|Lack of experience makes top-ranked Tigers underdogs against No. 9 Oklahoma|
|Written by Admin|
|Monday, 26 November 2007 12:03|
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) - Growing up in the Sooner State, Missouri defensive tackle Lorenzo Williams had a close-up look at what a traditional power Oklahoma has been.|
And he knows just how wide the gap is between the Sooners and his top-ranked Tigers when it comes to big games.
``They've probably been in 20,000 or 30,000 of these championship games,'' Williams said with some exaggeration during a conference call Monday previewing the Big 12 title game. ``I watched them when I was at home. I've seen them win the national championship. I've seen them do everything that we want to do. They definitely have the edge on that.''
Despite attaining the No. 1 ranking for the first time since 1960, Missouri (11-1, 7-1) heads into Saturday's title game in San Antonio as the underdog - in part because the ninth-ranked Sooners (10-2, 6-2) won their regular-season meeting in Norman, and also because they're far more accustomed to being in this position.
While Missouri is playing for its first conference title in 38 years, Oklahoma is in its sixth Big 12 title game in the past eight years and seeking its 41st conference title in school history. The Sooners have won four Big 12 titles in Bob Stoops' nine seasons as coach.
``How many championship games have they been to? They've been in the national championship game. They've been through all these experiences. This is just another game for them,'' Tigers coach Gary Pinkel said.
``I have a lot of respect for Bob and what a great job he's done there,'' he added. ``To think they would have an advantage in this game from an experience standpoint, there's no question that they would have an advantage.''
A handful of players, including safety D.J. Wolfe and tight end Joe Jon Finley, remain from Oklahoma's win over Colorado in the 2004 Big 12 title game that sent the Sooners to the BCS championship game against Southern California. More than half of the starters from last year's title win against Nebraska are back for a shot at becoming the first team to repeat as Big 12 champions.
``It sure is not a disadvantage,'' Stoops said. ``I don't know how much of an advantage. You still have to come in and play well, but our guys definitely are very familiar with being in this situation.''
Sooners linebacker Curtis Lofton said he expects to have a better comfort level than Missouri players who'll be in the championship game for the first time.
``Playing in big games and playing in the game last year, we've kind of been there, done that so we don't really have too much pressure on us,'' Lofton said. ``I think that's going to give us an edge.''
The closest Missouri can come is its most recent game against then-No. 2 Kansas at a neutral site in Kansas City, Mo., with fans' loyalties divided between the teams.
``It was completely nuts, but I think our ability to focus and get the job done when we had to is kind of huge,'' Williams said. ``It says a lot about our team's maturity and how far we've come since the beginning of the year.''
Missouri returned home from that game around 2 a.m. Sunday to find about 40 people asking for autographs at the team's practice complex and cheering them on to win their rematch against the Sooners. At a team banquet Sunday night, the Tigers found out they were the No. 1 team in the country.
``Everybody in the room was cheering real loud and everybody stood up,'' said tight end Martin Rucker, Missouri's leading receiver. ``You could just feel the energy in the room.''
Despite that ranking, Rucker said the Sooners being viewed as the favorites is probably ``the way it should be'' since Oklahoma won their previous meeting 41-31.
``Whatever happened in the past is what happened in the past, and we're much more mature competitors than to be seeking revenge because that just takes away your focus from preparations,'' Rucker said. ``We're just going to prepare for this game like we haven't played Oklahoma.''
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