Q-and-A with Oklahoman sports columnist Jenni Carlson

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Q: Within the last two weeks, Oklahoma’s reputation has shifted from a near playoff lock to one of three or four teams who have a good shot at winning the Big 12. How do you feel head coach Bob Stoops has handled this with the team?

A: Frankly, Oklahoma had so many struggles against TCU that I’m not sure Stoops could focus on the whole change in reputation. He had to worry about why his offensive line was struggling to block and his quarterback was struggling to throw and his defense was struggling to defend the pass. The warts uncovered in the TCU game have undoubtedly been the focus in the past week, plus that probably helped this team to focus its attention on getting better instead of worrying about the playoff.

Q: Although it wasn’t pretty, winning games like this past Saturday can be huge. What was the mood like for this team after pulling out a close victory over Texas?

A: The mood after beating Texas is always upbeat. Now, there was plenty of hand-wringing in the fanbase and the media. Many of the issues that cost Oklahoma against TCU were still evident against Texas, even though the Sooners beat the Longhorns. So there are still plenty of reasons for concern. But, for the players and the coaches, they realize that beating Texas is an absolute must. And even though they weren’t always at their best Saturday, they figured out a way to win and that was reason to celebrate.

Q: What has been most impressive in the development of Samaje Perine?

A: The fact that he seems to get stronger as the game goes on has been most impressive to me. Remember, this guy is a true freshman playing running back. That’s an extremely physically demanding position, but he has managed the physicality plus the learning curve of being a freshman. We heard throughout the summer and preseason that Perine had been impressive in workouts and practice, and yet, I don’t think anyone could’ve imagined he’d be this refined, powerful or effective this early in his career.

Q: There has always been an interest in Blake Bell in the state of Kansas since he played high school football here. How do you feel he has embraced the change of pace as he progresses toward the end of his career?

A: Would Bell prefer to still be playing quarterback? If you put truth serum in him, I suspect he’d say yes. But the hallmark of his career has been doing what’s best for the team. Whether it was running the Belldozer, being the second-team quarterback or moving to tight end, Bell has always done what was needed. And at tight end, he has done well. He is blocking well, catching well and playing well. I’m not sure what this means for his future, but with his willingness to do whatever has been needed during his career – his legacy as a Sooner – is secure.

Q: Simply put, winning in Norman, Oklahoma is no easy task. However, K-State is one of the few to pull it off in recent years. How do you feel that will impact the Sooners as they prepare for Snyder’s crew?

A: Do some of the players remember losing to K-State at home a couple years ago? Sure. But I’m of the opinion that a lot of these guys wake up in a new world every day. They have short memories, so what happened two years ago seems long ago and far away. The thing you can definitely say, though, is the Sooners know that they’re in for a battle. The Wildcats don’t beat themselves, they’re physical and they’ll beat you if you’re not ready.

Q: Do you have a score prediction for the game? If so, a few sentences detailing that would be great!

A: I’ll go Oklahoma 31, K-State 23. The reason that I’m picking Oklahoma is that we know way more about the Sooners than the Wildcats. K-State hasn’t really played anyone good beyond Auburn, and I’m just not convinced that the Wildcats are as good as their ranking. Could K-State win? Sure. But since we haven’t seen the Wildcats win a road game this big or beat a team this good, I’ll go with the Sooners in a close game.

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