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November 30, 2007

Mizzou looking for first Big 12 title

MORE: Who has the edge? | Video Preview

For Missouri, it's the quest for a new crown. For Oklahoma, this is old hat.

The Big 12 Championship Game offers a matchup of extreme against routine.

The Missouri Tigers (11-1), with a shot at the national-championship game at stake, are in the Big 12 final for the first time. Mizzou is seeking its first conference crown since sharing the Big 8 title with Nebraska in 1969. This is the first time the Tigers are involved in the Big 12 Championship Game.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma (10-2) - the defending Big 12 champion - is making its sixth league title-game appearance in nine seasons under coach Bob Stoops.

So does that give the Sooners an advantage when they face the Tigers on Saturday night in San Antonio's Alamodome?

"It sure is not a disadvantage," Stoops said. "We still have to play well, and our guys are definitely familiar with being in this situation."

Oklahoma beat Nebraska in last season's championship game, and is seeking its fifth Big 12 title.

"It's a big game. We've been there and done that," Oklahoma junior linebacker Curtis Lofton said. "I think that gives us an edge. There's a comfort level. A lot of us played in (the Big 12 Championship Game) last year. I think we're comfortable playing in games like this."

Missouri coach Gary Pinkel won't argue that point.

"This is just another game for them," he said. "From an experience standpoint, there is no question they have an advantage."

There also is no question Missouri has much more at stake. With a victory, the Tigers would play for the first football national title in school history.

To do that, the Tigers must avenge a 41-31 loss to Oklahoma in Norman on Oct. 13.

"Whatever happened in the past is in the past," Missouri tight end Martin Rucker said. "We're much more mature competitors than to be seeking revenge because that takes away from your preparation."

Obviously, learning from a loss is more important than avenging it. The Tigers committed four turnovers in that game, including a fumble returned for a touchdown and an interception in the fourth quarter.

"From an offensive standpoint, you say we've got to protect the football," Pinkel said. "Give them credit. They made turnovers in the fourth quarter. But from the Missouri standpoint, you're not going to win a big game if you turn the ball over in the fourth quarter."

Oklahoma didn't play a perfect game, either. The Sooners lost two fumbles, including one on a kickoff return after a Missouri touchdown in the third quarter.

But the Tigers and Sooners must do more than just eliminate turnovers to win the rematch.

"I think both teams will tinker with what they're trying to do," Stoops said. "Some things we did and liked we'll keep. There are some things you change and adjust a little bit. You make your adjustments and you go ahead and play."

Oklahoma won rematches in the championship game against Colorado in 2001 and Kansas State in 2000, so obviously Stoops speaks from experience.

Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at olin@rivals.com.

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