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January 1, 2014

Stoops will play cat and mouse all the way to kickoff

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NEW ORLEANS -- Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops kept to the maxim there's no need in letting Alabama coach Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide know which Sooner quarterback will start the Allstate Sugar Bowl on Thursday night in the Superdome.

Stoops doesn't want to give away anymore of his strategy than he has to. He showed just how committed he is to keeping his game plan close the vest on Monday when he allowed both redshirt freshman Trevor Knight and junior quarterback Blake Bell to attend the Sooners' last offensive press conference for the week.

At his last press conference on Wednesday, Stoops explained why he wanted to keep this charade going right up until Knight or Bell line up under center.

SCOOPHD: STOOPS MEETS WITH MEDIA WEDNESDAY MORNING


"I think it's fair to say through the season when you watch these two quarterbacks we kind of go to some plays a little bit more with one guy than we do another," Stoops said. "So why give someone the advantage of practicing those plays more than another set of plays? It hopefully has made them have to work a bigger package on what we liked to do with each guy."

While Stoops is intent on keeping everyone outside his program guessing, he has mercifully allowed his quarterbacks in on the game plan -- and which of them will start the game.

"They've practiced really well, just like they have through the year," Stoops said. "They're very supportive of one another, and so that's something that we'll talk to them about going into the game. But they already know how we intend to play them."

Whatever the offensive game plan is, it will certainly mean accounting for All-America linebacker C.J. Mosley. Mosley, who has already recorded over 100 tackles this season, is the best player on either defense.

He's shown throughout his career that he can influence the game in ways the Sooners might not have experienced all year. Stoops called him one of the best players he's seen while coaching at Oklahoma.

"I think C.J. Mosley is as fine a football player as I've seen in my time here at Oklahoma in 15 years, and that's the truth," Stoops said. "Just an absolute perfect football player when you look at the physical abilities he has and competitive nature."

The scheme in which Mosley thrives, a 3-4, is a kissing cousin with Oklahoma's defensive design. Both Bob and defensive coordinator Mike Stoops have admitted to trading ideas with Saban and the Tide defensive staff.

The advice the Stoopses have received from Alabama's coaches over the last year has paid dividends for an OU defense that carried its offense through tough stretches throughout 2013.

It also means Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron will have intimate knowledge of the defense he's surveying.

"You know what they're doing," Saban said. "We play a 3-4, so we kind of understand how it's supposed to be played, and they certainly play it the way it's supposed to be played."

Saban will use his knowledge of the defense to try to exploit it with the same kind of play and principles that earned he and the Tide the last two national championships. He said those principles were lost in the Iron Bowl -- the game that helped vault Auburn into the Bowl Championship title game and sent Alabama four-and-half hours south to Louisiana.

"I think the success that we had -- we sort of got away from that a little bit ad didn't prepare as well, didn't pay attention to detail as well, didn't play with the same discipline, and it caught up to us," Saban said.

He wants his team to rediscover those principles in this game against an Oklahoma program that would like nothing more than to remind the college football world what it is and what it stands for.

STOOPS BELIEVES SUGAR BOWL PROVIDES RECRUITING EDGE

Stoops understands a win underneath the lights of the Superdome could do the Sooners a lot of good with festivities for the Under Armour All-America game, U.S. Army All-America Bowl and Semper Fidelis All-America Bowl all underway.

While some of those players might be looking for a new-age approach to college football -- new uniforms, new direction -- Stoops believes the track record of the Sooners is still enticing.

"I think in the end some players may look at bells and whistles a little more than they do overall tradition and history," Stoops said, "but there's still a good number of them that do recognize the opportunity to play in these kind of great games, and they realize we've done it a lot.

"So there's a little bit of everything in recruiting. And there's still a lot of players that recognize the tradition and history of what you've been doing more than maybe the color of your helmet."



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