Before the season, Saturday’s game between Oklahoma and Iowa State looked to be one of the top matchups of the season in the Big 12.
It still might be, but with each team suffering an early loss there is a different tone to the contest in Ames, Iowa.
For No. 18 Oklahoma, it is almost be an elimination game.
The Sooners (1-1, 0-1 Big 12) have won five consecutive conference titles and have reached the College Football Playoff for three consecutive seasons, but their ability to continue either of those streaks is in doubt after last week’s 38-35 loss to Kansas State.
It was the first September loss for the Sooners since Lincoln Riley replaced Bob Stoops as head coach in 2017.
“The losses, they all suck and they all hurt like hell, and you just really kind of test your insides to go fight back,” Riley said. “Despite the disappointment, I have zero doubt in what we can be and that we’ve just got to work harder, do better to get there and that we will get there.”
The Sooners have a long track record of bouncing back from losses. The last time Oklahoma dropped consecutive regular-season games was in 1999, Stoops’ first season. The Sooners haven’t started 0-2 in Big 12 play since the year before that.
Expectations were sky-high for Iowa State entering this season. The Cyclones (1-1, 1-0), with quarterback Brock Purdy returning and plenty of other talented players back on both sides of the ball, were expected to contend for a berth in the Big 12 Championship game. They still might, though those expectations were tempered a bit with their stunning 31-14 season-opening loss to Louisiana.
The Cyclones bounced back from that opening-game disappointment, starting conference play with a 37-34 win over TCU last week. Running back Breece Hall has started the season with back-to-back 100-yard games after coming on strong as a freshman last season.
The series has been largely lopsided with the Sooners winning 20 of the last 21 meetings and 24 consecutive games in Ames since 1961.
But since Matt Campbell’s arrival, the Cyclones have been competitive against Oklahoma. Each of the last four meetings has been decided by 10 or fewer points and Iowa State pulled off an upset at Oklahoma in 2017.
That includes last year’s game, where the Cyclones scored three fourth-quarter touchdowns to pull within an extra-point of tying it in the final minute but Campbell decided to go for the win and Purdy’s pass was picked off in the end zone to give the Sooners the 42-41 decision.
In the four meetings before Campbell’s arrival, Iowa State lost to OU by an average of 31 points.
But close isn’t what Campbell is after.
“We want to get to the point, and we’re close to that today, of not staying in games, but to win those games,” Campbell told the Des Moines Register. “We want to measure ourselves after the best, and we certainly have that opportunity in this conference.”
–Field Level Media