- Associated Press - Friday, October 10, 2014

DALLAS (AP) - Oklahoma needs another one of those bounce-back games that have become so common under coach Bob Stoops.

Without one Saturday in their storied rivalry against Texas, the 11th-ranked Sooners will have a difficult, and likely impossible, time getting back into the mix for a spot in the new four-team College Football Playoff.

“Just worried about this week. Down the road’s a long way off - for everybody,” Stoops said. “Through the years, when there’s only been two teams to qualify to get into the championship game, how many one-loss teams have won it? Quite a few. LSU won it with two losses. So I don’t know why it’s much different. … We’ll see.”

Oklahoma (4-1, 1-1 Big 12) was among the losing teams last week in that unprecedented string of upsets - among five of the top eight ranked teams that lost, and 11 of the top 20. The 37-33 loss at TCU dropped the Sooners seven spots, and took them out a prime position as the Big 12’s highest-ranked team.

Eight-time Big 12 champion Oklahoma hasn’t lost consecutive games in the regular season since the start of the 2000, going 31-0 in the regular season following a loss.

Since 2009, the Sooners have also won 10 consecutive games in rematches against teams that beat them the previous season - like Texas (2-3, 1-2) did 36-20 last year, when Oklahoma was a two-touchdown favorite just as it is now.

Stoops was 9-6 against former Texas coach Mack Brown with a string of lopsided victories.

Like Stoops, new Texas coach Charlie Strong won a national championship as a defensive coordinator with Florida before getting a head coaching job. Strong, whose title with the Gators came in the 2009 BCS national championship game over the Stoops-coached Sooners, already knows the significance of the Red River Rivalry game at the State Fair of Texas.

“The Texas-Oklahoma rivalry is a special rivalry. We know how big it is,” Strong said. “Don’t have to say much to the players this week. Don’t have to worry about them being down. They know what’s at stake here. Last year going into this game everyone was kind of throwing dirt on them, and they were able to bounce back and go win it.”

Here are a few things to watch when Texas and Oklahoma play for the 109th time, the 92nd time in Dallas, halfway between the two campuses:

MIDTERM GRADE: Strong had to chuckle when he was asked this week what his midseason grade was for his team. “I don’t know if I can put a letter grade on it, but we’d like to play better,” Strong said. “We’re not playing up to our ability. I think that we can play a lot better than what we’re playing, and I tell our guys that.” The Longhorns are in a difficult stretch, coming off a loss to No. 5 Baylor and with three more ranked opponents (Kansas State, Oklahoma State and TCU) still left after Oklahoma.

SHINING STERLING: Sooners receiver Sterling Shepard has the second-longest active FBS streak with four consecutive 100-yard receiving games, one behind West Virginia’s Kevin White. Shepard is second in the Big 12 and third in the FBS with 130.2 yards receiving per game. He had seven catches for 215 yards, only two yards short of the school record, at TCU when he also had a 75-yard touchdown catch.

WINNING WHEN EXPECTED, WITH A BIG EXCEPTION: Oklahoma has won 22 of its last 23 games against unranked teams, including seven in a row. That lone loss in that span was 36-20 to Texas last October. Since that win, the Longhorns have lost five in a row against ranked teams, and are 4-17 in such games since 2010.

CORNY DOGS FOR SPLIT CROWD: The Red River game has been played at Cotton Bowl Stadium during the State Fair of Texas since 1929. The crowd is split 50-50 in burnt orange and crimson. The winner gets The Golden Hat, the rotating trophy in use since 1941. The Longhorns lead the series 60-43-5, and are the only Big 12 team with a series lead over Oklahoma.

GETTING QBS: Texas has 20 quarterback sacks in its first five games for the first time since 1985, and ahead of the pace in 2008, when it finished the season with a national-best 47 sacks. Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty hadn’t been sacked this season before getting taken down three times last Saturday in the Longhorns’ 28-7 loss.

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