ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit, who will broadcast the Rose Bowl and BCS national championship games, discussed several bowl games in a conference call Monday. Here are excerpts from his comments on the Sugar and Cotton bowls:
How do you rate the Sooners' prospects in the Sugar Bowl?
“I thought considering what they faced this year with their injuries, they did a great job to be able to get into a BCS bowl game. And the way they got there with the win in Stillwater was tremendous. If you look at the game on paper, there's a clear advantage for Alabama. But when was the last time that Bob Stoops was allowed to go into a BCS bowl game where he was the prohibitive underdog, where nobody expected anything from his team? I think the biggest challenge for Nick Saban and his team coming into this game will be looking at it from the other side of it. They went into a Sugar Bowl against Utah and they just went through the motions, and Utah ended up embarrassing them. I think from that point on, that's been a rallying call for Alabama. I'm sure Nick Saban has brought that up this week.
“I think Oklahoma definitely has a chance in this game because they are going to play with some urgency. I think they are going to play with a major chip on their shoulder. Whether or not it's good enough to win the game, I think the game will be much much closer at least from a lot of people I'm hearing from and talking to. I think they are just looking at the game on paper, and they are not necessarily taking into consideration the motivation and the attitude. I was reading some quotes from Mike Stoops this morning. He was talking about, ‘Oh, gee whiz, they are so big and physical and strong. On defense, now we're built more for the spread. I just (wonder) how we can hold up physically.' I'm just sitting there thinking, ‘Oh, my gosh, Mike is going to have his defense so angry by the time they show up to play this game, which is what he wants.' I think the Sooners will surprise some people in the way they will play in the Sugar Bowl.”
What is OSU's mindset going into the Cotton Bowl?
“They have to look at this as another opportunity. I think Mike (Gundy) will do a good job of getting his team ready to play. I had them against Baylor late in the year. I remember walking out of that stadium just being really impressed with the versatility of the offense. We knew coming in that they were running the football so well and doing so many great things. In that particular game, Clint (Chelf) ended up throwing the football. They just showed a lot of versatility there. In this matchup, we've talked all year about how good Missouri's defense is. I think that Oklahoma State will have to pick their spots, whether it's running or throwing. Considering Missouri lost their last game, Oklahoma State lost their last game, both would rather be in bigger bowl games. This is a classic bowl game that the team with more energy, the team that has a better overall attitude for 60 minutes will be the team that wins and that head coach will deserve a lot of credit.”