Friday, December 6, 2013
Preview: Oklahoma at Oklahoma State
By Brandon Chatmon
Oklahoma State is hoping to represent the Big 12 in a BCS bowl game for the second time in three years. Oklahoma is hoping to play spoiler. Oh, and they're in-state rivals who played an overtime thriller in 2012. This should be fun.
Oklahoma visits Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Okla., to take on Oklahoma State on Saturday (Noon ET, ABC). Here are some storylines, interesting stats, players to watch and a prediction:
Can Trevor Knight match his performance at Kansas State? The Sooners redshirt freshman quarterback was outstanding against the Wildcats. He used his quickness and speed to create havoc as a runner while being accurate and decisive as a passer. If he plays that way against the Cowboys, he will create problems for their defense.
Will OSU continue to dominate at home? The Cowboys have outscored opponents by 28.4 points per game while going 5-0 at Boone Pickens Stadium. OSU is 18-1 at home in its past 19 games, so winning in Stillwater is harder than many people realize.
Who wins the turnover battle? Whoever wins the turnover battle probably will win the game, particularly if the chilly weather makes everything harder on the offenses. OSU has forced 22 turnovers during its seven-game win streak, while OU has forced 16 turnovers in its nine wins.
Key stats, courtesy ESPN Stats & Information
Clint Chelf has been extremely productive of late, and that could be the key to Saturday's outcome.
Sooners yards per carry before contact: OU's rushing offense has been simply outstanding, as a veteran offensive line has paved the way to excellence. The Sooners have gained 1,752 rushing yards before contact, ranking No. 1 in the Big 12. Their 3.6 yards per carry before contact also sits atop the conference. But in their two losses, OU has averaged 37.5 rushing yards before contact and 1.1 rushing yards per carry before contact. It's clear OU's offensive line will need to play well if the Sooners hope to win.
Clint Chelf's running: OSU quarterback Clint Chelf isn't known for his running ability, but the Cowboys have used his mobility to terrorize defenses. Chelf is averaging 5.4 rushing yards before contact and has gained 258 total rushing yards before contact, ranking second on the team. OSU will look to continue to pick and choose the times to unleash Chelf, while OU likely will have a plan to stop his running.
Players to watch
OSU linebacker Caleb Lavey: The senior is making a strong case for Big 12 defensive player of the year. He has done it all for the Pokes this season, from tackles to interceptions to tackles for loss. He has 82 tackles this season and can cap off his player-of-the-year campaign with a strong game against an OU rushing offense that is one of the conference's best.
OU linebacker Dominique Alexander: The true freshman has played remarkably well in his first season in crimson and cream. He has 25 tackles in OU's past three games and will need to play well if the Sooners hope to force the Cowboys to throw by taking their running game out of the equation.
OSU quarterback Chelf: He has played as well as any quarterback in the nation during the past four weeks, accounting for 15 touchdowns and 305.8 yards per game. If he continues to operate the Cowboys' attack that efficiently, it might not matter what OU does.
OU receiver Jalen Saunders: The Sooners are going to need Saunders and his running mates at the receiver spot to create opportunities to make big plays. OSU will come out to stop OU's running game, likely leaving one-on-one opportunities on the outside. If OU hopes to win, the Sooners' receivers must win the majority of those battles.
Prediction: OSU 34, OU 24. Both running games will have success, but the Cowboys' ability to keep OU's defense honest through the air without turning the ball over will be the difference.