SAN ANTONIO --- They come from industrial ports on the Gulf of Mexico, border stops on the Rio Grande, East Texas timber towns and high-toned Dallas suburbs.
For Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel and 17 teammates on the top-ranked team who are native Texans, today's Big 12 Championship Game against No. 9 Oklahoma at the Alamodome will be anything but a neutral-field contest.
More like a homecoming.
"It's going to be unbelievable," said Daniel, whose Southlake Carroll teams compiled a 47-1 record and won two state championships at the suburban Dallas high school. "Going back to Texas is a big deal."
The game will be Daniel's fourth in the 65,000-seat Alamodome. As a sophomore wide receiver, his Carroll team won the 2002 state title there. A year later, Daniel suffered his only high school defeat at the Alamodome but returned to win the first game of his senior year.
In a state where crowds of 40,000 for high school playoff games aren't uncommon, Daniel said his Texan teammates are conditioned for arguably the biggest game in school history.
"It prepared me immensely for the pressure," said Daniel, who also played high school games at Baylor's Floyd Casey Stadium and Texas Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys.
The surprising Tigers (11-1), ranked No. 1 in both The Associated Press and Bowl Championship Series polls after starting the season unranked, are one win away from the Jan. 7 BCS Championship Game in New Orleans.
Missouri won the Big 12 North with a convincing defeat of archrival Kansas last week at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City. The title game against Oklahoma (10-2) is a chance for the Tigers to avenge their only loss, a 41-31 setback on Oct. 13 in Norman, Okla.
Like Missouri, Oklahoma also recruits heavily in the Lone Star State. The Sooners' 105-man roster features 46 players from Texas, more than the team's 31 home-state players.
Recruiting experts tie much of Missouri's recent success to its ability to land players from a state that, along with Florida and California, historically produces the most Division I prospects each year.
"Missouri's staff, like most other staffs in America, look to Texas," said Jake Shaw, an editor for a Dallas-based football recruiting newsletter. "There is just an abundance of players."
The Texas contingent on Missouri's roster is second in size only to the home state, which has produced 69 of the players on the its 120-man preseason roster.
"Missouri is our number one priority," coach Gary Pinkel said. "Certainly Texas is number two. ... It's been hugely important for our football program."
NO. 2 TAKES ON PITT
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. --- It's been nearly a year since Rich Rodriguez made the toughest decision of his career, rejecting a lucrative offer at Alabama and returning for his seventh season at West Virginia.
It turned out to be the right move. He is one win from playing for a national title, the school's first in a major sport.
No. 2 West Virginia (11-1, 5-1 Big East) will start mapping a trip to New Orleans if it can beat Pittsburgh (4-7, 2-4) in the 100th Backyard Brawl tonight.
"We've been in the hunt over the last several years and we thought this team had the same chance if we had a little luck," Rodriguez said. "And they've performed the way they're capable."
-- Associated Press