Even after Oklahoma learned of its bowl destination, it has been a
quiet December in Norman.
The Sooners haven't held a press conference since talking about the
initial bowl bid. In terms of news, most of the chatter centered around
who will or won't be here next season.
All-Big 12 cornerback Dominique Franks has said he's definitely
coming back for his senior season in 2010. Redshirt sophomore linebacker
Travis Lewis, the Sooners' leading tackler the last two seasons and
already a two-time all-conference performer, has said he'll do a lot of
listening when NFL evaluators talk, but he's probably coming back.
All-American defensive tackle Gerald McCoy hasn't made any binding
statement, but he's leaning toward the draft where many project he'll be
a top-10 pick.
Junior quarterback Sam Bradford and senior tight end Jermaine Gresham
(who could return, having never used a redshirt) have expressed their
intention to enter the draft.
Alas, there will be a game to play -- Dec. 31 in El Paso, Texas. And
after losing the season's last game three years running, the Sooners are
focused on finishing 2009 with a victory.
Running back DeMarco Murray, who's missed OU's last two BCS bowl
games because of late-season injuries, has still more excitement.
"I'm fired up. For me this is the first bowl game I'm going to get to
play in," he said. "It feels like the national championship game to
If he can transfer that level of anticipation to his teammates, the
Sooners should be in good shape when they face Stanford. And should they
defeat the Cardinal, the Sooner Nation will not only love it that OU
finished strong to enjoy the offseason a little more, it will also love
that the win came at the expense of Stanford.
On Sept. 27, 1980, the John Elway-led Cardinal trounced OU 31-14 on
--The Sooners entered the year with four proven offensive playmakers,
but All-American TE Jermaine Gresham missed the entire season to a knee
injury, Heisman Trophy winning QB Sam Bradford only played one complete
game before shutting the season down to have surgery on his right
shoulder, and TB DeMarco Murray and WR Ryan Broyles both missed a game
and parts of others with injuries.
In addition, OU's offensive linemen have dropped like flies, losing
Brody Edlridge, Jarvis Jones and Ben Habern out for the season and
others, Tavaris Jeffries, Brian Simmons and Trent Williams out for
Defensively OU lost DE Auston English, the preseason 2008 Big 12
defensive player of the year.
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The Sooners average 31.1 points per
game, 419.4 yards per game, 140.9 on the ground, 278.5 through the air.
That means OU has to get a lot from redshirt freshman QB Landry Jones.
If OU can simply maintain its averages, it will likely be very
successful. But those numbers represent many home-field booms and away
and neutral-site busts. And it all must happen against a depleted line
that's been wildly inconsistent yet that was very good against Oklahoma State in the regular season finale. Of course, that game was played in
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: OU has allowed 88.6 rushing yards per
game and 184.9 passing, and the Sooners feel like they have a chance
every time out because of the potency of this group. Twice, OU's
defenders have let down -- a high-scoring victory over Kansas State and
in an embarrassing performance at Texas Tech. But OU is coming off its
finest defensive outing to date, allow six first downs in a 27-0 victory
over Oklahoma State, one of three shutout victims this season.
MATCHUP TO WATCH: Stanford RB Toby Gerhart vs. OU DTs Adrian Taylor and Gerald McCoy.
OU has played strong defense all season and much of it has been
played at the point of attack. Can the Sooner "D-line" hold up the
Cardinal superstar? It's an intriguing storyline.
OTHER KEY MATCHUPS: Oklahoma QB Landry Jones vs. Stanford's
Everybody knows Jones has struggled mightily away from Norman.
Really, he's been two different quarterbacks. His total numbers are good
enough (231.7 yards per game, 23 TDs, 13 INTs). But home and away have
been like day and night. Stanford has 21 sacks while OU's threadbare
offensive line has allowed 15. The Sooners need to keep Jones upright.
But it'll be up to Jones to play like he's in Norman, not under pressure
not to bake in the bright side in El Paso.
Stanford RB Toby Gerhart vs. OU's defensive line.
In OU's line you've got the best defensive tackle this side of
Ndamukong Suh in Gerald McCoy, a very good counterpart in Adrian Taylor,
an All-American caliber defensive end in Jeremy Beal and a really good
end in Frank Alexander. In Gerhart, Stanford has the guy who almost won
the Heisman Trophy after running for 1,775 yards at an average of 5.6
yards per pop.
OU WR Ryan Broyles vs. Stanford's secondary.
Broyles is one of the best receivers in the country and very likely
the best receiver in the Big 12 even if the sophomore wasn't named
first-team all-conference. He's caught 76 passes this season, 12 for
touchdowns and the thought of OU doing much through the air without
Broyles leading the way simply doesn't wash. Stanford has allowed 217.1
passing yards per game and 14 receiving touchdowns, but can the Cardinal
wrap up Broyles?
QUOTE TO NOTE: "In Stanford we are facing a fine program. Like
many others, we have been impressed by the job Coach Harbaugh and his
team have done this season and we understand the quality of the opponent
we'll be facing." -- OU coach Bob Stoops.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
BOWL BREAKDOWN: Oklahoma (7-5, 5-3 Big 12) meets Stanford
(8-4, 6-3 Pac-10 at Sun Bowl Stadium in El Paso, Texas, Dec. 31. The two
teams have met four times with OU winning three, yet haven't played in
25 years when John Elway led the Cardinal past the Sooners.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
QB Landry Jones -- His success this season has appeared to be tied
to one thing: playing at home. Only against Kansas was he very good away
from home this season and El Paso is, well, away from home.
WR Ryan Broyles -- The Sooners best offensive playmaker and perpahs
the Big 12's best, Broyles, he's caught 76 passes for 964 yards and 12
touchdowns, in addition to averaging 16.5 yards per punt return.
DT Gerald McCoy -- perhaps a to 10 draft pick, playing, he will have
to be accounted for at the line of scrimmage. Of course, he's going to
be double teamed.
--DE Jeremy Beal has been named a finalist for the Hendricks Award,
presented annually to the best defensive end in college football.
--OT Trent Williams, DT Gerald McCoy, LB Travis Lewis, CB Dominique
Franks were all named first team All-Big 12 by the league's coaches.
--Coach Bob Stoops has done his very best to shoot down rumors he
could be a player in the sweepstakes to be Notre Dame's next coach. His
most recent statement began like this: "For the third, and hopefully
final time, let me again state that I will continue to be the coach at