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No. 7 Sooners must avoid another early upset to gain entry into 800-win club

The pictures on the walls and the old videos Bob Stoops shows to his players serve as a reminder that Oklahoma's program has been thriving for decades, since long before any of them were around.

On Saturday night, Oklahoma can add to its storied history with a win against Utah State in the season opener for both teams.

By beating the Aggies, the Sooners can become only the seventh Division I team in college football history to make it to 800 wins. The others are Michigan, Texas, Notre Dame, Nebraska, Ohio State and Penn State.

"It just shows how much tradition we have here and all of the hard work and the blood, sweat and tears that the past players have put into this," running back DeMarco Murray said. "We're trying to continue that tradition.

"It's Oklahoma and we expect to win a lot of games here."

The Sooners' 560 wins since the end of World War II are the most by any school, though Michigan is far ahead with a Division I-leading 877.

"This is ... one of the more special schools in college football. You look at our tradition and history and you don't go back just a few years, you go back decades. There's not many like it," Stoops said. "We're excited to be here as a team and proud to be a part of that history and tradition. Hopefully, we can keep adding to it."

To do that, Oklahoma will need to avoid starting a second straight season with an unexpected loss to a Utah team. Last season, BYU beat the Sooners 14-13 in a game best remembered for 2008 Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford's shoulder injury.

The shocking loss came only eight months after their appearance in the BCS championship game. Oklahoma wound up 8-5, matching the most losses in Stoops' 11 years as head coach.

"The first game is a big game. You saw what happened in our first game last year," tight end Trent Ratterree said. "We don't want to do something like we did last year. We want to completely change the way we played and in essence become a new team."

Utah State has tried to reinvent itself since its last visit to Owen Field, a 54-3 Oklahoma blowout in 2007. Gary Andersen put together the 12th-best offense in the nation last season and went 4-8 in his first year in charge of the Aggies, the team's best win total since 2002.

That included giving an early-season scare to Texas A&M, losing 38-30 but having a chance to tie the game after recovering a late onside kick. That's the game that caught Stoops' eye as he told his team not to overlook the Aggies.

"What we have to do is walk in there with a mindset that we can tackle well and we can protect the quarterback," Andersen said. "Those are two big glaring things. Those are two things we have to do to be able to have a chance in this football game.

"If we can't do those two things, it is going to be a long day."

Unlike last year, the Sooners haven't been ravaged by injuries heading into their opener. Middle linebacker Austin Box (back) is out and defensive linemen Adrian Taylor and Frank Alexander may not play because of ankle injuries. That's nothing compared to the chaos that preceded last year's opener, with a late injury to NFL-bound tight end Jermaine Gresham compounding issues on the offensive line.

"We have something to prove. We didn't play Oklahoma football last year," receiver Ryan Broyles said. "We know we have a tough schedule, but we wouldn't be here at this university if we weren't going to play great teams. We want to play like champions game in and game out."