Originally Published: Nov 24, 2009 9:16 PM CDT
Every week John Holcomb and I compare the matchup between OU and OSU against their opponents. Thanks for dialing up our CRYSTAL BALL???and proceed with care.
Defensive Line EDGE OU: Gotta go OU even though OSU is now up to fourth in nation in rushing D. JUCO Swanson Miller a big reason for that turnaround. Plus, Gundy should share coach-of-year honors with DC Bill Young. OU's DT Gerald McCoy is a known quantity as are DEs Beal and Alexander. But the lack of depth really hurt them at Tech with the season-ending injury to star DE English. Alexander a talent but somewhat relatively raw. The X factor in this matchup is how well and how long DT Taylor can go for OU after being hurt at Tech. Hightly touted TR FR J McFarland has played pretty well but this is a severe challenge. Taylor and McCoy play every snap so the onus is on OU's offense to give the D a breather, something it didn't do in Lubbock when TT ran 88 plays.
LBs EDGE OSU: Edge to OSU which would have stunned most before the season. But OU replaces its senior captain leader Ryan Reynolds (out with hamstring injury) at MLB with Box, who played well at TT but is much better at SAM. He was OU's fourth option going into the year with the physical Balogun ruled ineligible and frosh Wort out with a knee. They were run-stoppers and Box is more of a pass cover guy putting OU in a dicey situation with OSU's league-best run game. Look for OU to have to go to TR FR Ronnel Lewis-great potential but not ready-at time because of the Poke run game. The loss of star MLB Lemon before the season has been overcome with physical play from Booker-who has come light years in his understanding. WLB Levine is smart and really playing well and SLB Sexton continues his solid and reliable play.
Secondary EDGE OU: OU gets the EDGE despite a bad outing in the Tech loss. Corner Franks didn't play all-out and sidekick Jackson was not his typical steady and at time spectacular self. S Carter's hamstring isn't keeping him from being a physical and reliable force and between Proctor and Nelson the Sooners should match up well vs. Pokes. OSU made the EDGE pick hard because of improved play in the back-end. But they're a little banged up with S Johnson's season-ending injury and partner Martin less than 100 percent (still darn solid and will be great). JC Safety Antoine the "Punisher." Corners: Love Cox and so do my NFL contacts, and #3 man McGhee showed up vs. CU.
QB PUSH: Landry Jones plays well for OU at home but it's because he's played lesser teams and has had much better protection than he gets on the road where his turnovers and overall play have really hamstrung a banged-up and leaderless offense. Jones telegraphs passes too much but when he gets on a roll can be strong-armed, mobile, calm and accurate enough. Calling it a push because we're assuming Z Robinson will be less than 100 percent if he plays and would be iffy throwing the ball as much as he'd need to against a stout OU defense. Back-up Weeden thoroughly impressed me in the CU win but playing in Norman against those athletes is unlike vs CU at The Boone.
Run game EDGE OSU: No brainer. Even though star K Hunter is still not 100 percent he's got OU's attention. K Toston has played a critical role in the 6-week total absence of Hunter and can get you 100-plus unless you get off blocks and can tackle. The big guys up front have helped make the Poke run game the best in the league, a commodity that OU is missing. C Brown looked to be running in wet concrete at TT and Murray does not regularly get enough touches to reach his potential. But Barry Sanders, Billy Sims, Adrian Peterson and Jim Brown would struggle with the invisible holes created up front.
OL EDGE OSU: OU continues to struggle and losing starting center Habern will only make matters worse. That means OU is down to its third center, and aside from star LT Williams, it's a patchwork group to say the least. If they don't give QB Jones ample time to throw OU will struggle to score 17 points on offense. They have pass-blocked well for the most part but can't afford busts vs. an athletic front seven from Stillwater. Superstar Okung leads the way with a veteran bunch that has done its part in helping put OSU at the top of the league charts in rushing. The O-Line is the most under-appreciated grouping in football and the OSU advantage could be the difference in this game.
Receivers PUSH: Amazing with losing talent from last year and the season-ending loss of megastar Bryant that OSU would be a push with a Sooner group expected to be led by its megastar TE Gresham and slot Broyles. But the Gresham injury left OU with run game problems, third down and goal line problems and overall simply reliable alternatives. With O-Line injuries TE Eldridge had to move from TE leaving third and fourth tier players trying to replace the best in the college game. Broyles is a jitter-bug stud but the others have been underwhelming. OSU Anyiam emerging but drops vs. CU, Blackmon has hands but not star, and frosh Moore the X factor. FYI, OU recruited both Anyiam and Blackmon, so they obviously respect their ability. Calling it a PUSH because of big OSU TE advantage with Youman and Horton.
COACHES PUSH: It would be easy to give the edge to OSU as M Gundy will be Big 12 Coach of the Year with a win. But savvy football people know Bob Stoops and his staff can coach em up and that most of the problems center around injuries and inexperience. Stoops cautioned about the OL issues-both physically and commitment-wise-before the season. Now the plethora of injuries has killed his offense. Oh yea. Bradford, Gresham, et al haven't helped. His challenge is getting his guys emotionally ready and he's proven more than capable. Gundy is blossoming and the addition of DC Young is exactly what the doctor ordered. But having Weeden as No. 3 QB is befuddling and almost cost him.
INTANGIBLES PUSH: OU's 65-2 may prove to be the biggest factor in the game. Winning that many at home is amazing. But the game is at 1:30 which will curtail the rowdiness of the fans and the extreme disappointment of the overall season has hurt their enthusiasm. The key thing is how this OU team is so comfortable in its environs. They'll need to be because OSU has a BCS bowl berth on the line, has had two extra days to prepare and has a big does of confidence in winning big games it's known for losing.
Specials: OSU Sharpe OU was outstanding at Tech-surprisingly-as completely raw frosh kicker Patty O'Hara banged home a 47 yard field goal that would have been good from 67 (a robust tailwind didn't hurt). Way is a strong-legged weapon as a punter, coverage units outstanding and execution team reliable. Can Patty come through in the clutch having never played football in his life? Meantime, OSU gets the EDGE because it's proven: Return man Cox always a threat, FG man Bailey solid but with range to only 45 yards or so, and punter/kickoff man Sharpe a special talent who is in the Groza running. Proven experience gives Pokes edge in an area that could determine a tight game.
Even though there are more EDGES given to the Cowboys, I am leaning to OU. I don't agree with oddsmakers who opened with OU a ten-point favorite. That makes OSU the first team in the BCS era to be playing for a possible BCS berth against a five-loss team (and an unranked team as well).