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State of Excellence

Scott Haynes, College Football Senior Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Forget the Sunshine State. The Florida Gators (4-1), Florida State Seminoles (4-1) and South Florida Bulls (5-1) have already shown they can be beaten, while the Miami Hurricanes (2-3) are still in a rebuilding process and find themselves with a losing record at this time.

Forget the Lone Star State. Some Texas teams are certainly enjoying a banner 2008, with the Texas Longhorns (5-0) and Texas Tech Red Raiders (5-0) basking in the glory of their fast starts. However, the Aggies (2-3) keep things in perspective in terms of statewide dominance, as Texas A&M has certainly struggled out of the gate. There are also the TCU Horned Frogs (4-1) who add to the state's legitimacy, but then there are the Baylor Bears (2-3) that even the playing field.

So with the Sunshine State having a rather overcast 2008, and the Lone Star State on an even keel, which state has taken its spot and can boast of football excellence without debate?

That would be the Sooner State, as the three big Oklahoma schools are a perfect 15-0 heading into this week's action.

It is no surprise to see the Oklahoma Sooners at the top of the national polls and undefeated at this time. There aren't many teams in the country with the kind of talent on both sides of the football that the team in Norman posseses.

Sam Bradford is completing just over 72 percent of his passes for 1,665 yards with 18 TDs and just three INTs.
The offensive weapons are numerous, a fact reflected in some gaudy stats. Oklahoma is averaging almost 50 points per game in 2008 (49.6), on 540.0 yards of total offense. It all starts with Heisman hopeful Sam Bradford under center. The sophomore signal-caller has been outstanding this year and continues to gain confidence with every start. Bradford is completing just over 72 percent of his passes for 1,665 yards with 18 TDs and just three INTs.

Bradford had a remarkable freshman campaign and was on the Heisman radar then, but this season could see the youngster become the second straight sophomore to win the award. Coach Bob Stoops knows what he has in his young gunslinger.

"I think he is overall better than last year," said Stoops. "He is a quicker and stronger with the delivery. The ball is traveling faster and comes out quicker and it helps, I think, that he is processing things quicker, not that he was ever slow with it, but...I think the experience and confidence that he has now allows him to process everything faster. I think the confidence that we have in him to give him opportunities helps as well, because we trust him so much."

With plenty of scoring punch and a defense that likes to get upfield and make things happen, there is every reason to believe that the Sooners can run the table and earn yet another national title when all is said and done.

However, OU is not the only team within the state's borders to warrant high praise.

The Oklahoma State Cowboys have also dominated the competition en route to their 5-0 start. However, unlike the Sooners, who like to throw the ball early and often, the Cowboys would rather run up and down the field on the opposition. They have done just that in racking up 315.2 yards per game rushing, ranking second nationally in that category. Sophomore tailback Kendall Hunter has abused opponents for 141.6 yards per game (7.0 ypc) and eight total TDs. Juniors Keith Toston (8.5 ypc, five TDs) and Beau Johnson (6.6 ypc, two TDs) are getting the job done as well.

Quarterback Zac Robinson and wideout Dez Bryant add to the OSU arsenal. Robinson has completed 72 percent of his passes with 10 TDs. Bryant is off to a fast start and is one of the better big-play threats in the country. He is averaging 20.4 yards on his 27 receptions this season and has already scored nine TDs.

The Cowboys have a huge matchup with third-ranked Missouri this week, and if Oklahoma State can get over that very large hurdle, dates with Texas, Texas Tech and Oklahoma loom large in the second half of the season. Still, this is a team that is built for success and believes in itself, a factor that coach Mike Gundy doesn't take for granted.

"I like where our football program is in general," said Gundy. "I still say you're going to find out how good you are as the season goes on. It's very important you stay healthy, guys stay fresh, the mental aspect of the team and their chemistry and how they care about each other is more important than most people realize. I've coached on teams that weren't very good and probably played a lot better and won more games than they should have."

While the Sooners and Cowboys are grabbing all the headlines, the most surprising of the three Oklahoma schools is Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane are also a perfect 5-0 on the season.

While OU and OSU are putting up strong offensive numbers, Tulsa is putting up ridiculous ones. The Golden Hurricane rank first in the nation in scoring offense (56.4 ppg) and in total offense (596.0 ypg). It is a pick-your-poison kind of onslaught that can move the chains both on the ground (245.4 ypg) and through the air (350.6 ypg).

While not exactly a household name, quarterback David Johnson has been outstanding. The 6-3 senior leads the nation in pass efficiency (214.8), completing nearly 70 percent of his passes for 1,682 yards with a FBS-best 23 TD passes.

While Tulsa's schedule can in no way compare to that of Oklahoma or Oklahoma State, the Golden Hurricane are in a great position to win the Conference USA crown and finish with an unblemished record. Head coach Todd Graham led the Hurricane to a 10-win season in his first year at the helm in 2007. This year, there is every reason to believe that win total will increase, and perhaps Tulsa will cause some BCS rumblings when all is said and done.

While there is great football being played all over the country, there is clearly no better place to be right now than the Sooner State.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Scott Haynes at shaynes@sportsnetwork.com.
Scott Haynes

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