Run and Shoot: Welcome to the dome with the hole in the top

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Welcome to the dome with the hole in the top

GLENDALE, Ariz. - Soon the only game on today's college football schedule will kick off. Oklahoma and West Virginia, No. 3 and No. 11, meet at the Fiesta Bowl inside University of Phoenix Stadium. And for a game that might seem to be of little consequence beyond the season's final polls - assuming LSU and Ohio State don't play a 3-0 overtime snorefest thus opening the door for an Associated Press national champion other than the Tigers and Buckeyes - one gets the feeling it has real significance to both teams. Perhaps historical significance to both teams.

Both programs have made some unwanted news since playing their last game: OU's a Big 12 title victory over Missouri and West Virginia's a home loss to Pittsburgh - Pittsburgh! - that kept it out of the BCS championship game.

One day West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez said he was only going to talk about his team, the Mountaineers, refusing even to admit he was being talked to about the Michigan job and the next day he took the Michigan job. Since, the school has even taken the step to file suit against Rodriguez for payment of a very healthy buyout clause. Under Interim coach Bill Stewart, the Mountaineers have appeared to rally, and one has to believe their motivation tonight goes well beyond taking down an historic program like the Sooners and somewhere enters sticking it to the coach that walked out on his players.

Meanwhile, the OU has the now to think about. Basically, what if LSU and Ohio produce their snorefest, just how far might an impressive victory take the Sooners? But also the historical. This is the Sooners' sixth BCS game under Bob Stoops. OU won the first two, the 2001 Orange (for the 2000 national championship) and the 2003 Rose (over Southern Cal), but has lost the last three, including the 2004 Sugar (to miss out on the 2003 national championship), the 2005 Orange (to miss out on the 2004 national title) and the 2007 Fiesta (last season, against Boise State).

While Stoops string of success is amazing - three BCS championship games and three other BCS bowls - he nonetheless is rarely referred to as Big Game Bob any longer, what with the Sooners recent lack of postseason success. On the record, Stoops has tried to explain that what happened last season has nothing to do with tonight. Meanwhile, players have confirmed they're being reminded of last season on almost a daily basis. Finally, Tuesday, in his last press conference before the game, Stoops said something like, how can he keep from talking about last season, he's reminded of it so often.

Who ever said a coach won't try to have it both ways.

Other subplots include personnel.

West Virginia quarterback Pat White injured his the thumb on his throwing hand (arm) against Pittsburgh and nobody believes the Panthers beat the Mountaineers that night had White remained available. So how will he perform on the Fiesta Bowl stage?

Meanwhile, the Sooners are missing three defensive starters, including cornerback Reggie Smith, the preseason Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, who has a broken toe in his right foot; nickel back Lendy Holmes, who is academically ineligible; and DeMarcus Granger, a defensive tackle recently named second-team All Big 12, who was sent back to Norman after a shoplifting incident (one Granger even admitted to) during the Fiesta Bowl trip. Granger's future may be in doubt, but his absence will do the Sooners no favors while trying to stop West Virginia's spread running game.

The last plot line might be the setting. Or the moment. As the only game on the schedule, the spotlight is on, stars can be born. One great thing about sports is never knowing what's going to happen in advance. Who saw Boise State winning the way it did last season.

Perhaps tonight will be special as well.

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