Big 12 Championship Expanded Preview Blog
Posted Dec 4, 2008

The big storylines and overviews for all the Big 12 games.

Big 12 Storylines Blog

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Big East By J.P. Girouard; Big 10 By Tony Castricone; Big 12 By Sean Martin; Conference USA By Greg Vacek; Independents By Adam Nettina; MAC By Adam Nettina; Mountain West By Jim Riffel; Pac 10 By Dan Greenspan; SEC By Gabe Harris and Barrett Sallee; Sun Belt By John Martello; WAC By Jon Tavares


Missouri (9-3) vs. Oklahoma (11-1)  8 pm

--With so much of the focus on the BCS controversy and Oklahoma’s high-powered attack, Missouri comes in to the Big 12 Championship with little respect and no expectations. Despite a decent 9-3 season with the nation’s sixth best offense, and fourth best scoring offense, the Tigers aren’t given any shot to dethrone the OU juggernaut, and why would they? They’re coming off a 40-37 loss to Kansas, showing no pass defense in the defeat, have struggled to put mediocre teams away over the last month, and they lost to Oklahoma State and Texas from the South. However, they’ll have a slight home field advantage playing at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, site of last week’s loss to the Jayhawks, and the pressure will be off. If the Tigers win, they’ll be off to the Fiesta Bowl in the Big 12 champion’s automatic slot. If they lose, they’ll likely be off to the Gator Bowl.

--In the battle for the Big 12 South, Oklahoma won the beauty contest and got the highest ranking in the BCS over Texas and Texas Tech to represent the division in the Big 12 title game. It’s this simple: if OU wins, it’ll play the SEC Champion for the national title. A loss would likely mean the Cotton Bowl. No offense is hotter than OU’s, scoring more than 60 points in each of the last four games while putting up 59.5 points per game ever since the 45-35 loss to Texas six games ago. After blasting away on Texas Tech and Oklahoma State in back-to-back nationally televised games, QB Sam Bradford is considered the leader in the Heisman chase and can all but secure it with another big performance and a win. A win would be the second Big 12 title victory in a row over Missouri and would be the third straight championship. It would also be the sixth Big 12 championship under head coach Bob Stoops leading to the fourth national championship appearance in his era.
Starting CB Castine Bridges went down with a knee injury against Kansas and is out. He underwent surgery on Tuesday. Tru Vaughns is capable of filling Bridges’ shoes. However, the secondary, currently ranked 116th in the nation an last in the Big 12 in pass defense, is one spot where Missouri cannot afford to be shorthanded against the high-octane Sooner passing attack.
Oklahoma: Heisman Trophy candidate Sam Bradford should be good to go after injuring his left thumb against Oklahoma State. With the injury occurring on his non-passing hand, Bradford fumbled two snaps after the injury. DE Auston English is probable this week after sitting out the OSU game with a bad knee providing a huge boost for the Sooner pass rush. Freshman LB Austin Box will not play after spraining a knee last week. Box had done a good job filling in for injured Ryan Reynolds, but he’ll be out until the bowl game and will now be replaced by Mike Balogun.
Missouri has to … sell out on defense and get to Bradford. The Tigers have the type of offensive balance that could be effective against Oklahoma but it won’t mean anything if the Sooners hang another 60 on the board. The Tigers have struggled all year against the pass, but the pass rush has been steady and effective. It hasn’t mattered much as quarterbacks who can move around a little bit in the pocket, like Bradford, have been effective. However, the stats are a bit misleading, as most opposing teams have had to bomb away to keep up with the high-octane Tigers. Offensively, Missouri has to get throwing and keep throwing. As Oklahoma State showed, it’s possible to move the ball and score on the Sooners in bunches. Chase Daniel has to be hot early and he has to get the ball to his playmakers on the move. When he’s running, the offense tends to limp a bit.
Oklahoma has to … attack, attack, attack. When the Sooners get on a roll, the snowball keeps getting bigger and bigger. Last week, OU scored touchdowns on six straight possessions and Oklahoma State never had an answer. The running attack is solid and is a nice compliment, but Oklahoma has been destroying everyone with the passing game. Part of the key is getting Sam Bradford all the time he needs, and while Mizzou should be able to get into the backfield, the offense has to continue its up-tempo ways and it has to feed off the positive momentum. OU is tied for fifth in the nation in fewest sacks, partly because of the line and partly because Bradford gets the ball out of his hands quickly. Even if the Tigers have early success, OU can’t panic and has to keep doing what it’s been doing. Oklahoma State came up with a few early stops, and then everything started to click.
Keep an eye on … Oklahoma TE Jermaine Gresham. The return of WR Manuel Johnson from injury and the emergence of Juaquin Iglesias have opened up the middle of the field for Gresham. The junior had nine catches for 158 yards and two touchdowns last week, highlighted by a tipped ball taken for a back-breaking score. He has size, speed, and great hands, and with 12 touchdown catches this season, he has a knack for making things happen in the red zone.
The number to know: 1,047 and 98. The two teams combine to average 1,047 yards and 98 points per game.
And the winner is … Oklahoma 52 … Missouri 31