Coverage: ABC Regional coverage
8:00 PM ET, December 4, 2004
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Munching on an orange after the game, Oklahoma tailback Adrian Peterson had a pretty good idea of where the Sooners are heading next.
OU made its Orange Bowl invitation a no-brainer Saturday night, getting three touchdowns passing from Jason White and three more running from Peterson in a near-flawless 42-3 dismantling of Colorado in the Big 12 title game.
Next, barring some kind of massive mix-up, comes a trip to Miami where No. 2 Oklahoma (12-0) will play for its eighth national title, most likely against No. 1 Southern California.
"This whole season, we played hard, finished games,'' Peterson said. "I'm not saying we made a statement today, but we went out and busted our butts for four quarters.''
Both USC and No. 3 Auburn -- the other national-title wannabe -- also took care of business Saturday; the Trojans defeated UCLA 29-24, and the Tigers beat No. 15 Tennessee 38-28.
But neither contender was anywhere near as impressive as coach Bob Stoops' Sooners.
"There aren't any parts missing, I don't believe,'' Stoops said. "You saw it all the way through. The offense has the ability to make plays running or throwing. The defense has been good, and fortunately, we did it at the right time.''
White finished with 254 yards and threw all his touchdowns over the first 15:07. Two went to Mark Clayton, who made a sweet, reaching, fingertip catch on the second for a 21-0 lead. Clayton finished with eight catches for 106 yards.
Peterson surpassed the century mark in the second quarter for his 11th 100-yard rushing game, an NCAA record for a freshman. He finished with 172 yards and saved the best for last, breaking six tackles for a darting, spinning 32-yard score and a 42-3 lead. That touchdown prompted Sooners fans to start throwing oranges onto the field -- a tradition like no other.
Peterson and White did the Heisman voters no favors; they entered the weekend as two presumed favorites, and leave it just the same way.
"White, he was on. If you slip, or do something too slow, it's a catch,'' Buffs defensive back Terrence Wheatley said. "Peterson, I've never seen someone that strong, that big.''
In Colorado (7-5), the Sooners had the perfect foil for a statement game like this.
The Buffs turned their year of turmoil -- dogged by a sex and recruiting scandal and the spring suspension of coach Gary Barnett -- into a feel-good story by capturing the Big 12 North with a stirring, late-season, three-game winning streak.
But their appearance in the title game couldn't mask the fact that they are, at best, only the fourth- or fifth-best team in a conference where all the good teams played in the other division.
"Our team is embarrassed by our performance,'' Barnett said. "We were inept at best. We played a very, very good football team and we were just not prepared to play that team today.''
Joel Klatt threw for 52 yards for the Buffs, Bobby Purify had 7 yards on 12 carries and CU took until the 9:35 mark of the third quarter to get their first first down not via penalty. The Buffs finished with only three first downs and their only trip past the 50 came courtesy of an OU turnover.
Meanwhile, White and Peterson overmatched the CU defense from the get-go. Oklahoma drove 80, 63, 53 and 40 yards for touchdowns and a 28-0 lead after its first five drives.
Later in the second quarter, the Sooners made a first down off a fake field goal -- why waste it on this game? -- and were looking to go ahead 35-0, but White threw a lob into the end zone that was intercepted by Wheatley.
That was one of three turnovers the Sooners committed, the last of which resulted in Mason Crosby's field goal that kept the Buffs from being shut out.
OU also got called for 90 yards in penalties, including a personal foul that resulted in the ejection of defensive lineman Remi Ayodele for punching a Colorado lineman. Stoops tore off his headset and tore into Ayodele as he came to the sideline. The scene made for good TV, but did little to tarnish Oklahoma's overall performance in this one.
"Outside of a few penalties, as a coach, I don't have much to complain about,'' Stoops said.
Oklahoma won its 39th conference championship.
Assuming no surprises in the Bowl Championship Series standings Sunday, the Sooners will make their 18th trip to the Orange Bowl -- which in the old days was the traditional stop for the Big Eight champs -- and will play for at least a share of the national title for the third time in five seasons. In the 2000 season, the last time the title was decided at the Orange Bowl, OU defeated Florida State 13-2.
Last season, Oklahoma played for it all despite a 35-7 loss to Kansas State in the Big 12 title game. After that, Oklahoma lost 21-14 to LSU in the Sugar Bowl.
A team that started 11-0, just like this one, and had been touted as one of the best in history went home without a title. White was bitterly disappointed, and the failures compelled him to return for his senior year even though he won the Heisman.
It's looking like a great decision. Now, he has his conference title, another shot at the Heisman and a chance to play for college football's biggest prize of all.
"It's a little better feeling than I had here last year,'' White said.