By Ryan of The Sportmeisters
The NCAA post-season kicked off December 19, with 33 games being played in a three week span. Seniors will get their last hurrah, and teams will attempt to end their season on the winning side, in the hopes of improving the recruiting that follows thereafter. The Sportmeisters will preview each of the 33 games that lie ahead, and provide our predictions as well. Let’s get to it!
Sun Bowl, December 31st, 2:00 PM, El Paso, TX
University of Oklahoma (7-5) vs. No. 21 Stanford University (8-4)
About Oklahoma: With a National Championship appearance and a Heisman trophy winner returning, Oklahoma should be waltzing into the national title game again, right?
Oklahoma lost returning Heisman trophy winner Sam Bradford during the opening season loss to BYU, damaging National Championship hopes. Oklahoma wasn’t out of the BCS race until Bradford return and reinjured his shoulder in a Big 12 loss to Texas. At that point, Bradford and TE Jermaine Gresham were done for the season, and Oklahoma was playing for pride. They concluded their season by winning four out of six, including blanking then No. 12 Oklahoma State 27-0 to end their disappointing season on a positive note at 7-5.
Despite the loss of Bradford, Oklahoma still had the 17th best passing offense in NCAA FBS (278.50 yards per game). Freshman QB Landry Jones stepped in and performed as well as someone could in his position. He threw for 2780 yards and 23 touchdowns. Sophomore WR Ryan Broyles was his target, early and often, and he performed, catching 76 balls for 964 yards and 12 touchdowns. Junior RB DeMarco Murray took on an all-around role, working his way towards 1135 all-purpose yards and 11 combined rushing and receiving touchdowns. Senior RB Chris Brown contributed 728 rushing yards and seven touchdowns.
When the offense sputters, the defense needs to step up. The Sooner defense did just that, placing seventh in total defense (273.50 yards per game), seventh in rushing defense (88.58 yards per game) and seventh in scoring defense (13.50 points per game).
Junior DE Jeremy Beal led a Sooners defense that was fifth in sacks per game (3.08) and eighth in tackles for loss (7.83 per game). Beal himself contributed 11 sacks and 18 tackles for loss. Sophomore LB Travis Lewis led the team with 100 tackles on the season.
About Stanford: The Cardinals started off their season winning four of five, including three conference wins. Then the wall hit, and Stanford lost two conference games in a row to fall to 4-3. They bounced back, winning four of five, including wins over ranked teams such as Oregon and USC, to end their season 8-4.
Stanford is an offensive powerhouse, especially on the ground. They are 10th in scoring (36.17 points per game), and led a rushing attack that is 11th in NCAA FBS (224.33 yards per game).
Senior RB Toby Gerhart was a Heisman finalist after his dismantling of defenses. He rushed for an NCAA leading 1736 yards and 26 touchdowns. His 144.67 yards per game was second in NCAA rushing.
Freshman QB Andrew Luck didn’t throw too often, but when he had too, he connected. He threw for 2575 yards and 13 touchdowns against four interceptions. He is hurt though, and could miss the bowl game, in which case, Senior QB Tavita Pritchard will step into the role. Either way, both are expected to manage the game, behind an offensive line that is second in sacks allowed (.50 per game).
Stanford’s defense is muddled in the middle of the pack, ranking no higher than 60th in any of the categories. Their pass defense is especially questionable, ranking 105th with 252 yards per game against them. Sophomore DE Thomas Keiser leads an injury-riddled defense with eight sacks and 42 tackles (14.5 for loss). Sophomore DB Delano Howell led the team with 75 tackles and two interceptions.
The Matchup: Oklahoma is 24-17-1 in bowl games. They have lost three in a row (all BCS games) in their current 11 bowl appearance streak.
Stanford is 9-10-1 in bowl games. This is their first appearance since 2001, when they lost the Seattle Bowl to Georgia Tech.
Oklahoma currently holds a 3-1 advantage against Stanford.
The big matchup is the Oklahoma run defense against Gerhart of Stanford. Gerhart has been kept under 100 yards only twice all season, but only once was he held scoreless and under 100 yards (24-17 loss to Wake Forest in week 2). With Oklahoma’s ability to get in the backfield and disrupt the offense, Gerhart could be in for a long day if he can’t find daylight early.
On the other side, Oklahoma, with Jones playing most of the season, should be prepared to manhandle a weak defensive secondary of Stanford. Look for them to throw constantly early to gain a big lead, with Broyles and Murray being the big targets. Once they get the lead, they’ll chip away yards and clock behind Murray and Brown.
The Prediction: Oklahoma expected bigger and better this season, and they’ll take it out on Stanford. Oklahoma 30-13.