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SPOTLIGHT
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Underdog OU not afraid of 'Bama, SEC

Published on -1/2/2014, 9:57 AM

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By KURT VOIGT

Associated Press

NORMAN, Okla.-- Gabe Lynn understands if Oklahoma is considered an overwhelming underdog in the Sugar Bowl against Alabama.

Just don't expect the senior safety to react with such understanding when asked if the No. 11 Sooners are "scared" of the Crimson Tide -- a question several teammates have been peppered with since the bowl selections were announced Dec. 8.

"Nobody's asked me that, but (they've) kind of talked about how they're such a great team or whatever (and) how we can't play with them," Lynn said. "I've heard stuff like that, but I haven't heard anything like, 'We're scared of them.' Because we're definitely not scared of them."

Oklahoma (10-2), a 16-point underdog, will have its chance to prove worthy of a BCS bowl selection tonight when it takes on third-ranked Alabama (11-1).

The game carries with it plenty of intrigue simply because of the presence of the Crimson Tide -- winners of three of the last four national championships and the premier program in college football since coach Nick Saban's arrival in 2007.

The might of Alabama, however, is far from the only story line.

Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops made sure of that as far back as last spring when he challenged the notion that the Southeastern Conference -- which has fielded the last seven national champions -- is the most complete league in the country.

Stoops called some of the stories about SEC supremacy "propaganda." He followed that by taking a jab at SEC defenses this season, all of which made for quality radio and Internet material.

The winningest coach in Oklahoma history, having surpassed former Sooners coach Barry Switzer this season, has wanted little to do with the SEC story line leading to Thursday's game. The closest he's come to providing clarity on his earlier comments about the conference was to say he was talking about the lack of quality teams in the league's bottom half -- not teams like Alabama.

"There's always a lot of talk because newspapers have to be filled and airtime has to be filled," Stoops said.

"You have to talk about something. We don't concern ourselves with it, really. That's their job to do. Our job is to get ready to play and to do the work we do."

Stoops has lost three games in a row to SEC teams, including a Sugar Bowl loss to LSU after the 2003 season and to Florida in the national championship game after the 2008 season. He's 3-4 overall against the league, with the latest loss coming against Texas A&M in last season's Cotton Bowl.

The last SEC team Stoops and Oklahoma beat was Alabama -- doing so in back-to-back regular-season games during the 2002 and 2003 seasons.

Of course, that was the pre-Saban Crimson Tide, and the games were also the last time the Sooners played an SEC team during the regular season.

Oklahoma center Gabe Ikard knows few expect the Sooners to win or even stay close. The senior said he wanted to play the Crimson Tide at the beginning of the season, though he had hoped to do so in the national championship game.

Ikard still considers Alabama the "best team in college football," and now he'd love to shock the country.

"Alabama's been the king of college football, so they deserve all that respect," Ikard said. "Now it's up to us to go down there and play them well and go get our Sugar Bowl victory."

Stoops said he'd prefer to be a "28-point favorite" leading into the game rather than an underdog.

The role, however, suits freshman linebacker Dominique Alexander just fine -- especially considering the Sooners were underdogs before winning their regular-season finale against rival Oklahoma State and earning the Sugar Bowl berth.

"I mean, we've been the underdog all year," Alexander said. "Nobody expected us to do what we've done this year, as far as making it to the Sugar Bowl and things like that, and beating some of the teams we've beaten. But, I mean, it just pushes us harder. We're just going to continue to do what we've been doing."

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