CNNSI.com College Football Preview - 2002 College Football


 

UT-OU rivalry ready to explode

Posted: Wednesday August 14, 2002 11:03 AM
Updated: Wednesday August 14, 2002 1:20 PM



Oklahoma tight end Trent Smith is vocal about his hatred of Texas. Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
 1    Oklahoma
 2    Texas
 3    Colorado
 4    Nebraska
 5    Texas A&M
 6    Kansas State
 7    Texas Tech
 8    Iowa State
 9    Oklahoma State
10   Missouri
11   Baylor
12   Kansas
 9 
Players who have left the Kansas program since the end of spring workouts.
"Being politically correct is contrary to the First Amendment. Just commenting on political correctness is not politically correct. Me, I’m just a train wreck waiting to happen.”

-- Texas Tech coach Mike Leach on his lack of conformity to rules and regulations.
By Tim Griffin, Special to CNNSI.com

The rivalry simmers at a fever pitch, ready to boil over in early October as it seems to do every year.

Texas and Oklahoma have always been bitter adversaries. Historically, some of it is understandable. The game used to be played for bragging rights, but now, with both teams as top five contenders in the same conference, it’s much bigger than that.

Oklahoma tight end Trent Smith raised the ire of Texas fans last month when he belittled the Longhorns at the Big 12’s media day.

"I don’t like them," Smith told reporters. " Brian Bosworth said it best, and I tend to agree with him. Burnt orange [Texas’ color] makes me puke. I don’t like them."

All of this coming almost three full months before the Oct. 12 game at the Cotton Bowl. The buildup for this year’s game should be delicious.

Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops says his team has more talent and depth than in 2000, when the Sooners charged to a 13-0 record en route to their fifth national championship.

"In some parts of the game we might even be better," Stoops said about his current team.

Similar confidence has sprouted at Texas, where Coach Mack Brown has previously downplayed talk about a national championship. But starting his fifth year, Brown has embraced the challenge with a team he feels may be his best.

"I think last year’s team had the chance to make a run at it," Brown said. "Before that, we really didn’t. Right now, we’re in that mix of eight or 10 teams that have a chance."

The change is noticeable in Austin, as the Longhorns return 12 starters from last season, despite last week's loss of TE Bo Scaife with a season-ending knee injury.

"The program is walking with a swagger again," Brown said. "We feel like we should be a top-five team and now, we’re at point where if we do our jobs, there may come a time when the ball bounces right and we could win a national championship."

Considering that Brown has never won a conference championship, the obvious reaction might be to prove it. The Longhorns say they are ready for that task.

"We feel we have a few things to prove," Texas quarterback Chris Simms said. “It’s a year where we have no excuses. We’ve got a lot of good players. It’s just about going out and doing it.”

The Sooners are similarly confident, despite offensive struggles that surfaced late last season. The Sooners scored 23 points in their final two games and an offensive touchdown in both high-profile games against Texas and Nebraska.

After offensive coordinator Mark Mangino left to take the head job at Kansas, former quarterbacks coach Chuck Long was installed as his replacement and Kevin Wilson was brought in from Northwestern to serve as offensive line coach and running game coordinator.

Smith, who led all of the nation’s tight ends with 61 catches last year, senses an attitude shift among his teammates with the coaching change.

"There’s definitely a new attitude on offense, especially on the offensive line," Smith said. "They seem to walk out with their chest stuck out more. It’s exciting to see them and it inspires the rest of the team."

Brad Smith is a quick learner. Missouri's redshirt freshman quarterback appears poised to take the starting position from senior Kirk Farmer for the Tigers’ Aug. 31 opener against Illinois in St. Louis.

Smith, who won’t turn 19 until Dec. 12, has grown by two inches and added 20 pounds since arriving at school. He now is a solid 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds and quickly grasped the philosophy of coach Gary Pinkel.

“Brad is quicker than he is fast,” Pinkel said. “He has tremendous poise and has really matured physically. I’ve coached five NFL quarterbacks [during 12 years as an assistant at the University of Washington]. I never had a player who picked up the game and has adapted as fast as he has.

“You’re not supposed to be like he is at that age,” Pinkel said. “But he hasn’t done anything yet. Let me make that clear.”


HOT: Oklahoma State WR Rashaun Woods

Set school records last year with 80 receptions and 1,023 yards.

NOT: Nebraska’s defense

Allowed an average of 49.5 points and 527 total yards in season-ending losses to Colorado and Miami. It was the first time Nebraska finished with consecutive losses since 1990.

HOT: Texas Tech QB Kliff Kingsbury

Has thrown for at least 300 yards in six of his last eight games.

NOT: Baylor

Has never emerged from the cellar during coach Kevin Steele’s tenure, losing 29 straight straight conference games.

 
Heralded Texas A&M freshman quarterback Reggie McNeal has never played a college game, but he's already earned a reputation as a brash talker. McNeal told the Dallas Morning News earlier this summer he expects to unseat A&M starting quarterback Mark Farris by the middle of the season.

Those words caught the attention of Farris, who made it clear he won’t surrender the job without a fight.

"That’s his prerogative to say that in the paper," Farris said. "But I’m not going anywhere. I’ll be there."


Iowa State coach Dan McCarney

Has taken the Cyclones to back-to-back bowl appearances for the first time since 1977-78.

Missouri LB Sean Doyle

Led the conference with 11.7 tackles per game in 2001, and with MU's young offense will spend more time on the field in 2002.

Nebraska RB Dahrran Diedrick

Will emerge as the team's primary playmaker early in the season.

 
Although Texas and Oklahoma’s Oct. 12 showdown in Dallas is commanding much of the early attention across the Big 12, another divisional showdown later in the year could be just as intriguing.

Colorado inflamed Nebraska fans by gashing the Cornhuskers for 380 rushing yards last season on what former Colorado QB Bobby Pesavento said were only three basic running plays. The final insult came after Colorado captains voted to inscribe the 66-36 score of the game on the side of the Buffs' conference championship rings.

So you can bet the Cornhuskers will be ready for the Nov. 29 rematch in Lincoln, where the Buffs have failed to win since their national championship season in 1990.

 
Texas Tech has even more reason to anticipate its Aug. 24 opener at Ohio State. Tech athletic director Gerald Myers announced that the school’s football program was $300,000 over budget. The shortfall was discovered when the school’s in-house mail service stopped delivering recruiting materials because the football program was thousands of dollars behind in payment. Coach Mike Leach hired a lawyer and complained the school would be at a competitive disadvantage before the problem was solved. … Former Kansas coach Terry Allen has been hired by Iowa State coach Dan McCarney as the Cyclones’ tight ends coach. McCarney and Allen have been friends since their youth, when both grew up in Iowa City. … Baylor DE A.C. Collier is already looking forward to life after college football. "My individual goal is to get a signing bonus," said Collier, who racked up six sacks last year. … Many Nebraska fans have complained about the team’s new road uniforms, which will feature white jerseys and white pants with a red stripe, rather than the old style of white shirts and red pants. "It’s just a stripe," Nebraska I-back Dahrran Diedrick said. "It’s time for a change. We want to look a little different out there." … Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops is using the Sooners’ placement in the coaches’ poll as a psychological weapon. "That’s perfect, absolutely perfect," Stoops told the Daily Oklahoman after learning his team was picked third behind Miami and Texas. "It’s something to shoot for. And it’s something to be mad about."


 
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