Oklahoma bids for 18th Orange Bowl

Saturday, December 4, 2004

Back when the conference was known as the Big Eight and guys like Bud Wilkinson, Barry Switzer and Billy Sims made the headlines, a trip to the Orange Bowl was always the goal for Oklahoma.

It is again this year, but for a slightly different reason. This year, that's where the Bowl Championship Series national champ will be crowned, and the Sooners need a win over Colorado in the Big 12 title game today to get there.

"The Orange Bowl is a great venue," Sooners coach Bob Stoops said of the game Oklahoma has been to 17 times. "It's always a great bowl game and we have an incredible tradition at the Orange Bowl."

He conceded, of course, that he'd take a national title wherever he could get it.

For it to happen this year, the second-ranked Sooners (11-0) will first have to defeat the Buffaloes (7-4) -- 22-point underdogs -- in Kansas City, Mo., in a game known for its history of upsets.

The last one came last year when Kansas State swamped Oklahoma 35-7 and denied the Sooners their 39th conference title.

Before that loss, Oklahoma was being hailed as one of the best college teams of all time. That isn't happening this year although, in many respects, the Sooners might be better, especially with two serious Heisman Trophy contenders in quarterback Jason White and tailback Adrian Peterson.

"You still have to go out and play and call the plays that help us win and, as players, make the plays when you get the opportunities," Stoops said.

Oklahoma has long had a knack for getting it done against the Buffaloes. The Sooners are 37-16-2 against the Buffs -- including 3-0 over the last two seasons -- in a series that dates to 1912.

OU won 29-7 in the Big 12 title game two years ago.

Earlier this year, Colorado's program was plagued by a sex and recruiting scandal that led to a three-month suspension of coach Gary Barnett in the spring. The Buffs went 1-4 in October, inlcuding a 31-7 drubbing by Texas that appeared to signal the end of CU's postseason hopes -- and possibly Barnett's tenure -- but wound up being a catalyst for a remarkable comeback.

The Buffaloes won their final three games. That and a lot of good breaks elsewhere in the weak Big 12 North landed the CU in the title game for the third time in four years.

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