Gary Barnett: It's terrific for our team that we get the chance to go and represent the North and play in the Big 12 Championship game.
What I said to our team yesterday was that you will never play in a more exciting environment, unless you play in a national championship game or an NFL playoff game. It's by far just the most exciting thing, from the time you step into the stadium; even in warm-ups it's just electric.
The other two that we've been that way. There hasn't been anything to compare it too. So we look forward to going to Kansas City.
Our football team right now is excited and a confident football team with three wins in a row. Going in to Lincoln and winning, and winning two of the three on the road has just built a level of confidence in our team that we're ready to go play.
Oklahoma is a team that we've probably spent more time preparing for over the last two years than anybody. We've played them three times in the last two years, and now this will be the fourth time in three years that we've played them.
We're very much aware of how goo a team we're going to play. We're very much aware the quality of coaching we're going to see; how hard everybody's going to play. That isn't going to be anything new for us.
I like the fact that we're just coming off a game. We don't have to sit a week and prepare and wait and see who we're going to play. We can stay in a routine and go right into this game.
We're really happy for our seniors that they've gotten themselves to a position where they get to play in this game.
Q: You mentioned that the focus you had against Nebraska was the best it had been all year. Can you take it up a notch for this game?
GB: Sure you can. And we were extremely focused in Lincoln. It was the most focused we'd been. But the importance of this game (vs. OU) and the opportunity that it presents demands that it go up another notch. It doesn't have to be a 180 degree change; just a little bit.
It enhances your work during the week. It enhances your knowledge of the game plan.
Q: I know your focus is on the game this week, but how satisfying is it to be recognized as AP's Big 12 Coach of the Year?
GB: First of all, it's a humbling honor. But these things only happen when you have a great coaching staff, and your coaches and your players do all the things that they've done. I'm just the last guy at the top that gets the credit. It really should go from the bottom uup.
The players, for them to hang together the way they did and to allow the kind of chemistry to get created that did on this team, to allow themselves to be coached the way they did; for our coaches to have the answers for them. Obviously, if we were 3-8, this award wouldn't come around. It happened because our coaches and players made plays. They did things you do to make yourself into a decent football team. I just happen to be one of those people.
It's humbling, but you really know (as a head coach) what goes in to having a successful year. There are so many things that have to happen. I hope that by me receiving this award that everybody gets a healthy dose of satisfaction, and knows this is an award to them as much as it is to me.
Q: When people say Oklahoma has all the pressure on them, and you're going in as a three-touchdown underdog so you can relax. Do you buy into that?
GB: I think it's going to be big for both teams. I don't think one team is going to feel more pressure than another. It all depends on how you handle it as a team. There'll be more pressure externally; there'll be more things said that way. But your success has a great deal to do with who you choose to listen to. A team like Oklahoma that's gotten to this point has obviously chosen to listen to people who've helped them become successful. They'll choose to do that again.
Our team is the same way. After the Texas game, there was a line drawn and we had to make a decision as to who they were going to listen to. (Our players) chose to take it in a direction that allowed them to get to this game. You learn a lot by choices. I think this game will come down to the same thing. I don't think Oklahoma will feel that pressure unless they let themselves do that.
Coach Stoops and his staff have not gotten to this point so many times without having the ears of the players; without having the respect of the players. You know their players are going to listen. It should be two teams that really don't feel pressure.
Q: How was it watching that Iowa State-Missouri game on Saturday?
GB: I was the worst fan in America. I was a jerk. I was throwing things on the ground, I must have eaten 15 cookies. I'd get up and walk, eat a cookie, come back and sit. In the final drive in the overtime, I was covering my eyes. I was awful; screaming at the officials.
It was hard. It felt like so much was riding on it for our players, and I didn't have any control. I probably won't ever be a season ticket holder anywhere.
Q: Is it easier or more difficult to prepare for a team like Oklahoma who you're so familiar with?
GB: Being familiar with them and respecting them the way we do, it's a little easier to get the attention of your players. They know how good a team we're going to face, and how hard this team will play – especially after playing them as many times as we have. At the same time, we also know that we can play with these guys. So it helps in confidence.
I think confidence is the key in a game like this. Going in and knowing you can win is really the key.
Q: Will this be the best offense you will have faced this year?
GB: I think probably the most balanced. Really, they're three-dimensional because their special teams are really good and are an offensive weapon within themselves.
This is the most balanced attack, probably the most difficult attack to defend because they can (both run and pass) so well, is what we're seeing.
Q: Do you then scheme to take away the run, or the pass?
GB: It becomes a bigger chess game than playing against a team that is one-dimensional. A year ago, they were a one-dimensional team and we were able to scheme a pretty good pressure package that helped us stay in the game. The only reason we could do it was because their running attack wasn't nearly as strong as what they were doing through the air. You don't have that luxury now. You can't afford to take the risks and have yourself in a position where a big play on the ground can happen.
Q: But is this a game where you take more risks because you've got nothing to lose?
GB: I don't think so. We're playing this game to win it. The best way to win it: we have to decide during the course of the game, and after further game study whether or not you take the risk. That's almost a wait until you get in the game situation.
You've got to be prepared to do whatever it takes to win this game. If it means taking risks, you don't really know that until you get into it. But you don't to be careless.
Q: What kind of improvement have you seen from Jason White over last year?
GB: With Jason now they can take a lot of heat off of him by turning around and handing the ball to Adrian Peterson. The play-action pass now is a much more effective weapon for him now than it was a year ago. You better be there to handle the run, and it just gives him more opportunities for big plays than it did.
Whether that's improvement or not, I don't know. I think it's just giving him greater opportunities.
Q: Do you see him making better decisions, or was that even an issue last year?
GB: I don't think it was an issue last year. It's just that people were constantly tyrying to put pressure on him. So he was constantly throwing the ball a little more off balance, a little more rushed than he is this year.
Q: Do you think Oklahoma will have the same kind of fan support Texas had in Dallas in 2001?
GB: Yeah, we expect to see a road crowd; an away game sort of mentality. Oklahoma travels very well. And because of the North being up for grabs for so long, I think most of the tickets were sold to OU fans.
Q: Will Oklahoma have a difficult time preparing for CU because each week, the Buffs have a different player step up?
GB: I see us having similar issues (to defend). We're a balanced team. I don't think we're one-dimensional. We'd like to be a little more effective in the dimensions that we have. But we are what we are. They are very effective in both their dimensions.
No, I see them looking at us and going, ‘They're a balanced team, run and pass.' I expect to see a lot of man/free. That gives them a chance to have an extra guy around the ball in the running game.
Q: Have you been surprised Adrian Peterson's been as a true freshman?
GB: I am a little surprised. It helps to be around a team that played for the national championship last year and has a lot of guys back. They've got a veteran offensive line. But most freshmen that are so ballyhooed out of high school, it just takes them a while to adjust.
We tried to recruit Adrian. We saw him and knew he was a great player. We knew wherever hee chose to go to school, we knew he was going to be a good layer. Whether it was going to be immediate or not, you're not sure because it depends on how many guys are in the system and how he adjusts to being away from home, etc.
But the thing that's impressed me the most about Peterson is the fact that he's dislocated his shoulder twice during the season, and he's got a history of it in high school, and yet he plays through everything. For a freshman, that's really unusual. Usually, you have to learn to play with that kind of pain.