Tape It Up: Big 12 Title Game: Each Side Loses One

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Big 12 Title Game: Each Side Loses One

Saturday's Big 12 title game will decide more than a conference champion. Should Missouri win, the Tigers will remain No. 1 in the BCS and play for the national title. Should Oklahoma win, the Sooners will move up and knock the Tigers out, but the championship game then depends on the plight of West Virginia. Either way, it's a complicated situation, made all the more complicated by the injuries hampering both teams. Oklahoma will play without top running back DeMarco Murray, who is having surgery this week that will end his season, and Missouri may be without half of its tight end tandem, as Chase Coffman is questionable with an ankle injury.

Murray, a redshirt freshman, will miss both the Big 12 Championship game and the Sooners' bowl appearance because of the surgery he will have this week to repair his injured knee. He sustained the injury while trying to recover an onside kick in a loss to Texas Tech on Nov. 17.

His absence is a big hit to the Sooners, as Murray has been the key third wheel in Oklahoma's triple-threat running attack. On 127 carries, he rushed for 764 yards this season, good enough for 69.5 yards per game (second on the team). He led the Sooners in rushing touchdowns with 13, and also brought back two kickoff returns for scores.

Also questionable for the Sooners is defensive end Auston English, who has now missed three straight games with an ankle injury. The former Big 12 sack leader has 9.5 sacks through 9 games, and with Missouri's Chase Daniel looking particularly hot last weekend, Oklahoma would love to have English back on the field.

As for the so-called inexperienced underdogs, they may be without half of their most potent weapon, one of those 6-foot-5, 250-pound tight ends for which the Tigers are so noted. Coffman missed the second half of last week's win over Kansas with the ankle injury that may keep him off the field on Saturday, which would be a huge blow to the Tigers' non-stop offense.

Coffman is Missouri's third-leading receiver, having hauled in 51 catches for 523 yards and seven touchdowns this season. He holds the career TD reception record for the Tigers, with 20. His size and agility make him just as punishing a blocker as a pass-catcher, and the Tigers will certainly miss him if he is unable to play on Saturday.

"He will be in a boot until Wednesday morning, then he'll practice Wednesday and Thursday," head coach Gary Pinkel said on Monday. "We think he'll be back, but he would certainly be questionable at this time."

These two losses will not necessarily cancel out. Murray is an integral part of the offense, yes, but Oklahoma has already played one game without him. Missouri, on the other hand, needs all of its guns firing to overcome a team that beat them the last time around (41-31 on Oct. 14, in Norman).

Unless Coffman's ankle is broken, expect the junior to play. This is not just another outing - it's the Big 12 championship with a national title berth on the line. If Dennis Dixon played with a torn ACL, Coffman will take the field with a banged-up ankle. The Tigers need him.

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