Football

BCS Championship: Florida vs. Oklahoma, 8 pm (Fox)

NORMAN, Okla. — "Big Game Bob" doesn't roll off the tongue quite the same anymore.

Oklahoma Coach Bob Stoops hears this.

The nickname's mostly uttered in a mocking tone with the No. 1 Sooners just days away from meeting No. 2 Florida in the BCS National Championship Game at Dolphin Stadium.

"Big Game Bob really has to change what they are doing for practices, the way they prepare," ESPN analyst Mark May, a two-time Super Bowl winner and College Football Hall of Famer, said of Oklahoma's bowl preparations. "They haven't gotten the job done."

Stoops, 48, can't help but be annoyed at the constant reminders of his Sooners' four-game losing streak in BCS games.

He proved long ago he can win the biggest games. Florida coach Steve Spurrier wooed him from Kansas State to be his defensive coordinator before the 1996 season. Spurrier's Gators were an offensive juggernaut, but they showed how lacking they were defensively when Nebraska claimed the national title at the end of the '95 season by throttling Florida 62-24. In his first year, Stoops helped Spurrier win Florida's first national title with a defense that yielded a touchdown or less in five games.

Stoops didn't wait long to prove he could win big games as coach at Oklahoma. In his second season, he led the Sooners to a national championship with a 13-2 victory against Florida State in the 2001 Orange Bowl.

In 10 seasons, Stoops' Sooners have won six Big 12 titles.

Though there is much to admire in Stoops' record, his name's on the line this week.

"Big Game Bob" can thank and curse the BCS for that.

Last year, his Sooners were throttled 48-28 by West Virginia in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. The year before they were upset 43-42 in overtime by Boise State in the Fiesta. Before that there was an embarrassing 55-19 loss to USC in the national title game in the Orange Bowl at the end of the 2005 season. And the year before, a 21-14 loss to LSU in the national title game in the Sugar Bowl.

Those four BCS beat-downs in five seasons prompted a revision of Stoops' nickname.

"How did Big Game Bob become Big Lame Bob?" Oklahoman columnist Berry Tramel wrote in the wake of the West Virginia loss.

Stoops said he is making changes based on what he learned in those losses, but there will be no radical overhaul. The team arrived Friday at Miami International Airport, making the bowl week one day shorter than Stoops traditionally plans. Curfews will be altered, too, but nothing dramatic.

"You can change, but nothing guarantees success," Stoops said. "In the end, you are playing other championship teams and you have to play well.

"Is there any specific, magical formula? No, I don't think so."

Stoops' players hear the mocking tone to "Big Game Bob" references and see that scrolling TV "ticker" touting their four consecutive BCS losses and don't like it.

"There's a lot on the line," safety Nic Harris said. "It has a lot to do with the stigma that's been placed on OU in big games. We pretty much want to silence anybody who has had anything to say."

Before the season even began, Harris declared that OU's motto would be "WTLG: Win the Last Game."

The criticism in back-to-back Fiesta Bowl losses was that Stoops didn't get the most out of his team with the Sooners playing in consolation bowl atmospheres.

"We were a little bit more hungry than they were," West Virginia quarterback Pat White said after the last Fiesta Bowl whipping.

Stoops had White's words pasted on a banner in the OU locker room before this season.

"What we've done in the past is we've had too much fun," defensive lineman Gerald McCoy said. "I won't tell you what we did, but it wasn't as much about business as it will be this time around."

If playing for a national title isn't enough to get OU's full attention, Stoops has other motivational tools. There are those questions about whether Texas deserved this championship chance instead of the Sooners. There is also all that doubt about the caliber of Big 12 defenses and how much they contributed to Oklahoma's record-setting offensive success.

"I don't know what it is, growing up in Youngstown, Ohio, whatever it is, but Bob Stoops has a way of getting his team not just fired up, but getting them mad," ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit said. "Those 20 days (before the BCS National Championship), one team hears about how wonderful they are and the other hears that they shouldn't be in the game and they're going to lose. ... My guess is that this year it will be Florida is the great team and should win and Oklahoma probably shouldn't even be in the game. That's a huge advantage for Oklahoma."

If the Sooners win, Stoops will become the first coach to win two championship games since the BCS was formed 11 years ago. That will make "Big Game Bob" sound a lot better rolling off tongues around the country.

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