Archive for Saturday, November 2, 2002

Buffs, Sooners to collide in battle of division leaders

November 2, 2002

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Of all the things Bob Stoops has accomplished at Oklahoma, there's still one thing left to be done: Beat Colorado.

The No. 2 Sooners (7-0, 3-0 Big 12) try again today at home against the No. 13 Buffaloes (6-2, 4-0) in a matchup of division leaders.

Colorado is 8-0-1 against Oklahoma since 1989, with the tie coming in 1992. The Buffs have won five straight, but the teams haven't played since 1999, Stoops' first season in Norman.

Many things are pointed in the Sooners' direction. They're coming off a bye week, their revamped running game played great in victories against Texas and Iowa State and the defense remains among the nation's best.

Also, Stoops noted that his team's style matches Colorado State and Southern California, the two teams that have beaten Colorado.

"That makes you feel like you have a good plan," Stoops said. "We see this as another big challenge, another big game. I think our players are really excited about the opportunity and challenge of it."

Colorado, the defending conference champion, is riding an 11-1 streak in league games. Coach Gary Barnett realizes the stiff test his team will have today.

"Watching them, you certainly have no qualms about why they're ranked as high as they are," he said.

Whichever team loses can still make it to the Big 12 title game by winning the rest of its games. CU finishes with Missouri, Iowa State and Nebraska. OU still has Texas A&M, Baylor, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State.

The teams meet today with newly established starters at quarterback. Oklahoma's Nate Hybl took over in the second game when Jason White tore up a knee.

Robert Hodge became Colorado's starter in the third game, after Craig Ochs had a concussion a week earlier. Ochs subsequently quit the team.

"It's a credit to the mentality of your program, and that is that somebody is always going to step up and play," Colorado coach Gary Barnett said. "No one team in college football should ever feel like success or failure is ever based on one guy."

Hybl's success has not been all that unexpected. He was the starter a year ago before being dislodged for a short time by White. Hybl got the job back when White got hurt in his second start.

Other Big 12 games today include the No. 7 Texas Longhorns trying to become the first team to win at Nebraska since they did it in 1998, No. 14 Kansas State playing in-state foe Kansas, No. 22 Iowa State playing Missouri, Texas A&M at Oklahoma State and Baylor at Texas Tech.

When Nebraska (6-3, 2-2) and Texas (7-1, 3-1) hook up, the game will feature the third- and fourth-winningest programs in college football history.

Cornhuskers coach Frank Solich isn't thinking about the '98 loss to the Ricky Williams-led Longhorns, and hopes nobody else is either.

"We really don't try to feed off anything like that that's happened in the past," Solich said. "We're zeroing in on what's ahead of us."

The Cyclones (6-3, 3-2) are coming off consecutive losses to Texas and Oklahoma. They'll try turning things around against Missouri (4-4, 1-3) and its freshman quarterback Brad Smith.

"It's not just Smith that's made them better," ISU coach Dan McCarney said. "They're playing much better than this time last year, and we had to go down to a goal-line line stand last year in Columbia to win."

Oklahoma State (3-4, 1-2) is coming off a bye week, while the Aggies (5-3, 2-2) are trying to bounce back from blowing a 17-point lead in a 38-31 loss to Nebraska.

Baylor (3-5, 1-3) goes from having played ground-oriented Kansas State and Colorado to facing air-it-out Tech (5-3, 2-2).

"I thought about going to the wishbone to keep it for 45 minutes," quipped Bears coach Kevin Steele.

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