7:00 PM ET, September 1, 2007
Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, NORMAN, OK
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) -- North Texas coach Todd Dodge couldn't have done much better in high school before graduating to the college ranks.
For his entrance exam as a college coach, the architect of Texas high school power Southlake Carroll draws No. 8 Oklahoma -- the college football team that's won more games since World War II than any other.
"That's great for him. It's hopefully going to be a great career starter," said Sooners kicker Garrett Hartley, who played for Dodge for three seasons at Carroll. "However, I do feel bad that he has to open up the season versus Oklahoma."
Starting with the Sooners isn't exactly how Dodge would have scripted his college debut either.
"It's an awesome task that we have going into Oklahoma, whether it's the first year you're putting in a program or you're 10th year," said Dodge, who is believed to be the first high-school coach to make the jump to Division I since 1991, when North Texas hired Dennis Parker.
"When they made the schedule five years ago they didn't call and ask me my opinion on it," he said.
Dodge had a remarkable run at the suburban Dallas high school, going 98-11 in seven seasons. Over the past five seasons, Dodge's Dragons went 79-1 and won four state titles. The only loss in that span came by one point against Katy in the 2003 state title game.
"You look at his track record, and the success is really quite amazing -- 79 wins and only one loss in the last five years," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. "I don't care where you're coaching, that's doing an excellent and great, great job."
Receiver Malcolm Kelly, who played in Texas' largest class, put it this way: "Southlake Carroll is the best team that Texas has ever seen."
"You know he knows how to win and that's the philosophy they're going to bring to this team," Sooners cornerback Marcus Walker said. "That's the attitude they're going to have."
The question is whether Dodge can bring that success to the college level.
"He's got bigger and better players now, and more mature players. Whatever stage you're working at, I look at it as relative," Stoops said. "I expect they'll do an excellent job there. You don't win that much and have that much success over a period of time without communicating well with your players, motivating them and getting them to understand what you expect them to do."
From Oklahoma's perspective, there is a certain amount of mystery surrounding North Texas' game plan for Saturday. The Sooners have been watching game tape of the Mean Green from last season, although there's been significant turnover among the starters. They've also been watching tape of Carroll to get an idea of what Dodge likes to do.
"That to me is the rub," offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said. "There's a bunch of guesstimation."
The Sooners are prepared for a spread offense like the one Dodge ran at Carroll, but there's a little more guesswork on defense. Wilson said the Dragons would pressure the run game by placing safeties and linebackers in areas they couldn't be blocked, but that left the secondary in one-on-one coverage.
"They played just a lot of man-to-man. Kind of `I've got you, you have him and you have him' kind of defense," said Kelly, who led Oklahoma with 993 yards receiving and 10 touchdowns last season. "If that's what they want to do, then we welcome that."
The Sooners expect to face some of the Carroll schemes and some alterations brought on by different personnel and a higher level of football. Despite having two returning starters, the North Texas depth chart lists five freshmen and sophomores as the linemen who'll be blocking for new quarterback Daniel Meager.
"Sometimes as a coach it's not high school to college what they can do, but it's do they have the players to do what they want to do?" Wilson said. "They might not this year do some things they want to do that maybe two or three years from now they're doing because the personnel fits."
The Sooners also will be breaking in a new quarterback, freshman Sam Bradford. He assumes the role vacated by Paul Thompson, who led Oklahoma to the Big 12 title last season despite a rocky year that included the dismissal of starting quarterback Rhett Bomar, a controversial onside kick that resulted in defeat at Oregon and an injury to star tailback Adrian Peterson.
"It's just another challenge," Kelly said. "All that stuff we overcame last year, there's nothing that we can't overcome this year."
Top 25 Overview
Oklahoma will look a little different without Adrian Peterson in the backfield, but the Sooners still figure to explosive with Allen Patrick and DeMarco Murray. The Mean Green will need to hope Sooners' redshirt freshman Sam Bradford struggles in his first start.
|Avg Points Allowed||79.0||10.0|