On Saturday night, they went out and earned it.
Oklahoma shut down No. 1-ranked Missouri's offense like nobody has all season and handed the Tigers a 38-17 defeat in the Big XII championship game in front of 62,585 at the Alamodome.
The conference championship gives the Sooners an automatic berth in the Fiesta Bowl, assuming they aren't invited to the BCS Championship game. It's Oklahoma's second consecutive conference crown and fifth overall, three more than any other team in the conference.
"It was just a really well-played game," Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops said. "I was just really proud of our players; they did an awesome job of getting ready to play and executing throughout the day."
Preparing to play Missouri, which could have won a spot in the BCS Championship with a win over the Sooners, may have been made easier by the Tigers.
Several published reports insinuated the Sooners were all but lucky in their 41-31 victory over Missouri on Oct. 13 in Norman. Tiger running back Tony Temple didn't play in the first meeting and many expected him to make a difference this week.
"We kind of saw it as disrespect to our defense and what we have accomplished throughout the season," Oklahoma linebacker Curtis Lofton said. "We just wanted to come out and play a complete game and be real physical with them and let them know we're a great defense."
That defense was great, especially in the second half when Missouri was held to just 135 yards and three points. It was the first time this season Missouri had been held under 30 points.
Lofton was a big part of it. He had nine tackles, three for losses, a sack and a second-half interception of Chase Daniel that set up an OU touchdown to give the Sooners a 28-14 lead.
The interception came after Daniel threw behind his intended receiver. The ball was tipped and Lofton was waiting, then returned it 26 yards to the Tiger 7. Two plays later, Sam Bradford hit Jermaine Gresham for a five-yard score, a touchdown that all but sealed the Sooners' win.
"Coach really called a great call on a third down because that was my man and I was just driving and he tipped it and I intercepted it," Lofton said.
Daniel entered the game as a Heisman Trophy contender, but likely didn't garner any extra votes. He finished 23-of-39 for 219 yards and no touchdowns.
Bradford, his counterpart, was much more effective.
The redshirt sophomore completed 18-of-26 passes for 209 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Unlike Daniel, he committed no turnovers.
Stoops said he'd mention Bradford in the same breath as Daniel or any other quarterback in the country.
"Sam has been fabulous. The poise, the accuracy, everything," Stoops said. "His numbers coming into tonight were every bit as good as everybody in the country that everybody's bragging about. I'm not complaining because they should brag about those guys, but he's in their company, right in the middle of it."
Missouri took a 3-0 lead late in the first quarter on a 28-yard field goal by Jeff Wolfert, but that was the Tigers' only lead of the game.
Chris Brown scored a pair of rushing touchdowns as Oklahoma built a 14-6 lead.
Missouri's lone dose of momentum came at the end of the first half, when Daniel drove the Tigers 84 yards in 10 plays, capped by his four-yard TD run. Missouri tied the game with a two-point conversion.
"I felt we could have been better in the first half," Stoops said, addressing his team's defense. "I was displeased with some of the run game they had on us. But we fixed it and settled down in the second half and played better."
Allen Patrick capped a seven-play, 80-yard drive with his four-yard touchdown run at 4:04 of the third quarter.
A few plays later, Lofton made his interception.
With the two-touchdown lead, the Sooners focused even more on their ground game, which was beginning to wear Missouri down. Oklahoma finished with 166 yards on 40 carries. Patrick picked up 88 and Brown 71.
Bradford added a four-yard touchdown pass to Joe Jon Finley and Garrett Hartley kicked a 26-yard field goal in the fourth quarter. For Oklahoma, it was a statement win, one that Stoops would like to see vault the Sooners into national title game talk.
"You all just voted them number one team in the country in the last week of the year and we beat them on a neutral field by 21 points," Stoops said to the media. "Heck, I don't see anyone else playing No. 1 in the country beating them on the neutral field by 21. That's about all I can do. Hopefully it matters to somebody."