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Oklahoma ready for Oregon in Holiday Bowl

NORMAN, Okla. -- It's not another BCS title game, but
Oklahoma still managed to draw a top 10 opponent for its bowl game
this year.

Coming off back-to-back appearances in the national title game,
the Sooners (7-4, 6-2 Big 12) accepted a bid Sunday to face No. 6
Oregon (10-1, 7-1 Pacific 10) on Dec. 29 in the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl in San
Diego.

"We understand it's a big challenge, but an exciting challenge
as well," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. "Our players are
excited about it."

The bid breaks Oklahoma's string of January bowl games at five
seasons, which matched the longest streak in school history. The
Sooners also appeared in January bowl games following the 1984-88
seasons.

When one reporter suggested the game might be less
pressure-packed and allow the Sooners a chance to be more loose,
Stoops said he didn't expect any difference. He said he'll follow a
familiar routine for the weeks leading up to bowl games, although
it might be altered by a few days.

"We always go in with the idea to win," said Stoops, who has
led the Sooners to bowls in each of his seven seasons at Oklahoma.
"I don't know that we've ever been uptight in being anywhere or
loose. We're going to stick to our plan, our business like we
always do: get good practices and try and do our best to be
prepared to win."

For many Sooners, the Holiday Bowl will be their first bowl
experience. Eighteen freshmen played for Oklahoma this season, and
11 started.

Considering the Sooners' opponent, Stoops said there shouldn't
be much of a challenge to keep his team focused.

The Ducks, whose hopes for a lucrative BCS bowl were dashed when
Notre Dame and Ohio State received the two at-large bids, finished
second in the Pacific 10 Conference. Their only loss came against
top-ranked USC.

"It's really pretty easy when you're playing a team ranked in
the top 10 who's 10-1, whose only loss is to USC, that gets their
attention immediately," Stoops said. "They recognize that this is
a big challenge and we need to be at our best."

The Sooners are 5-0 in the series against the Ducks, with all
five games being played in Norman. Oklahoma, ranked No. 2 at the
time, beat the unranked Ducks 31-7 last season. The Sooners will
play at Oregon for the first time next season.

"We're playing them December 29th. That's all we care about,"
Stoops said. "You don't get too far ahead of yourself in this, and
we'll deal with the other part of it after we play them here this
time."

"It'll be kind of an exciting rivalry here for a couple
years," he added.

Oklahoma is 23-14-1 in bowl games, including 3-3 under Stoops.
This will be the Sooners' first appearance in the Holiday Bowl,
which is played at Qualcomm Stadium -- home of the San Diego
Chargers.

Stoops has been to three Holiday Bowls as an assistant -- once
with Kansas State in 1995 and twice with Iowa in 1986 and 1987.

"It's a great venue for football," said Oklahoma athletic
director Joe Castiglione, who went to Holiday Bowls in 1983 and
1997 with Missouri. "The setup -- I know from experience -- is
outstanding for participating teams. They know how to do it. They
take care of you the right way, first-class treatment. It really
sets up well for a game."

Including tickets allotted to teams, the Holiday Bowl already
has sold 64,000 tickets, according to Mark Neville, the Holiday
Bowl's director of communications.

Castiglione said Oklahoma had commitments for more than 7,000
tickets as early as last week, regardless of the Sooners' bowl
destination.