Sooners have reason for optimism but overall they'll need big-time performance for upset

Thursday, January 8th 2009, 1:59 pm
By: News 9

     Can OU win its 8th national title when not many outside the plains think it's possible?     


     Here's a reason OU fans can be optimistic.

     Anyone remember a guy named Jermaine Gresham? He's OU's tight end, probably headed to the NFL as a mid-first round pick and OU's best individual match-up advantage they'll have tonight in a game of match-ups.

     Florida is favored in large part because OU does not have Demarco Murray to give them matchup advantages and a dangerous kick returner/big play threat. The Gators will be looking to get their do-everything Percy Harvin into match-up advantages in space. It is absolutely vital that when Florida gets what they see as match-up "in-space advantages" that OU tackles well and minimize UF's explosive plays.

      Gresham is a fabulous target. 6-5 by 260, he's impossible for safeties or sometimes corners to man up with....and fast enough to find separation between himself and most linebackers. A classic match-up tonight will be Gresham vs. No. 51 MLB Brandon Spikes. At times those two will go mano y mano. Bradford's accuracy-which is apparently making him a Top 5 NFL pick and apparently the major reason he is reportedly headed to the NFL-and poise in checking down and processing all the defensive movements after the snap, make the Bradford to Gresham tandem remarkably effective.

      I wouldn't be surprised if Bradford went something like 30-50 and Gresham having a dozen of those snags. Without an effective run game-I don't think OU will have a hundred run yards tonight-look for Bradford and Gresham steal the show....that is, steal the show if OU wins.


     ESPN's Pat Forde writes today that the Southeastern Conference and Big 12 have taken over college football ... in the short term and perhaps in the long term as well. With the exception of occasional incursions by USC and Ohio State, the two leagues own the joint.

     Forde continues by saying that they've got the hardware: Representatives of those conferences have won three straight national titles (Texas, Florida and LSU), heading for a fourth. The SEC is trying for its own three-peat. At least one team from the Big 12 or SEC has appeared in six straight championship games.

     Forde says there are two primary reasons: First, the players-an abundance in Texas, Florida and the Deep South. Two, the best collection coaches in college football.

     Personally, I agree but also look out west. What about what about USC? The Trojans are at the elite level year after year. But I don't care if the Pac-10 went undefeated in the bowl games every year, the SEC and Big 12's top 7 or 8 teams would wear out the Pac-10's every year.


     Ivan Maisel brings up a good point that has not been talked much about. In a piece where he takes the point/counterpart position that OU will win-ironically he is picking Florida-he says: Urban Meyer has defied Coaching 101. He has built a national championship contender with virtually no seniors. Experience always matters. Left offensive tackle Phil Trautwein is the only Gators starter remaining from the BCS Championship Game two years ago.  

     Maisel continues by say that the Sooners have eight senior starters. Strong safety Nic Harris will start the 50th game of his career Thursday night. Oklahoma's offensive line has a combined 170 cumulative starts......In keeping with history, good points from a veteran columnist.


     Finally, I have trouble picking OU.  I've gotta say that they seem ready on all fronts except with three key injury problems. Murray's absence could be the difference in the game; DeMarcus Granger's run-stuffing ability is under-estimated; and of course having to go primarily with MLB Mike Balogun, completely big-game unproven commodity instead of Ryan Reynolds and much of a full-go Austin Box. Florida has game-planned to go at Balogun, a player who a coach told me after the Texas would not know where to even line up until after spring practice reps. It's hard for me to be confident that he's made enough strides to not be too confused to make play after play with a motion man in motion crossing his vision and having to think and execute against the option-oriented but explosive Gator offense.

     But if OU wins, Bradford will go down as OU's most important player of all time. Lee Roy Selmon might always be considered the greatest single player in school history. But what Bradford would have done in two seasons is off the charts.

     Headed to the stadium. You know it's a big game when you leave for a game 6 ½ hours before kickoff