NEW ORLEANS (Ticker) -- One bad game did not cost Jason White the Heisman Trophy. Oklahoma now hopes that one bump in the road will not keep it from a national championship.
The third-ranked Sooners threw the Bowl Championship Series into chaos with a 35-7 loss to Kansas State in the Big 12 Conference title game. But a dominant regular season was enough to keep Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl, where it will play second-ranked Louisiana State on January 4.
"I think the BCS obviously worked out for us," White said. We took care of business early in the season. We played good teams and won."
But the lopsided defeat in Kansas City came at a price. Instead of claiming the undisputed national title, the Sugar Bowl winner could share the prize with top-ranked Southern California, which rolled to a 28-14 victory over Michigan in the Rose Bowl and will likely stay atop the Associated Press poll.
White's status as Heisman Trophy front-runner was called into question with his two-interception performance against Kansas State, but he easily walked away with college football's top individual honor, and with good reason. He threw 40 touchdown passes and just eight interceptions and was the unquestioned leader of the best team in the nation from September through November.
The Sooners (12-1) were uncharacteristically flat against Kansas State and coach Bob Stoops had a full month to figure out what went wrong. A main concern for Stoops will be an offensive line that showed some leaks late in the season and was unable to generate any notable running game against Kansas State.
The running game is not nearly as strong as it was last season with Quentin Griffin in the fold. The Sooners have relied on the duo of Kejuan Jones and Renaldo Works, who have combined for 1,580 yards.
This year, the Sooners rely far more on the pass and there will be no margin for error against LSU's aggressive defense led by tackle Chad Lavalais.
White's favorite target is Mark Clayton, who has caught 79 passes for 1,393 yards and 15 touchdowns, but he will be tested by a secondary led by star cornerback Corey Webster.
Oklahoma's defense received more attention on the banquet circuit as linebacker Teddy Lehman won the Butkus and Bednarik Awards, cornerback Derrick Strait took the Thorpe Award and tackle Tommie Harris captured the Lombardi Award.
"I know more about this team (Oklahoma) from that (awards) outing because they had about six or seven guys there and we had one (Lavalais)," LSU coach Nick Saban said. "Chad and I decided that wasn't the time to pick a fight."
But Oklahoma's defensive unit had its troubles against Kansas State, especially with speedy running back Darren Sproles. In the Sugar Bowl, the Sooners will try to slow down a deep stable of LSU running backs led by Justin Vincent. The freshman has rushed for over 100 yards in the last three games and exploded for 201 yards in the Tigers' 34-13 victory over Georgia in the Southeastern Conference title game.
LSU (12-1) made a slow but steady rise in the BCS standings and was among the hottest teams in the country over the final weeks of the season.
Matt Mauck threw for 2,701 yards and 28 touchdowns for the Tigers, who seven straight games since suffering their only loss of the season to Florida. Mauck, like White, is not an adept scrambler, which should be good news for the Sooners, since they have sometimes struggled against mobile quarterbacks such as Ell Roberson of Kansas State.
LSU will be without running back Shyrone Carey and deep snapper Steve Damen, who were suspended for a violation of teams rules. According to reports, the two were suspended for selling their complimentary tickets.
While Oklahoma will have it usually strong contingent of fans making the trip to New Orleans, the Sugar Bowl could feel like a home game for LSU, which is located about an hour's drive from the Superdome.
The Tigers had a huge home-field advantage when they defeated Illinois in the Sugar Bowl two years ago. LSU had a five-game bowl winning streak end with a loss to Texas in last year's Cotton Bowl.
Oklahoma has won its last three bowl games, including a victory over Florida State in the 2000 season that gave the Sooners the national title.
The Sooners won the only previous meeting with LSU, 35-0, in the 1950 Sugar Bowl.