November 26, 2008

Scouting the Sooners: Full speed ahead

Could this be the biggest Bedlam game ever?

If it's not, it's pretty close. The 1984, 1987,1988 and possibly 2003 games might be the only ones that could top this year's edition in terms of pre-game hype and rankings. Unfortunately for Oklahoma State, the Cowboys dropped each one of those. But that's the past. The future is now and the future is the 103rd Bedlam game. No. 11 OSU hosts No. 3 Oklahoma, a matchup that will determine the eventual Big 12 South champion as well as go a long way in figuring out the bowl picture, which is muddled at this point.

A national television audience will get to see Bedlam at a site which has seen many close contests the past few years. The Sooners are a touchdown favorite but this is OU's biggest road test this season and OSU is undefeated at home.

With all that said, let's take a look at OU.

2007 record: 11-3 (6-2)
Game time: 7 p.m. on ABC
Current record: 10-1 (6-1)
Last week: 65-21 win over Texas Tech in Norman.
Current ranking: No. 3 in the AP Poll and BCS Standings
Fact of the week: The university's official mascot is the Sooner Schooner. It had been in use since 1964 but wasn't officially recognized as such until 1980.

… the Sooner offense:
Three-straight 60-point performances. That's really all you need to know. In short, OU's offense is on fire right now after hanging 62 points on Nebraska, 66 on Texas A&M and 65 on Texas Tech. Over the course of the season, OU has topped 40 points nine times. Two 35-point outings (against Texas Christian and Texas) are the low points for OU on the scoreboard. So it shouldn't be a surprise that the Sooners are No. 1 in scoring offense, averaging 52.6 points an outing. In the total offense category, OU is third, averaging 556 yards per game. The Sooners are also third in passing offense, throwing for 352 ypg. Looking for a weakness? Good luck. The closest you'll get is the 20th-ranked rushing offense, which is bringing in 203 ypg. This unit is led by Sam Bradford, who has thrown for 3,710 yards on the season. He has 42 touchdowns to only six interceptions and is coming off three-straight 300-yard games. All of those gaudy numbers are split up between several targets, including Juaquin Iglesias (881 yards, seven scores), Manuel Johnson (653, 9), Jermaine Gresham (648, 10), Ryan Broyles (528, 6), Quentin Cheney (393, 2) and DeMarco Murray (379, 4). That part of the offense has been superb all season long. The rushing game, which has been up and down all year, is trending up as the season closes. Both Murray and Chris Brown have fared well of late, both posting 100-yard outings in their last two games. On the season, Murray has 929 yards and 13 scores, while Brown has 890 and 15.
… the Sooner defense: It hasn't been as stout as in the past, but it's come on as of late. For the year, OU ranks 56th in total defense (351 ypg) and 54th in scoring offense (23 ppg) and 97th in pass defense (249 ypg). The unit's best numbers come against the run, where OU is ranked 12th (101 ypg). They have 38 sacks on the year, tied with Texas both nationally and in the Big 12. Individually, Jeremy Beal leads the team with 7.5 sacks, while Gerald McCoy has 6.5. The team leader in tackles is Travis Lewis with 118, which is good for third in the conference and tied for eighth nationally. As far as interceptions go, Lewis and Lendy Holmes both have four on the season.
… the coach: There's no question what Bob Stoops has meant to the OU program. Now in his 10th season in Norman, Stoops turned around the Sooners faster than even the most ardent crimson and cream fan could have hoped for. Winning the national title in just his second season at OU, Stoops has kept the program in the national title conversation nearly every year since. His 107-23 record is testament of that consistency. And he's got the Sooners in the mix for a big-stakes BCS berth once again.

It would seem that the Sooners are coming into Bedlam peaking while the Cowboys come in trying to get back to full speed. OU has obliterated Nebraska, Texas A&M and Texas Tech in recent weeks, while OSU was blown apart by the Red Raiders and put together a sluggish victory over Colorado. But the Cowboys have had two weeks to focus on the Sooners and the game is at Boone Pickens Stadium, where the end results in the past six contests have resulted in OSU either winning outright (1998, 2002) or losing by 10 points or less. Could that be enough for an OSU program which has now gone six years without a Bedlam win? It will help, but the Cowboys will have to play great to win. If their offense can exploit OU's defense, it could be a huge night in Orange Country. The call here? In a game that reflects the recent past in Stillwater and both teams' great seasons, OSU beats OU 45-42 in a thriller.

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