Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Brut Sun Bowl preview
By Ted Miller
Breaking down the Brut Sun Bowl between No. 21 Stanford (8-4) and Oklahoma (7-5) on Thursday.
WHO TO WATCH: It will be a game-time decision on whether Stanford's redshirt freshman quarterback Andrew Luck (broken finger) will be able to play, but the odds are the ball will be in senior backup Tavita Pritchard's hands. Pritchard isn't new to this. He has started 19 games. But in those starts he threw 22 interceptions with just 15 touchdowns. With Pritchard behind center, Oklahoma will dare him to beat them in the downfield passing game. The Sooners will crowd the line of scrimmage and use one of the nation's best run defenses to slow down All-American running back Toby Gerhart. It's Pritchard's job to make them pay for that tactic.
WHAT TO WATCH: Stanford's defense has been mediocre-to-bad this year. The Cardinal have lost three starters due to injury and they lack overall athleticism, particularly in the secondary. Opponents are completing 63 percent of their passes and have thrown for 20 touchdowns. The Sooners are loaded at receiver, will be far healthier on the offensive line after the layoff and have a good running game to keep a defense leaning forward. Although Sooners quarterback Landry Jones hasn't played well away from home this season, the Sun Bowl won't feel like an away game. The Cardinal will need to step up big on defense.
WHY WATCH: This almost certainly will be the last chance to see Gerhart in a Stanford jersey. That's reason enough because the Heisman Trophy runner-up will face a great matchup with a physical Sooners defense that doesn't want to get run over like most of Gerhart's other opponents. Also, there's the mystery of whether Luck might actually pull a Willis Reed and try to play with a surgically repaired index finger he broke in the season finale against Notre Dame.
PREDICTION: The key all year for Stanford has been Luck. Gerhart is a great running back. But he was great last year. With Luck behind center, however, it forced defenses to respect the pass, and he burned teams -- particularly Oregon -- downfield when they tried to gang up on Gerhart. With Luck, Stanford's physical offensive line would be a great matchup with the Oklahoma D-front. But the Sooners will be able to bring an extra defender into the box and outnumber the Cardinal. Can Pritchard make them pay? Guess here is he will a couple of times. But not enough for the Cardinal to outscore the Sooners, who should have their way with the Stanford D. So the call here is Oklahoma 30, Stanford 21.