2009 is the year the Oklahoma st. coaches have been pointing to for a while now. This is the year they were expected to take that next step and crash the big 12 and BCS parties. With Zac Robinson, Kendal Hunter, and Dez Bryant returning they certaintly have the firepower on offense to contend with anyone in the country.
Georgia started last year on many people's shortlist to go to the BCS title game but an inexperienced OL coupled with an abundance of talent in the SEC in 08 proved to be their undoing. This year expectations are a tad bit less inflamed but the dogs too return an abundance of talent on both sides of the ball capable of competing with anyone in the SEC.
Who will have the upper hand when these two titans meet in Stillwater on Sep. 5th?
Let's break down the matchup position by position:
· Oklahoma st. – The Pokes return Sr. LT Russel Okung a 6’6 305 pounder and 1st team all big 12 selection. Along with Okung the Pokes return C Andrew Lewis and RT Brady Bond both seniors and 3 year letterman. The rest of the line is big with not one on the 2 deep roster weighing under 300 pounds. Although they will be looking to replace two guard spots, the depth up front is the deepest it has been in the Gundy era, although there will be little game experience outside of the 3 returning starters.
· Georgia – If there has been an Achilles heel for the dawgs in the Richt era it has been consistency in the OL. However, at least pre-season they look like they finally have a unit of cohesion. The dawgs return the bulk of their OL including C Ben Jones and T Clint Boling who have the potential to be special. Also, the return of left tackle Trinton Sturdivant, who missed 2008 with an ACL injury, will be a huge boost. Georgia’s line was very young and inexperienced last season and they suffered much because of it. The development of this line will be the key to the season as they do not have a dominant RB or elusive QB to fall back on.
Adv: Oklahoma st. (aided by Kendal hunter and elusiveness of Robinson)
· Oklahoma st. – The cowboys ranked 107th in the nation in sacks last year with 15 in 13 games. To try and improve that number the coaching staff moved Derek Burton to tackle where he can use his speed to boost the pass rush. A better year is also expected from Swanson Miller who has had a year to adjust from Junior College and is expected to anchor the middle. Still, the DL was the most glaring weakness of the team last season may still be suspect at the beginning of the year when the dawgs come calling.
· Georgia – The dogs get a boost right away from Sr. Jeff Owens return from injury in 2008. Owens is an all SEC caliber player and should help the play of Geno Atkins who disappointed last year after a monster sophomore season in 07. The Dawgs have depth at tackle but are considerably thin at end. There were times during the season that they had only one healthy defensive end. If the Dawgs can’t provide anything resembling a pass rush from the outside this could spell trouble when you consider Zac Robinson could have all day to sit back and find his favorite target Dez Bryant.
· Oklahoma st. – All 3 linebackers return as seniors for the pokes this season including OLB Andre Sexton who may be the cowboys biggest playmaker on that side of the ball. The cowboys top 3 tacklers from a year ago reside from their linebackers as well. Orie Lemon could very well be an all conf. selection as well this year, which aides in the size and speed being the best at OSU in the Gundy era.
· Georgia – The dawgs do have an all SEC type player in Rennie Curan, but the rest of the crew is unproven. Marcus Washington who is coming back from injury in 2008 could make an impact as he was a solid starter before getting hurt.
Adv: Oklahoma st.
· Oklahoma st. – The secondary is unquestionably the biggest question mark for the pokes heading into the season. They return a solid playmaker in CB Perrish Cox, but they have to replace everyone else from a lackluster unit in 08 that ranked 109th nationally against the pass.
· Georgia – The secondary is led by SS Reshud Jones who picked off 5 passes last year. Although Jones is their top playmakers he does tend to have mental lapses at times in coverage. Senior Bryan Evans will move from Corner to FS with talented but unproven players Prince Miller and Brandon Boykin.
· Oklahoma st. – Sr. Zac Robinson threw for 3,000 yds. And 25 tds. A year ago coupled with 562 yards and 5 tds on the ground. Robinson’s play often goes unnoticed with the abundance of qb’s in the big 12 but the cowboys finished in the top 10 in scoring offense and total yards in 2008. Robinson is an established team leader who can make plays with his arms and his feet and should be hungry to do more in 2009.
· Georgia – Sr. Joe Cox takes over for Matthew Stafford in 2009. While he doesn’t have the physical tools Stafford has he knows the offense and is a very accurate passer.
Adv: Oklahoma st.
· Oklahoma st. – Junior All-American Kendall Hunter is back after rushing for 1,555 yds. In 2008. Along with Hunter, the Cowboys will utilize seniors Keith Toston and Beau Johnson. Hunter is small at 5’8 but had 3 tds of over 40 yards last year along with 9 100 yd games.
· Georgia – Mark Richt seems to always find talented Rb’s every year he has been at Georgia but they could be in trouble in 2009. Sophomore Caleb King has yet to come through on the promise he exalted out of hs. Georgia does have a plethora of rb’s on the roster but none spectacular and the dogs could be in jeopardy of being very ordinary at the position in 09.
Adv: Oklahoma st.
· Oklahoma st. – Dez Bryant is back and ready for action in 09. Bryant has a chance to be a top 5 draft pick in this years draft and is certainly among the most productive in the nation. Bryant accounted for 19 of the 25 receiving tds by the Pokes last year and his 1,480 receiving yards ranked 1st in the big 12 and 2nd nationally. The Pokes will be looking for more balance in 09 as there isn’t a single receiver or TE that returns that had more than 10 catches a year ago.
· Georgia – Similar to the Pokes the Dawgs have a superstar in South Carolina native A.J. Green. Green a sophomore will be looking to have a breakout season in 09 while improving on a freshman campaign in which he grabbed 56 balls for 963 yds. and 8 tds. Along with Julio Jones could be the best receiver in the SEC. The rest of the receiving corps is unproven as well but senior Michael Moore could be ready to break out.
Adv: Oklahoma st.
In Conclusion, I believe this will be a very competitive game. Georgia will not be intimidated by going into Stillwater, they are use to much more hostile environments in the SEC. With as many question marks surrounding both defenses I expect both teams to move the ball with relative ease for much of the game. At the end of the day however, I believe the difference will be in Oklahoma st.’s ability to have a more balanced attack with the run game and Kendall Hunter and Zac Robinsons ability to make plays with his feet.
Okie st. Wins in a high scoring game, leaving a black eye for the SEC and a win for the Big 12.