AMES, Iowa – This hasn't been a pleasant week at Oklahoma.
For the second time this season, the 14th-ranked Sooners (5-2, 3-1 Big 12) are coming off a tough home loss to a national title contender. Fourth-ranked Notre Dame stomped the Sooners 30-13 last weekend in Norman, and Kansas State's unbeaten march toward Miami has made even the Big 12 title a long shot.
Sounds about as good a time as any to get Iowa State.
Oklahoma's domination of the Cyclones (5-3, 2-3) has been nothing short of staggering. The Sooners, who face Iowa State on the road on Saturday, are 69-5-2 against the Cyclones and have lost to them just once in 42 years.
Coach Bob Stoops has prolonged Iowa State's misery against its Big 6, Big 8 and now Big 12 tormentors. He's 7-0 against the Cyclones, who've never managed to score more than 10 points against Oklahoma under Stoops.
"This is a team that has two losses — oh by the way, both of those teams are undefeated," Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads said. "We'll have to play really well to stay in the stadium."
But if ever there was a time when the long-suffering Cyclones could get the Sooners, it's now.
Iowa State might be one of the nation's best 5-3 teams. The Cyclones' losses came against No. 3 Kansas State by six points and No. 20 Texas Tech by 11, and their 31-10 defeat at Oklahoma State is their only stinker so far.
Iowa State held Baylor, one of the nation's top offenses, to a season-low 21 points and rolled over the Bears last week to move within a game of its third bowl bid in four years.
The Cyclones lost one of their best players for the season in injured linebacker Jake Knott, who's out with a torn shoulder. But Stoops knows they're a much better team that many of the ones Oklahoma has trounced over the years.
"Just because a certain team isn't looked at as being a top-five team, everybody has talent," Stoops said. "The outside world doesn't look at it because they don't have to play them. When you get a chance to study people and watch them and really look at them, Iowa State's got a ton of really good football players. We know that because we've got to play them."
But don't think for a second that the Cyclones are the favorites.
A narrow home loss to national title contender Kansas State is the lone blemish on yet another fantastic start to Big 12 play for Oklahoma. The Sooners have bounced back with three straight league wins by an average score of 52-16, and quarterback Landry Jones has thrown just one pick in Big 12 games.
Though Iowa State's defense has been the team's strong suit this season, it's also given up 267 yards a game through the air.
The Sooners also have the edge when they're on defense.
Iowa State quarterback Steele Jantz rebounded from a month on the bench with a career-high five touchdown passes against Baylor. But the Bears have one of the nation's worst defenses, and Oklahoma is one of the best at shutting down opposing passing games and forcing turnovers — two areas the Cyclones have struggled with this season.
"We had a good game as an offense (last) Saturday. Now we get to go against the best defense in the league," Rhoads said.
Plus, the Sooners know a BCS bid isn't out of the picture if they run the table. Their quest for yet another season of double-digit wins begins Saturday at Jack Trice Stadium, where they're a perfect 14-0 since it opened nearly 40 years ago.
"I don't think we're going to shut it down and be like, 'Let's call it quits for the rest of the year.' There is some adversity that comes with losing games and different goals being out of the picture," Jones said. "But we're a prideful program and we have a lot of pride in what we do."