NORMAN, Okla. -- If nothing else, Bob Stoops is laying the groundwork this week, just in case, you know, Oklahoma doesn't win.
He's not saying that overtly, but playing No. 5 Florida State this early has its benefits even if No. 1 Oklahoma doesn't win.
"If all things are equal and you play a tougher schedule than somebody than you, you would get the nod. If not, why play them?" Stoops said at his weekly presser.
Take that "nod" any way you want -- Jan. 1 bowl, BCS bowl, BCS championship. The man is a big believer in scheduling. Take 2008 when Oklahoma won a controversial Big 12 tiebreaker against Texas in the South Division. Even though Texas had beaten OU that year, Oklahoma won the tiebreaker based on highest BCS ranking. OU nosed out Texas by .0128 of a point for the right to play Missouri in the Big 12 title game.
Oklahoma beat the Tigers and advanced to the BCS title game where it lost to Florida.
That year the BCS computers deemed that OU had the tougher schedule, one that included Chattanooga, Cincinnati, Washington and TCU. Meanwhile, Texas played Florida Atlantic, Texas-El Paso, Rice and Arkansas. The difference was a sliver of a point, all that Oklahoma needed.
Never has a rivalry been so bitter as when Texas lost a possible BCS title shot by calculations of computers.
"If you're willing to go to Florida State, Alabama, there should be some reward in that," Stoops said of the non-conference schedules he has assembled in his 13 seasons here. "The other reward is our fans love it, college football loves it, it puts us in the national picture."
So, yeah, scheduling counts at OU. In 2003, Oklahoma lost the Big 12 title game to Kansas State by four touchdowns but remained in the BCS top two, able to play LSU for the national championship. The BCS formula has since been adjusted but it didn't hurt that Oklahoma played Alabama and UCLA that year.
That's part of the reason why Stoops intentionally schedules these big games. Saturday's contest at Doak Campbell Stadium is arguably the biggest non-conference game of the Stoops era. While he has never beaten a ranked non-con opponent in a true road game, the sample size isn't that big. There was the controversial Oregon "loss" in 2006 and Miami in 2009.
Future OU series include Notre Dame (2012-13), Tennessee (2014-15), Ohio State (2016-17) and LSU in (2018-19). Saturday ends a home-and-home with FSU that began with a 47-17 thumping of the Noles in Norman last year.
There is talk of revenge by FSU, but in his heart of hearts Stoops has to know that OU could lose in Week 3 and still rebound to have a title shot.
"Look at through the years: we’ve had Alabama, we’ve had Oregon, we've had UCLA, Miami, Florida State. They're all great programs," Stoops said. "When you schedule them, you know that. You expect them to be a top-five, 10 team."
When he was at Florida as defensive coordinator, Stoops remembers looking up at the TV after a practice and seeing Oklahoma suffer an early season loss.
"Most of the [Florida] coaches there were kind of from the Southeast," he said. "I had roots with seven years in the Big 12 [at Kansas State]. I said, 'That's a shame.' I grew up in Ohio following Oklahoma in Coach Switzer's years. I remember pointing at the TV saying, 'That's a sleeping giant. They should not be getting beat or having the years they're having.' "
It started with that lone championship in 2000, a magic season that ended with a 13-2 win over the Seminoles in the Orange Bowl.
"Once that happened in 2000 the mood changed," Stoops said. "It just shot us back to one of the more elite teams -- a team legitimately that year in, year out has a chance to contend for your conference championship and has a chance to contend for national championships.
"When we walked in here there wasn't a real confident group anyway. That [Florida State game] was the key. It immediately shoots you right back like a big ball in sling shot. It immediately puts you right back in the game."
That year Stoops became known as Big Game Bob. A run now referred to as "Red October" included wins against No. 7 Texas, No. 2 Kansas State and No. 1 Nebraska in consecutive games. After that, there came a run of BCS bowl defeats over the years. Even as Stoops continued to pile up Big 12 titles, Big Game Bob became a term of derision. It's a problem a lot of coaches would like to have.
Under Stoops, Oklahoma has spent the most weeks ranked No. 1 in the BCS (20) and, this week, became the first program to spend 100 weeks at No. 1 in the AP poll.
"You ever hear me call myself that?" Big Game Bob asked.
No, but the label is waiting to be applied again after Saturday.