Sooners headed for showdown with Missouri

Word made it to Oklahoma’s campus that Missouri’s players were

talking back at the conference media days in July about looking

forward to a shot at redemption against the Sooners.

The rematch of the 2007 and 2008 Big 12 championship games, both

won by Oklahoma, has arrived – and the stakes are high once

again.

The third-ranked Sooners (6-0, 2-0 Big 12) and No. 18 Missouri

(6-0, 2-0) each arrive at Saturday night’s showdown in Columbia,

Mo., with perfect records and dreams of a special season.

”I’m excited,” linebacker Travis Lewis said after Oklahoma

smashed Iowa State 52-0 on Saturday night. ”They’ve got us

circled, we’ve got them circled. I know they were talking a little

trash. They had us circled before the season even started, and they

wanted to play us.

”We’re coming to Missouri. I hope they’re ready.”

After scrapping to close wins in four of their first five games,

the Sooners sure looked ready in a thorough domination of the

Cyclones. Oklahoma outgained Iowa State 672 yards to 183 while

recording its first shutout of the season, then was rewarded with a

three-spot bump in The Associated Press poll on Sunday.

Combined with losses by Ohio State and Nebraska, the Sooners are

suddenly right in the thick of the national championship race. They

were the No. 1 team in the first BCS standings released Sunday

night.

”We’re going up to play a 6-0 team at Missouri, and they’re not

handing anything out right now,” coach Bob Stoops said. ”It means

absolutely nothing.”

The teams have grown quite familiar with each other, playing in

three memorable games in a 15-month span.

-The 11th-ranked Tigers held a fourth-quarter lead in Norman in

October 2007 before Oklahoma closed strong for a 41-31 victory that

knocked Mizzou from the ranks of the unbeaten.

-Three months later, the Sooners scored 21 unanswered points in

the second half to beat top-ranked Missouri 38-17 in the Big 12

title game in San Antonio and prevent the Tigers from playing for

the BCS championship.

-In the 2008 conference championship, Oklahoma dominated 62-21

to seal its own spot in the national title game.

This time, it will be a nationally televised game on the Tigers’

home turf. Oklahoma will be playing at an opponent’s home stadium

for the first time this season.

”It’s always a little rowdy up there,” said DeMarco Murray,

who broke Oklahoma’s career touchdown record against Iowa State

with his 58th score. ”Definitely playing away at their stadium,

there’ll be crazy fans and things like that.”

Stoops cautioned that the blowout against Iowa State shouldn’t

be taken as a sign the Sooners have arrived, particularly with so

many newcomers playing a role. Roy Finch, who ran for 92 yards in

his debut, became the 13th freshman to play for Oklahoma this

season, and six redshirt freshmen have played, too.

”We’re halfway through and the big half is coming,” Stoops

said. ”In the end, we’re so far from a finished product because of

all the young guys we have that we’ve got to keep being hungry to

get better and make improvement.”

An off week helped the Sooners clean up some of their mistakes

from the first five games and get healthier prior to their best

outing of the season.

”Security is your worst enemy,” defensive coordinator Brent

Venables said. ”Any time you put your guard down, you’re going to

get yourself exposed. That’s kind of our message to our guys.”

Receiver Ryan Broyles, who broke his own school record with 15

receptions against the Cyclones, said the Sooners can’t be happy

with where they stand or else they’ll risk becoming the next highly

ranked team to fall.

”We’ve just got to prove to ourselves and the nation that we’re

one of the top, marquee teams and we’re going to continue to do

that, definitely practice hard like we always do and continue to

clean things up to be better,” Broyles said.