John Hoover

John E. Hoover: Marquise Brown is practicing, and Kyler Murray is just ‘fine’ for CFP showdown with Bama

John E. Hoover: Marquise Brown is practicing, and Kyler Murray is just ‘fine’ for CFP showdown with Bama

 During their trip to New York City for the Heisman ceremony, Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray (left) and Dwayne Haskins await the red-carpet arrival of Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa. Tagovailoa and Murray are now in South Florida for a College Football Playoff showdown in the Orange Bowl on Saturday. (PHOTO: John E. Hoover)

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Kyler Murray is apparently just fine, and Marquise Brown is getting there.

Both of Oklahoma’s star players practiced on Wednesday at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, ending a month of speculation about Brown’s injured ankle and a few hours of guesswork about Murray surprisingly skipping a scheduled media session because he was reportedly “under the weather.”

Brown’s status has been in question since he the Big 12 Championship Game victory over Texas. Murray’s situation is new, although it’s probably just as likely media fatigue. South Florida and Alabama media haven’t had a chance to interview Murray, but, after his trip to Atlanta and New York, seemingly everyone else has.

“He’s fine,” running back Trey Sermon said. “He’s fine.”

“I’m not worried one bit,” said guard Ben Powers.

So it is that Oklahoma preparations are underway for Saturday’s Orange Bowl College Football Playoff showdown with No. 1 Alabama.

The Crimson Tide are a 14-point favorite in a postseason game that coach Lincoln Riley and others have called No. 4-ranked Oklahoma’s second home.

It’s also the latest clash between the crown jewels of the Southeastern Conference and the Big 12 Conference. One league is renowned for a punishing, physical style of play, while the other is known for precision and offensive innovation.

“You know,” Powers said, “a lot of people like to compare the different conferences, and I don’t think there’s that much of a difference between them. I’ve played against Auburn, and I’ve played against Georgia, and I really don’t think there’s that much of a difference.”

Murray’s sudden “illness” dovetails on Baker Mayfield’s prior to last year’s Rose Bowl. Mayfield, however, was deathly ill, requiring missed practices, bed rest and lots of chicken soup.

Murray hasn’t missed practice in South Florida.

“I didn’t know anything about it,” said OU assistant Cale Gundy, “until I got in the car this morning.”

Brown participated in the open portions of Wednesday’s practice and was stretching and running lightly — no hard cuts — without a limp.

On the other side, Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa — runner-up to Murray for the Heisman Trophy — has returned as scheduled from ankle surgery following the Crimson Tide’s victory over Georgia in the SEC Championship Game.

College football has eagerly awaited this quarterback showdown all season, and now it’s just a few days away — assuming there’s really nothing wrong with Murray.

“Oh, he’s exciting to watch,” Tagovailoa said. “He’s exciting. He’s very explosive. I mean, with what he does in that offense, he’s done a tremendous job, and I have a lot of respect for him.”

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Columnist John E. Hoover is co-host of “The Franchise Drive” every weeknight from 6-8 on The Franchise in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, and appears throughout the day on other shows on The Franchise. Listen at fm107.7 in OKC, fm107.9/am1270 in Tulsa, on The Franchise app, or click the “Listen” tab on The Franchise home page. Hoover also covers the Big 12 for Sporting News and Lindy’s magazine and is a feature writer for Sooner Spectator magazine. Visit his personal page at johnehoover.com.

John Hoover

Hoover wrote for the Tulsa World for 24 years before joining The Franchise, where he's now co-host of "Further Review" on The Franchise Tulsa (weekdays 12-3, fm107.9/am1270) . In his time at the World, Hoover won numerous writing and reporting awards, including in 2011 National Beat Writer of the Year from the Associated Press Sports Editors for his work covering the Oklahoma Sooners. Hoover also covered Oklahoma State, Arkansas, Oral Roberts and the NFL as a beat writer. From 2012 to 2016, Hoover was the World's lead sports columnist. As a columnist, Hoover won national awards in 2012 and 2014 from the National Athletic Trainers Association for reporting on sports medicine and in 2015 won first place in sports columns from the Oklahoma Society of Professional Journalists. After receiving a journalism degree from East Central University, Hoover worked at newspapers in Ada, Okmulgee, Tahlequah and Waynesville, Mo. He played football at Ada High School and grew up in North Pole, Alaska. Hoover and his family live in Broken Arrow.

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