Sooners poised for No. 1 ranking despite Stoops' indifference

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

NORMAN, Okla. -- Oklahoma's impressive victory over TCU appears to have them poised to assume the No. 1 position when the national polls are released on Sunday.

Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops reacted to that scenario with little outward emotion after his team's resounding 35-10 thumping of the No. 24 Horned Frogs.

"I don't have any thoughts about that, not at all," Stoops said. "You'll have to talk to somebody else about that."

The Sooners' strong performance, combined with losses by No. 1 USC and No. 3 Georgia. could boost Oklahoma to the top slot in both major polls. And it will come even if Stoops' outward indifference seems to indicate he won't be running to the Internet when the polls are announced Sunday afternoon.

Instead, he seemed much happier to talk about his team's strong all-around effort against the Horned Frogs than anything that pollsters might bestow on them.

"It's always a good thing to win, believe me. It's not easy to do," Stoops said. "It's positive ... how can it not be? You think I'm ever going to be disappointed with a 35-10 victory?"

Stoops can act like the potential No. 1 ranking -- which would be his team's first since younger brother Mike Stoops left to coach Arizona at the end of the 2003 season - -might not matter much to him.

But it would be an important step for his program, indicating the Sooners are back.

It's been fashionable to dismiss Stoops in recent years, particularly with his recent struggles in BCS bowl games as indicative that he's lost his fastball as one of the nation's premier coaches. You haven't heard him called "Big Game Bob" nearly as much in the last couple of years as he was earlier in his career when he won a national championship in only his second season as a head coach.

Bringing this team to the top slot would be an important and significant milestone. It would also boost Oklahoma into the top position of the all-time ranking of No. 1 teams. The Sooners currently are tied with Notre Dame with 95 weeks at the top of the Associated Press poll since it started in 1936.

And Oklahoma's performance on Saturday certainly befitted an elite team. The Sooners scored on three of their first four possessions, gashing the nation's top-ranked defensive unit for 222 yards in the first quarter alone. They exhibited a tough, opportunistic defense that throttled the Horned Frogs during most of the game. TCU was limited to a field goal -- caused by faulty Oklahoma kick coverage -- before a cosmetic fourth-quarter touchdown.

Sam Bradford remained upright in the face of withering TCU defensive pressure to pass for a career-best 411 yards and four touchdowns. He likely staked his Heisman hopes as well as boosting his team's chances for No. 1.

Bradford and several Sooners echoed their coach's attitude toward the top ranking.

"At this point, being No. 1 means absolutely nothing," Bradford said. "We still have a long way to go before we can to where we eventually want to be ranked in the polls. No matter what happens, we're still going to have to get ready to play Baylor next week."

Wide receiver Manny Johnson was about as forthright as any Sooner about the possibility of being No. 1. And he realizes the ranking could be an albatross if it has to be maintained throughout the course of the season.

"You can't really worry too much about the polls," he said. "But I was thinking about the teams that have been No. 1 in the past. There haven't been a lot of teams that were No. 1 at this point that continued being No. 1. But teams are upset every week."

Johnson's logic is solid, particularly in a stacked Big 12 that should be more competitive than ever this season. The conference likely will have three teams ranked among the top five nationally on Sunday.

Texas should move up after a resounding victory over Arkansas. Missouri was poised to move into the top five even with an off date. Texas Tech will be in the top 10. Kansas should be elevated into the top 15. Oklahoma will likely face all of them in Big 12 or in a potential conference championship game this season.

Stoops can act like he doesn't want the top ranking, but somebody will have to take it. And after Saturday night, no team appears to be as deserving at this point as much as the Sooners - no matter what their coach might think.