Wildcats ponder Sooners’ talent

Hard for Kansas State coach to remember a more imposing college program.
Friday, December 5, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 7:21 a.m. CDT, Saturday, July 12, 2008

Kansas State plays the No. 1 team in the country Saturday, but that is not coach Bill Snyder’s biggest worry. What concerns Snyder is that in Oklahoma, the Wildcats might face the best team in history.

“Off the top of my head, I can’t think of one that’s better,” Snyder said.

In the regular season, no team came within a sniff of the Sooners (12-0, 8-0 Big 12 Conference). Oklahoma has been at the top of the polls since preseason and defeated its opponents by an average of 35 points. The Sooners have trailed in two games this season.

Kansas State (10-3, 6-2) won six straight games to win the Big 12 North Division. The Wildcats and the Sooners play for the Big 12 Championship at 7 p.m. at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City.

Win or lose, the Sooners will not drop from first in the BCS rankings and will play for the national championship in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 4. Leading the Sooners is senior quarterback Jason White. White has the country’s No. 1 pass efficiency rating and has thrown 40 touchdowns and six interceptions. He is a finalist for the Heisman Trophy, which will be announced Dec. 13 in New York.

“Jason just puts the ball in the right spots at the right time,” Snyder said.

The Sooners had an unprecedented six All-America selections. White, wide receiver Mark Clayton, linebacker Teddy Lehman, defensive back Derrick Strait, kick returner Antonio Perkins and defensive tackle Tommie Harris were honored. Twelve additional Sooners were named to the coaches’ All-Big 12 team.

Running back Darren Sproles and quarterback Ell Roberson lead the Wildcats. Sproles has gained 131.8 rushing yards per game, No. 5 in the nation. He leads the Wildcats in season and career rushing and all-purpose yards.

Roberson, a senior, has been an emotional spark for the team. His three touchdowns on 313 yards passing led the Wildcats to their first road win against Nebraska in 35 years.

Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said the Sooners do not focus their defensive efforts on stopping the stars. Rather, they concentrate on every aspect of the team they are facing.

“You don’t stop any one person; you have to defend their offense, their formations and their plays,” Stoops said.

Kansas State won its first four games but lost its next three. Roberson missed most of three games, one of which Kansas State lost. Since Roberson returned, though, the Wildcats have won six straight games.

Stoops said Roberson’s absence seemed like the reason for the Wildcats’ mid-season struggles.

“As much as anything, they lost a little bit of continuity with him not being there, having the repetitions,” Stoops said.

The same teams played in the conference championship game in 2000, the most recent time the game was played in Kansas City. Oklahoma won 27-24 and went on to win the national championship.

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