Spoiler Role Unfamiliar And Unwanted For No. 9 Oklahoma
Thursday, November 29th 2007, 7:24 am
By: News On 6
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) - Malcolm Kelly came to Oklahoma expecting to play for national championships. Seeing the Sooners reduced to messing up another team's chances wasn't what he envisioned.
Two weeks after Oklahoma's national title hopes faded away on the West Texas plains, the No. 9 Sooners (10-2, 6-2) find themselves with only one stake in deciding the BCS title: spoiling top-ranked Missouri's shot at its first national championship.
``Usually you hear about an unranked team or somebody playing the spoiler against Oklahoma,'' said Kelly, who grew up as a Texas fan but signed on as a Sooners wide receiver because he thought his chances at a title would be better. ``It's just a bad deal, but we can't change it.''
The Sooners aren't accustomed to the role they'll play Saturday in San Antonio. It's the first time in six Big 12 title game appearances that they'll be the lower-ranked team, and only the seventh time since they won the 2000 national championship that their opponent will have a higher ranking. Oklahoma is 2-4 in those games, including losses to LSU and Southern California in the BCS title game.
``We're going after a Big 12 championship. There isn't anything spoiling about that,'' Sooners coach Bob Stoops said. ``That in itself is what we're after. That's where it begins with us every season, and we've got another chance to do it. There's nothing to it other than that for us.
``Spoiler roles are those teams that are 5-6 and are trying to knock somebody out of something and they don't have anything. To me, those teams don't have a chance at it and they're trying to knock you out. We've got a chance at something really special.''
Oklahoma was in position to play for something even more special before quarterback Sam Bradford sustained a concussion two weeks ago at Texas Tech and had to leave the game in the first quarter. The Sooners' defense didn't respond, and backup quarterback Joey Halzle's bid to dig the team out of a 24-point hole fell short in a 34-27 loss. Otherwise, the Sooners would be playing for a spot in the BCS championship game just like Missouri (11-1, 7-1).
``What happened happened, and we still have a lot in front of us,'' center Jon Cooper said. ``We don't need to focus on that now.''
Instead, the Sooners have honed in on trying to become the first team ever to repeat as Big 12 champions. They've won the title a league-best four times in 2000, 2002, 2004 and last season. Their other title game appearance was in 2003, when Kansas State upset a top-ranked Oklahoma team, a defeat that still wasn't enough to knock the Sooners out of the BCS title game against LSU.
Missouri won't be in the same situation. A loss by the Tigers would likely put Ohio State in the national championship game.
``If we win this game, we can sit back for a couple of weeks and say, 'We're No. 1 and we're playing for the national championship,''' Tigers defensive tackle Lorenzo Williams said. ``Right now, you can't think about that at all.''
Oklahoma has been in Missouri's position several times before. Oklahoma State knocked the Sooners out of the national title picture in the last game of the regular season in 2001, but Oklahoma won the Big 12 title game in 2000 and 2004 to reach the national title game was able to sustain K-State's upset in 2003.
Doing that to another team doesn't seem to provide the Sooners any additional joy.
``We really don't care about that. We just care about winning the game,'' tailback Allen Patrick said. ``We ain't focused on how things are going to play out for them or whatever else they've got going for themselves. We just care about winning the game.''
Oklahoma will be seeking its first win against a No. 1 team since 2000 and actually enters the game slightly favored by oddsmakers despite looking like an underdog in the polls.
``If we're favored or not, I think our mentality is the same as a team,'' receiver Juaquin Iglesias said. ``Just if we execute well, we feel like we can win. That's what we're going to go on, we're not going to go on any other outside stuff. We're just going to try to take care of us.''