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Thursday, July 9, 2009
OU-Ole Miss meet as No. 2 teams in Big 12-SEC challenge

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Oklahoma (Big 12 No. 2) vs. Mississippi (SEC No. 2)

Oklahoma's record against the SEC: 3-3
Mississippi's record against the Big 12: 5-4
Previous series: Mississippi leads the series, 1-0
Most recent game: Mississippi won, 27-25, in the 1999 Independence Bowl

Distance between them (as the crow flies according to How Far Is It): 448 miles.
Where they should play: Shreveport, La. (279 miles from Oxford, 279 miles from Norman)

Who wins: Oklahoma.

Why: The Sooners won't be playing in the featured matchup of the mythical tournament. Maybe that would work in their favor against Mississippi, which is approaching the season with more national hype than any in recent memory.

Oklahoma's nine returning starters on defense would dictate this game, particularly in the trenches. A big concern would be at left tackle, where the Rebels will miss All-American Michael Oher. His likely replacement Bradley Sowell would be facing waves of Oklahoma pass rushers intent on pressuring Jevan Snead.

The Rebels' lack of depth along the offensive line is another big question mark I have. Oklahoma would be able to take advantage of that weakness with one of the nation's deepest and most talented defensive fronts, keyed by playmakers like Gerald McCoy, Auston English and Jeremy Beal.

Coach Houston Nutt has most of his skill-position players back and one of the nation's most talented quarterbacks in Snead. It would be interesting to see how Oklahoma defensive coordinator Brent Venables would try to counteract Mississippi wide receiver Dexter McCluster, particularly in the "Wild Rebel" formation.

I'd look for Sam Bradford and his collection of playmaking wide receivers to be able to exploit Mississippi's secondary. The Rebels have three starters back, but they still ranked 81st nationally in pass defense and would struggle to keep Oklahoma from dictating the game with their no-huddle passing attack.

The Rebels have the better kicker in Joshua Shene, who would be vitally important in a close game. But this one wouldn't be, as I would look for the Sooners to prevail by at least 10 points.

Friday: Texas (Big 12 No. 1) vs. Florida (SEC No. 1).

The count: SEC, 6-5.

Note: Matchups are determined by the most recent rankings of Big 12 blogger Tim Griffin and SEC blogger Chris Low. All cumulative records go back to the 1996 season -- the first of competition in the Big 12.