No. 1 OU kicks off season against North Texas

Updated: August 28, 2003, 5:20 PM ET

NORMAN, Okla. -- Barry Switzer will be there. So will former Heisman Trophy winners Billy Sims and Steve Owens. The Boz may show up, too.

Oklahoma has summoned all of the greats from its championship past for Saturday night's season opener against North Texas, bringing a decidely ceremonial feel to a likely mismatch.

"When they have these kind of party games, they want to have somebody they're sure they can hand it to," North Texas coach Darrell Dickey said without a hint of irritation in his voice. "We're used to being everybody's homecoming."

Although it's too early for homecoming, the top-ranked Sooners are going heavy on the festivities. The Sooners will wear throwback uniforms from the Bud Wilkinson era in the 1950s and host dozens of former All-Americans in anticipation of the largest crowd to ever watch a sporting event in state history.

The only party-poopers seem to be the Sooners themselves, having spent much of the past few weeks watching reels of videotape.

"Anyone who thinks this game is easy, you've got to be kidding," Oklahoma guard Davin Joseph said. "If anyone thinks that North Texas isn't a good opponent for us, that's just not the case. It's not fair to North Texas."

North Texas has had its share of triumphs lately -- consecutive Sun Belt titles and New Orleans Bowl appearances, including a 24-19 stunner over Conference USA co-champ Cincinnati last season.

The Mean Green even placed 16 players on the all-Sun Belt first and second teams, including league player of the year Brandon Kennedy, a 5-foot-10, 315-pound defensive tackle.

Still, North Texas understands the difficulty in trying to be competitive against the defending Big 12 champions. The Mean Green are 35-point underdogs.

"We feel like we've made some progress at the Division I level, but we're realistic -- we're not at OU's level," Dickey said. "I've told my players, 'Either you're going to strap it on and get ready to play, or you're going to be embarrassed."

The Sooners, meanwhile, are eager to play.

"Through (two-a-days), in team meetings you find different ways to keep your players' attention," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. "We had a 10-minute, 15-minute video of our national championship run from (2000). It was amazing how many players were on the highlights of our national championship game that are still playing for us.

"Primarily, most of them are on defense. We'll see if those guys can come out and live up to all of the expectations."

And there's plenty of expectations to go around.

The defense, ranked 10th in the nation last season, may be even better this year. The offense is led by quarterback Jason White, who's started only four games after recovering from knee injuries in each of the past two seasons. The Sooners also have their first preseason No. 1 ranking since Switzer's second-to-last team.

There's also been a Schooner full of testimonials about how great the Sooners are supposed to be.

"I'm sick and tired of talking without a game to talk about," Stoops said. "It's odd -- it seems like we've already played half a season, as much media coverage as there's been for the last month."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index