contend for a national championship.
"This is what I hoped for," Stoops said. "This is how we expected to play."
Bradford probably has a better body and better mechanics than any Stoops-era quarterback. He has got a rocket arm (unlike White) and can scramble (unlike Heupel and Hybl).
|Receivers like Malcolm Kelly are making Bradford's job easier. (US Presswire)|
It's beginning to look a lot like 2000 in Norman. That year, Heupel combined with tall, rangy receivers and a tremendous defense to win the national championship.
Heupel was in his second season at OU in 2000. Bradford is new to the job. The defenses are similar, though this season's group is still emerging. That 2000 defense also featured All-Americans Roy Williams and Rocky Calmus. Defensive back Reggie Smith is this season's preseason Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year.
Back then, Quentin Griffin got virtually every carry as tailback. Stoops has much more depth this season at the position. Receiver Curtis Fagan set a then-school record with seven touchdown catches in 2000. Six-foot-4 Malcolm Kelly, a budding All-American, has five TD catches in two games.
"In 2000 we had a group of guys, half of them were told they weren't worthy, weren't talented enough," Stoops said. "Our (current) guys may have some of that attitude, but they have a real even keel."
Like 2000, a lot of opinions are changing about OU in a hurry.
"I'd say most people picked Texas to win the Big 12 South," Mildren said. "Right now, if someone were to go out and ask the national guys, I bet 90 percent would pick OU."
The eternal argument
The Pac-10 is No. 1.
Save your arguments. Through two weeks, the Pac-10 is the best conference in the country. We will refer to the Sagarin Ratings and common sense.
|1. Big East||14-2||.875|
|3. Big Ten||18-4||.818|
|5. Big 12||18-6||.750|
|7. Mountain West||7-8||.467|
|11. Sun Belt||0-13||.000|
Jeff Sagarin is the math savant -- and one-time BCS formula participant -- who has the Pac-10 No. 1 in his ratings after two weeks. Those ratings, Sagarin's website says, "represent the average schedule difficulty faced by each team in the games ... played so far."
Through those two weeks the Pac-10 is No. 1, followed by the SEC, Big 12, Big Ten and Big East. The league has better victories and more depth right now than any league.
Common sense would tell you this is no surprise. Over the past three seasons, the Pac-10 averages out to the second-best league in I-A in the Sagarins. No. 1? The ACC.
Before SEC Nation has kitties, consider this: The Pac-10 plays a true round-robin that increases that schedule strength. Playing a nine-game league schedule, it has only three non-conference games. That's a slot that the typical SEC team has filled with Nicholls State.
Arizona State's Dennis Erickson left the Pac-10 five years ago, about the time USC was rising to prominence.
|1. Pac-10||1. ACC|
|2. SEC||2. Pac-10|
|3. Big 12||3. Big Ten|
|4. Big Ten||4. SEC|
|5. Big East||5. Big 12|
|6. ACC||6. Big East|
"There's just a lot of better football teams," said Erickson, a six-year league veteran at Washington State and Oregon State. "USC is head and shoulders, but everybody (else) is close. It's a fun league to coach in. It's almost like the NFL. Everything is pretty equal."
Truth is, USC's dominance has forced the rest of the conference to get better. Last season, Cal shared the conference title. Six Pac-10 teams went to bowls, the most since 2003. Amazingly the SEC and Pac-10 have the same all-time bowl winning percentage -- .521 -- based on current alignments.
Best SEC win this season: No. 2 LSU over No. 9 Virginia Tech
Worst loss: South Florida over No. 17 Auburn
Best Pac-10 wins: No. 12 Cal over No. 15 Tennessee; Oregon over Michigan; Washington over No. 22 Boise State
Worst loss: Cincinnati over Oregon State
For the rest of the national notes read Dennis Dodd's blog, "Dodds and Ends"