Sun Bowl: Oklahoma Sooners VS. Stanford Cardinal

By Dave Consolazio and Sam Saig, December 31, 2009 7:11 am

El Paso, Texas
Oklahoma Sooners (7-5) VS. #21 Stanford Cardinal (8-4)
Thursday, December 31, 11:00 AM PST

Las Vegas Favorite: Oklahoma -10.0

Sam’s Take (57 – 23):

There is plenty to like about this year’s Sun Bowl, as it pits one of the rising stars of the coaching profession (Jim Harbaugh) against one of the sport’s best over the last decade (Bob Stoops). We will also see one of the nation’s premier running backs (Toby Gerhart) take on a defense full of NFL talent that ranked 7th nationally in total defense this season. Unfortunately, the one thing we won’t see is a dream quarterback dual between Sam Bradford and freshman phenom Andrew Luck, but it should still be a fun game in El Paso.

The biggest question heading into the Sun Bowl is how effective the Stanford running game can be without Luck at the helm. Certainly Gerhart is the heart and soul of the team, but I question whether the Cardinal offensive line can open up space against an Oklahoma d-line that is downright nasty (Sooners ranked 7th nationally against the run). With Tavita Pritchard under center this Stanford offense looks more like it did in 2008, and that team went 5-7. If the Cardinal cannot stay moderately balanced on offense, it could be a long day for the Heisman runner-up.

Oklahoma may not be lighting the scoreboard on fire like it did with Bradford running the show, but this team is still full of explosive talent. Stanford’s defense has been susceptible throughout the season, especially through the air. I expect QB Landry Jones and the Sooners powerful passing attack (17th nationally in passing offense) to give the Cardinal defense problems all day (Stanford ranked 105th nationally against pass).

There is still a slight chance that Andrew Luck could play at some point during the game, but I am not confident that he will be healthy enough to make a difference. I expect the ultra-talented Oklahoma defense to load the box against Gerhart, and it’s hard for me to believe that Pritchard will make the Sooners pay.

I like Oklahoma in this one.

Prediction: Oklahoma 34 – Stanford 24

Oklahoma Player to Keep an Eye On: DT Gerald McCoy – McCoy is an All-American and a dominant presence in the middle of the Sooner defensive line. He will likely be a top ten pick in this year’s draft, so the Stanford o-line will have its hands full.

Stanford Player to Keep an Eye On: FB Owen Marecic – Marecic is one of the best fullbacks in college football and he will have to play like it in this game. He is a deceptively good receiver but is at his best when lead blocking for Gerhart.

Dave’s Take (59 – 21):

It really is a shame that Andrew Luck won’t be able to play in the bowl game he helped lead this team to.

Without him, I’m just not sure that Stanford has the versatility to have success on offense against a tough Oklahoma defense. Needless to say, Toby Gerhart will get a healthy dose of carries and yards and will likely cross the goalline once or twice, too; but without Luck there to keep the defense honest, the Sooners can hone in on stopping the run, and while you can’t STOP a player like Toby Gerhart, you can certainly slow him down if the passing game is neutralized by the lack of a serious threat at quarterback.

The Cardinals’ defense has for the most part fed off of the offense’s energy this season, which poses a problem when considering the likelihood of a tough day offensively. Despite Sam Bradford’s absence, Oklahoma still has a very dangerous offense, and they will likely put up their share of points.

I’m sure that Coach Harbaugh will have his team jacked up for the game, but I just don’t think the Cardinal have the tools with Andrew Luck out to compete against Oklahoma if the Sooners are at their best, which I expect them to be after a frustrating season on their end.

Prediction: Oklahoma 31 – Stanford 17

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