Why today's game is so big for Bob Stoops

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

DALLAS -- Bob Stoops enters the Cotton Bowl today needing a big victory in his annual series with Texas.

Mack Brown has claimed three of the last four games against his nemesis from north of the Red River. And Stoops' "Big Game Bob" reputation desperately needs an upset today to restore some of the national luster buffed away by some of the his struggles in BCS bowl games in recent seasons.

Stoops is coming into the game with his best collection of talent he's had since his opening game. Sam Bradford is back and looked strong in his first game back after spraining his shoulder in the first game of the season.

Wide receiver Ryan Broyles returns after missing most of the Sooners' last two games with a fractured scapula. That pairing has only been in place for less than a half this season -- the first half of the Sooners' season-opening loss against BYU.

There's no doubt that if Bradford had been healthy all season that the Sooners would have won both of their one-point losses to start the season against the Cougars and Miami. But he wasn't, and that's why Stoops is trying to get the wheels back on his team in the toughest of circumstances against Texas after an unexpected 3-2 start.

A victory today would point Stoops and the Sooners back into the driver's seat for the Big 12 title. It would effectively would give them a two-game lead over Texas and give them the inside track for an unprecedented fourth-straight conference championship.

But to do that, the Sooners will have to topple a confident Texas team that needs a victory to show pollsters they merit mention among the top teams in the country. That triumph would especially resonate as the opening BCS standings are released tomorrow afternoon.

Earlier this decade, Stoops and the Sooners thrived in the cauldron of emotions at the Cotton Bowl. But it hasn't been nearly that easy in recent seasons for them.