Unlocking the key Bedlam matchups

Several position matchups will stand out in tomorrow's Bedlam bash. One of the biggest -- Will OSU linebacker Paul Duren be able to contain Heisman Trophy contender Jason White as well as he did Nate Hybl in 2002?

It's really hard to isolate just a few matchups as this game could be decided in so many areas. For instance, how about all of the special teams matchups like the punt returners in Antonio Perkins of Oklahoma and Darrent Williams of the Cowboys. You have the kickers in Luke Phillips of O-State and Trey DiCarlo of the Sooners. However, we came up with these three individual matchups that we feel will go a long way toward determining the outcome in the Bedlam game.

Rashaun Woods, OSU wide receiver vs. Derrick Strait, OU cornerback

This is a matchup of two of the best players at their positions in the nation. Woods has experienced nothing but success against the Sooners, catching the game-winning touchdown in the final moments of the 2001 victory and then coming back with a record-setting performance (12 passes for 226 yards and three touchdowns) in last November's win.

Strait has been on both sides of the fence as he was there to knock away the last second pass to Marcellus Rivers in the 2000 win for the Sooners in Stillwater. In 2001 Strait was in the same position only to see Woods make the catch for the Oklahoma State win. Now these two seniors have one more chance for Bedlam success. Both players are having All-American type seasons.

It is a great matchup as Woods has the size and strength edge, while Strait has the speed and cover skills. They may not be matched against each other the entire game, but when they are it will be interesting to watch. A couple of touchdowns for Woods or a couple of breakups or interceptions by Strait would go a long way toward determining the final outcome.

Jason White, OU quarterback vs. Paul Duren, OSU linebacker

The battle between the quarterback and the former quarterback won't be a physical one, unless White decides to take off running. This matchup will be decided by wits. White has done a great job all season long in reading defenses and making choices, not just in the passing game, but also in putting the Sooners into the right play for success. His leadership on offense has been instrumental to the Sooners' unbeaten season. There is every reason for him to be a leading Heisman Trophy contender. He has been the best player on the best team in the nation that has one of the best offenses.

Duren is not only one of the top tacklers for the Cowboys, but in the absence of linebacker Lawrence Pinson, Duren has become the quarterback of the Cowboy defense. He knows the defense better than any other player and knows what defensive coordinator Bill Clay expects. Duren is also a former high school quarterback at Del City, and he has retained his quarterback intuition. It has served him well in his career as he has often guessed what the opposing quarterback was going to do in many situations.

These two players will be staring each other down before the start of nearly every play, the one that best gets in the other's head will give his team a decided edge.

Greg Richmond and Antonio Smith, OSU defensive ends vs. Wes Sims and Jammal Brown, OU offensive tackles

For the Cowboys you could also throw Khreem Smith into the mix. The defensive ends are instrumental to the O-State defense. They are all seniors, play very physical, and are equally involved in defending the run and the pass. Against the run they are responsible for containment outside and then making plays, which they all three do with regularity. Against the pass they are the three most effective pass rushers on the team. Richmond and Antonio Smith are especially effective at getting off blocks and into the grill of an opposing quarterback. This trio has to have an influence on the game for Oklahoma State to be successful.

Sims and Brown will get the job of trying to slow down the Cowboy defensive end trio. Brown has been the best of the OU offensive linemen. Brown is playing at a very high level and has put many a defender on the ground this season, and stepped on them on his way to block another defender. A former defensive lineman, he is very athletic and is more than capable in pass protection. It is reported that he is high on NFL scouts' lists, and we believe it. Sims, on the other hand, is the weak link on the Sooner line. Sims, an overrated recruit out of high school, nearly lost his job in the preseason. He has improved but is still the best ticket to get into the Oklahoma backfield.

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