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BY MIKE BALDWIN, Staff Writer, mbaldwin@opubco.com



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Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops in past years said it was unfair the Sooners had to play a conference title game when other national title contenders didn’t.



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OU’s Bob Stoops talks about his relationship with Nebraska’s Bo and Carl Pelini

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Since the Sooners aren’t in the national title hunt Stoops is excited to play Nebraska Saturday night in the final Big 12 title game.

“The fact we’re not in the national championship title picture, you don’t like it. It’s not what you want,” Stoops said Monday morning on the Big 12 teleconference. “You always want to be in that picture. But it’s incredibly exciting, rewarding to be in this game and to finish the season this way on such a stage against another great tradition team in Nebraska.

“In these years it’s the best. It’s what you want. You have a chance to earn that trophy and all that. That’s pretty special and exciting to be on that stage. But years you’re going after the national championship, you’re undefeated and you have to take this step when maybe the other two teams in the national championship picture aren’t playing and are sitting home in their Lazy Boys it isn’t such a great thing to be playing this game.”

One storyline is Stoops’ relationship with Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini and defensive coordinator Carl Pelini.

“The good thing is one of us is going to win a Big 12 championship,” Stoops said. “But there’s nothing personal about it. It’s (two) teams. It’s (two) programs. There are so many different people involved with it that part of it really doesn’t enter in.”

The Stoops and Pelini families are from Youngstown, Ohio. The Pelinis had eight children, the Stoops six. Bo was Bob’s defensive coordinator at OU.

“It’s a long relationship,” Stoops said. “Both are from large families. All the brothers and sisters are all intertwined and are good friends. We all went to school together. Parents were good friends. (They’re) very close family friends.

“And through coaching we’ve been around each other. Bo was around here (at OU) for a while. His brother Carl out of high school was a graduate assistant for me at Kansas State and lived with me for a long while. We’re good friends and have been together for a long while.”

Stoops said it’s fitting OU and Nebraska are playing in the final Big 12 title game before the Cornhuskers join the Big Ten next season.

“It couldn’t be better,” Stoops said. “It’s really exciting. When you go back, I grew up watching the series like everyone else, the tradition, the history, the rivalry. It goes back a long way, a lot of special coaches, players and games. To be part of it in this situation is special.”

Not knowing he would become OU’s head coach years later, Stoops said he rooted for the Sooners because of their dynamic running backs.

“I grew up in northeast Ohio and I can remember as a young kid following the Steven Owens, Greg Pruitts and Joe Washingtons and couldn’t wait for this game around Thanksgiving, watching the two teams in red and white go at it,” Stoops said.

“It was really special because it was always a great game. Great players. Great coaches. Everybody around the country was watching it. I was always kind of an OU fan because of their style of play and coach (Barry) Switzer.”

Both teams tied for their division title but advanced to the title game because of tiebreakers.

Nebraska beat Missouri head-to-head to win the North. Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas AM were in a three-way tie in the South. The Sooners advanced because of a higher BCS ranking.

“I feel fortunate to be part of it,” Stoops said. “It’s exciting. And it’s earned. Both of us have earned it through tough division fights.”

Stoops punted down two scores late in a loss at Missouri because it might impact a shot at the national title. It probably had no impact on the South tiebreaker but Stoops was asked about it on Monday.

“I felt solid about it when I did it,” Stoops said. “Regardless of what anybody wants to say there’s a certain point we hadn’t shown any life the first three downs prior to (the punt). We didn’t even sniff a completion.

“I probably wouldn’t have done it had we been out at the 20- or 30-yard line. I know I wouldn’t have. But in the situation we were in I felt it was the right thing to do. Whether it’s right or wrong, everybody can have their opinion. Right now it’s worked out OK.”


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