Spencer Rattler embraces the expectations.
There are few quarterbacks as hyped as Rattler has been entering a first start. He was a five-star recruit and the consensus No. 1 quarterback in the 2019 class, set Arizona state high school records for career passing yards and passing touchdowns, was featured on Netflix's QB1 following his senior season, and follows an unprecedented string of quarterback success with the Sooners.
Oklahoma's quarterback has finished in the top four of the Heisman Trophy voting in each of the last five seasons, with two winners.
Rattler, for all those reasons, is listed in the top four in many Heisman Trophy odds entering the season.
"That definitely prepared me for this," Rattler said of the hype that has followed him. "To me, pressure is a privilege. I look at it to embrace it. I'm not going to run away from any expectations or this and that. I just focus on what I have to do with my team."
The Sooners (12-2 last season) have been in the College Football Playoff each of the last three seasons and in four of the last five.
Whether or not they can ultimately reach the playoff again, though, doesn't figure to be decided Saturday.
The Bears are an FCS program coming off a 1-10 season, installing both a new offense and defense under new coaches with limited practices due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They also will play just three games this fall, with the hopes of playing their conference schedule in the spring.
Regardless of its opponent, Oklahoma enters its opener with plenty of questions. The Sooners not only will replace their quarterback but their top receiver after CeeDee Lamb's departure for the NFL, and top running back after Kennedy Brooks' decision to opt out.
On the defensive side, the Sooners have plenty of new faces after taking a step forward last year in Alex Grinch's first season as defensive coordinator.
Missouri State's new coach makes things interesting.
After spending a year away from coaching after his second stint at Louisville ended with his firing, Bobby Petrino is back coaching college football.
"It's always fun having matchups against guys that are as accomplished as a guy like Coach Petrino is," Sooners coach Lincoln Riley said. "One we all look forward to."
Petrino knows that building a program like Missouri State, which hasn't been to the FCS playoffs since 1990, will take time.
So he's just looking for positive signs of progress this weekend.
"We got some work to do," Petrino said. "We got some building to do. And when we build a program, I think it's important that you celebrate your small success and your private successes. Private victories always precede public victories."
--Field Level Media
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