Happy New Year! Now that we have dispensed with the pleasantries, let's delve into some bowl action. The University of Tulsa receives the gift of an exclusive column. Just not this week.
Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are set to battle West Virginia and Indiana respectively in the coming days. We'll tackle the Sooners first. After all, they ranked higher in the Dwayne Poll, which factors in levels of importance, excitement, deservedness and overall BCS ranking.
Who doesn't love Tostitos? I put together the best plate of nachos this side of Texas. The Scoops are equally impressive. Genius I tell ya, genius.
And then there was football. This will mark the 37th version of the Fiesta Bowl. This is also the second year in a row OU accepted an invite to play in the newly erected University of Phoenix Stadium, home to the NFL's Arizona Cardinals. Some might say OU provides the best action the stadium sees all year. The game kicks off Wed., Jan. 2 at 7pm.
We all know the gruesome details of last year's game against Boise State. Frankly, the story is played out. We're going to look ahead to this year's match-up against where the Big East co-champion West Virginia Mountaineers wait.
Both teams were on the cusp of the national title game. Both allowed late season hiccups to derail their championship aspirations.
Know Thy Enemy
The West Virginia final-game collapse grabbed national attention. Their second loss occurred in their final game of the regular season. A victory over the pathetic Pitt Panthers and a BCS title shot was theirs.
As has been the case this year, they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory and will now take on a Sooner team playing its best football of the season.
I hate to simplify the game. I have an entire column to compose but the facts will not change between now and the grand conclusion. The team that controls the clock will win the game.
The Mountaineers rack up nearly 300 yards per contest on the ground. This is the WV team that sent us parts of the Tulsa coaching staff. The ground game TU employs will look similar to that of the Mountaineers.
Running back Steve Slaton averages 95 yards per carry. A year ago, his name was being mentioned in Heisman terms. His fall from grace shouldn't be overlooked. He has the skills to make over pursuing defenders pay. At 5'10'' and 190 lbs., he uses cutbacks and misdirection to find his holes.
Quarterback Patrick White is the leading rusher for WV. Sooner fans looking for a comparison should think Vince Young. With more than a month to prepare, expect Bob Stoops to come up with a game plan to stop the hybrid QB in his tracks.
The Mountaineers schedule looked a little soft. Losses to South Florida and Pittsburg don't bode well for their prospects. They have a head coach, Rich Rodriguez, who flirts with every coaching vacancy in the nation. He's like the drunken college girl at a fraternity party. (Self edited: I penned the above line prior to Rodriguez taking the Michigan job. I promise. Trust me.)
The Sooners, on the other hand, feel slighted. Well, maybe not the team but all of Sooner Nation does. They expected to be computerized into the BCS title game. Alas, it did not work out this year.
The gargantuan offensive line should dominate the line of scrimmage. WV trots out a 3-3-5 defense. OU should maul the inferior Mountaineers.
Coach Stoops and whichever offensive coach is left on the staff should be able to pick and chose the method of attack.
Will the Sooners ground out a win by handing the ball off to Allen Patrick and the gang? Or will Stoops and company drum up some post-2007, pre-2008 hype for phenom frosh QB Sam Bradford. Timmy Tebow was the first sophomore QB to win the Heisman Trophy this year. Can Bradford be the second?
Expect a dejected, coachless West Virginia team to lay an egg. Sooners extract revenge in the game they unwittingly played the roll of Goliath a year ago.
This Cowboys team is synonymous with Coach Mike Gundy. People think of OSU football and they think of the rant. Since he placed himself firmly ahead of the team after a victory against Texas Tech, the team went 4-4 to finish the season.
Here is what has transpired since the loss against cross-town rival OU.
"We appreciate the job Coach Gundy is doing and believe he and his staff are making progress in moving OSU football to the next level. I am particularly pleased with the success our student-athletes are having in the classroom under Coach Gundy's leadership," said interim OSU System CEO and President Marlene Strathe.
Hey, Marlene, watch more football.
"During the 2005 season we won just one conference game," said Oklahoma State's Vice President for Athletic Programs and Director of Athletics Mike Holder. "We saw improvement last year and this year we were competitive in every conference game but the last one. That shows improvement to me."
So Gundy gets credit in 2006 for having an atrocious season in 2005? Imagine a similar situation in your life. You show up to work hung over. You submit four out of 11 reports on time and legibly. You skip meetings after lunch. The following day you show up sober but late. You accomplish half of your goals. You manage to hang around the office until the end of your scheduled shift.
You showed vast improvement! Congratulations, you get promoted!
Oh yeah, the game. OSU has an outstanding offense led by Dontrell Savage and Zac Robinson. A top-ten offense to boot.
Their opponent, the Indiana Hoosiers, is just happy to be playing in a bowl game. This trip to the Insight Bowl marks IU's first bowl game in 14 seasons.
On paper, OSU is the better team. On the other hand, IU appears to have more to play for. Terry Hoeppner, the team's coach since 2005, died due to complications from a brain tumor on June 19. They will be motivated.
Emotions alone do not win football games. Another duel treat quarterback leads the Hoosier attack. Kellen Lewis passed for 2,839 yards and tossed 26 touchdowns. He ran for a team-high 653 yards and eight TDs as well.
The game is on New Year's Eve.
Tulsa fans may miss the action. The game is one of two bowl games being aired on the NFL Network. The NFL Network agreed to let KSBI-TV air the game locally. The majority of Tulsans don't receive KSBI-TV. Hell, I had never heard of KSBI-TV until I read the news.
Will the Cowboys defense show up for the big game? Will the loss of offensive guru Larry Fedora to Southern Mississippi slow down the prolific Cowboy attack?
Will Tulsans find a way to watch the game on the hidden network?
Next week I'll gush over Paul Smith to the point he may get a restraining order. I'll also talk GMAC Bowl. Bam!
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