Ten years ago at this time a BYU-Oklahoma matchup in football would have been a Christmas present to this sports-loving nation.

Rarely, if ever, has there been such a heated nationwide debate concerning college football polls. A game between BYU and Oklahoma in 1984 would have put all the arguments to rest, but it wasn't to be.Now the Cougar-Sooner battle in next week's Copper Bowl will be closely watched in Utah and Oklahoma, but the most of the rest of the nation will hardly notice.

In 1984 prior to the bowl season, you likely remeber, BYU was the team that had come from nowhere to be on the verge of a national title. The Cougars were the nation's only unbeaten team (12-0) and ranked No. 1 in the nation.

Oklahoma, meantime, was the once-beaten (9-1-1), second-ranked team in the nation.

BYU, as the WAC champs, were contracted to appear in the Holiday Bowl, while Oklahoma, as the Big 8 champs, were contracted to appear in the Orange Bowl. Thus, the dream matchup between the schools couldn't happen.

With with possible exception of NBC Today host Bryant Gumbel, no one was more disliked in Provo than Barry Switzer, the Sooner coach at that time. Switzer told anyone that would listen - especially if they had a microphone or a notepad - his team should be No. 1 because it had played a tougher schedule than BYU.

Even after the Cougars downed unranked Michigan in the Holiday Bowl to complete a perfect 13-0 season, BYU wasn't assured of the national title. Many felt Oklahoma, with a win over No. 3 Washington in the Orange Bowl, might vault over the Cougars in the polls. The Huskies did the Cougars a favor, however, by coming from behind with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns to beat the Sooners, 28-17.

And BYU had its national title.

Thursday's game will be the first time ever BYU and Oklahoma will meet on the football field. Cougar coach LaVell Edwards says the rivalry of words between the programs in '84 will have no bearing on the game 10 years later.

"I actually consider Barry Switzer a friend," Edwards says of the ex-Sooner coach who now heads the Dallas Cowboys. "What he said then (in '84) didn't bother me at that time, so certainly now it will be no factor at all."

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POP QUIZ: BYU, ranked 19th in the CNN-USA Today coaches poll, is 20 places ahead of Copper Bowl opponent Oklahoma, which is 39th, making it the second most lopsided bowl matchup, according to the rankings, this season. What bowl has the biggest difference in the rankings between the teams?

TRAVEL WOES: The Sooners planned on arriving in Tucson two days after the Cougars, but it took even longer than originally planned. The chartered plane carrying the team to Arizona had to make an unscheduled stop Friday in Armarillo, Texas, after developing engine problems. Fortunately, no one was injured, but the players, coaches and others on the charter had to move to another plane before completing the trip to the Copper Bowl city.

QUIZ ANSWER: The only bowl pitting teams with a bigger differential in the rankings than the Copper Bowl is the Fiesta Bowl - No. 5 Colorado (10-1) vs. 26th ranked Notre Dame (6-5). Incidently, the only bowl that has teams just one ranking spot apart is the Freedom Bowl with No. 12 Utah battling No. 13 Arizona.

SHORT TAKES: Oklahoma quarterback Garrick McGee, who set several Sooner passing records this year, was hospitalized last week and treated for a viral infection. He made the trip to Tucson, but it is still up in the air as to whether he will play or not . . . Oklahoma is 7-0 against teams from the WAC over the years. BYU is 7-19-1 against Big Eight competition, but has won three of its last four. The loss? A 23-20 setback to Kansas in the 1992 Aloha Bowl. . . BYU has held two-a-day practices this week before taking today off. Monday the Cougs will begin easing up on the practices, with one each day, in final preparations for Thursday's contest.

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