Sooners face first major challenge with TCU

Oklahoma has blown out its first three opponents of 2008. Getting another lopsided win in its next game could be a challenge, however, as the Sooners close non-conference play against a team that’s been nearly as dominant.

The second-ranked Sooners face their toughest test of the young season Saturday night, as they host No. 24 TCU in a matchup of two of college football’s most overpowering teams thus far.

Oklahoma (3-0) pounded Chattanooga 57-2 in its season opener Aug. 30 before routing Cincinnati 52-26 the following week. After a 55-14 victory over Washington in their last game Sept. 13, the Sooners have outscored opponents 164-42 and are second in the Football Bowl Subdivision with a 40.7 average margin of victory.

“I thought in all parts of the game we did well,” Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said after the team’s last win, his 100th. “But offensively, what was really pleasing was the balance, how physically we ran the football and (quarterback Sam Bradford’s) execution was fabulous.”

TCU coach Gary Patterson has just as much to be proud of after the Horned Frogs (4-0) climbed into the Top 25 for the first time since Sept. 2, 2007 with a 48-7 rout of SMU last Saturday. TCU, which has won its first four games for the first time since it opened 10-0 in 2003, hasn’t trailed and ranks fifth in the nation with an average margin of victory of 35.3.

Three players combined for four touchdowns on the ground last week for TCU, which is tied for fifth in the country in total points. The Horned Frogs have been even better defensively, holding opponents to 30.5 rushing yards and 183.0 total yards per game - both tops in the FBS.

That defense will be tested by a dynamic Oklahoma offense that’s fourth in the FBS with 556.7 yards per game. Bradford was 18-for-21 for 304 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions as the Sooners compiled 591 yards against Washington.

“I don’t know if you saw but those guys made great catches for me, our offensive line protected me,” said Bradford, who has 10 TD passes in his last two games. “Our offense has just been clicking.”

Though it looks as if his team has cruised through its perfect start, Stoops knows not to take anything for granted. The Sooners took an unbeaten record and a 246-47 points differential into the last week of September last season, only to lose their Big 12 opener 27-24 to Colorado.

“It has a chance to be (a special season),” Stoops said of 2008. “It’s not there yet. We’ve played three games. We haven’t played a conference game yet, so nothing’s happened yet.

“In the end, you’ve got to get better and that’s all I think about and concentrate on is to try and get better from week to week and what are we going to do this week or today in practice to iron out some things and get a little bit better.”

TCU might be capable of upsetting Oklahoma, and has the track record to do so. The Horned Frogs have won their last two games in Norman, most recently a 17-10 victory over the then-No. 7 Sooners in the teams’ 2005 season opener. That was Stoops’ only previous game against TCU.

The Sooners will have to overcome the absence of defensive tackle DeMarcus Granger as they try to avoid a similar fate. Granger will be out at least four weeks and could miss the rest of the season because of a left foot injury.

“It impacts us, but we’ve got to move on,” fellow defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said. “I’m not going to say we’re not going to miss Granger being out there but we’re a whole defense. One of our brothers went down. We’ve just got to keep on pushing.

“We can’t let one person stop us from getting where we need to be, even a person that important to us.”