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OU Draws Mountaineers in Arizona
December 04, 2007

SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- Oklahoma didn't get the chance to play for the nation's top billing that coach Bob Stoops had campaigned for after the Sooners won the Big 12 Conference championship. Facing a team that was in position to play for the national title until the last week of the regular season will have to be an acceptable substitute.

The third-ranked Sooners (11-2) found out Sunday that they will play in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 2 against No. 11 West Virginia (10-2), which was in line to play in the Bowl Championship Series title game until an upset loss to Pittsburgh in its final game.

"Going into the last week of the year we played Missouri, No. 1 in the country, and West Virginia was No. 2 -- or No. 1 in the other poll," Stoops said. "It's a big challenge, and we're excited about it."

The two schools will be meeting for the fourth time ever and the first time since 1987, but there's a little familiarity between Stoops and West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez.

"I know they've got a lot of great athletes at every position and since Bob has been there, they've done a great job recruiting and a great job coaching them up," Rodriguez said. "We actually visited there a few years ago and talked some football. We've got a tremendous amount of respect for not only the kind of players they have, but how they have built their program.

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"Each and every year, they're one of the best teams in the country and they've proven that again this year."

Stoops recalled Rodriguez's staff being "just a bunch of great guys" during their visit, and he said he admired the West Virginia coach's personality that he feels is shown through the way his team plays.

"Being around Rich and his staff, I just felt there are a lot of similarities in how we try and coach. Maybe background and being from the same area, all those kind of things kind of makes you feel comfortable," said Stoops, who hails from Ohio, while Rodriguez is from neighboring West Virginia.

"I just felt like we really coach in a similar way, and I've got a lot of respect for what they've done and how they coach."

West Virginia, the Big East Conference champion, brings in the nation's No. 4 rushing offense that averages 292.9 yards while Oklahoma boasts the eighth-best rushing defense, allowing only 91.9 yards per game.

Stoops joked that he'd seen Rodriguez give a breakdown of the Mountaineers' potent read option run game on television and "we're going to dissect that whole segment that he went over."

"They do a fabulous job. They've got excellent skill players that they run the triple option with and you've got to be really disciplined to play it," Stoops said. "If you're not really disciplined and even if you are, they've got people that can beat you, make you miss them, make big plays and they're very disciplined in how they run it."

While the Sooners have faced plenty of spread offenses this season, none have rushed the ball as effectively as the one led by running back Steve Slaton and quarterback Pat White, who Rodriguez said should be recovered from a dislocated thumb -- suffered in the loss to Pittsburgh -- in a few days.

"We've been fairly used to seeing it, although sometimes we've been really great at it and other times we've struggled a little bit," Stoops said. "We've got a good number of weeks to really get prepared for it."

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• Bruce Feldman of ESPN ranks Brent Venables as his top assistant coach, Sports Illustratedpredicts the Fiesta Bowl, Mel Kiper of ESPN praises the Sooner defensive line, and Tom Dienhart of the Sporting News compares Nebraska's hire of Bo Pelini to Stoops at Oklahoma.
 
• John Shinn of the Norman Transcript on OU peaking for the postseason, John Hoover of the Tulsa World takes a look at West Virginia, Jake Trotter of the Oklahoman on the Mountaineers, Dave Sittler of the World on OU's bright future, Shinn on OU and the BCS, Hoover on OU fans supporting the Sooners in San Antonio, Trotter on bucking January losses, Clay Horning of the Transcript on shot at title and Mike Strain of the World on voting OU No. 2.
 
• West Virginia head coach Rich Rodriguez reacts the playing OU in Arizona, the Charleston Gazette on WVU fans traveling to Arizona, the Charleston Mail on recovering from Pitt, the Beckley Register-Herald on losing sleep in Morgantown and the Gazette on the play that got away.
 
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