OSU-OU: Key Matchups & Prediction

STILLWATER - Next week Cowboy senior offensive guard Kellen Davis will be hunting deer, duck or maybe dropping a line in some nearby farm pond for that big one that he often seems to catch. This week Davis is focused on hunting down the right guy in crimson and driving him off the ball so running back Mike Hamilton can run free on the Oklahoma defense.

Davis is one of three seniors – joining tackles Charlie Johnson and Adam Gourley – who will start on the offensive line Saturday in Norman. Davis isn't feeling sorry for him self, but instead looking at a great final opportunity.

"It's unfortunate that we are not going to a bowl game," said Davis. "What better game could you end your career on that a win in the Bedlam game. It would be great."

Davis and company should have a major say in how Saturday goes. Blocking for Hamilton and Julius Crosslin and protecting quarterback Al Pena is a major task against one of the better defensive fronts in the Big 12. Davis and offensive line coach Joe Wickline feel this group is more than ready to face them.

"The offensive line we struggled through a few games, but overall we've come together and performed well and trusted each other as a group and what each other does," explained Davis. "I think we have a great offensive line and it is going to be a great challenge with that Oklahoma defense."

"They've done a really nice job," said Wickline. "We've talked a lot about challenging them and saying look to me and to us. The telling tale to the group of players like the offensive line is where they end up. Are they going to strive to get better week in and week out toward the end regardless of the situation or are they going to stay the same or even fall off? I told them it was our job to get better each and every week, so now that we've accomplished something at the end of the year have we climbed that mountain? I think they've done that."

A big part of the improvement over the course of the season has been the working arrangement between Wickline and his linemen. A year ago, the Cowboys had two offensive line coaches with head coach Les Miles always around then line coach Chuck Moller and his players. It was confusing and, at times, taxing. This year words like confidence and trust are used to describe the working arrangement.

"I think that is where it starts in this game and that is what makes this business and the game of football so great," said Wickline. "It is all about trust. The head coach, Mike Gundy, to the offensive coordinator, to me, and then to my players. I believe anytime in a group if you are the leader and the group doesn't feel that you're honest and your expectations are fair and you mean the best for them and the program, then in the fourth quarter when it is tough are they going to work hard and respond to get it done and believe in you. I think our kids are getting that."

"It's been a good change because he brought some things that he has taught us that we didn't know," said Davis. "We have more confidence in him and he has more confidence in us and he is a fun coach to play for."

Now Davis and his teammates, along with Wickline, look forward to playing their role, a major role in how Bedlam turns out.

"It's a great rivalry and the past few years Oklahoma and Oklahoma State have been back and forth and that says a lot for the state, the two teams, and the Big 12," said Wickline. "I think every game starts there on the offensive line, the defensive line, fundamentals, techniques, sound blocking schemes, and sound gap control on the other side of the ball, good old fashioned toughness, and getting it done and finishing. I think it starts there every week."

OSU–OU Key Matchups
OSU Offensive Line vs. Oklahoma Defensive Front
See the above. In past Oklahoma State wins the offensive line has kicked in big with contributions. The Oklahoma defensive front is really its strongest area on the football team. The same might be said for the Cowboy offensive line with three senior contributors, and now this late in the season experience across the board that includes three seniors.

OSU Receivers vs. OU Secondary
D'Juan Woods was spectacular last week against Baylor with 10 receptions for 186 yards and two touchdowns. But Kenny Williams made a big catch, and John Johnson and Brandon Pettigrew caught scoring passes. We know that freshman Ricky Price can make plays. The OU secondary has struggled at times in stopping the pass, giving up an average of 222 yards a game and allowing 19 touchdown passes. We now know that Oklahoma State can move the ball through the air, so mix it up some. A few healthy gains through the air will make Mike Hamilton and Julius Crosslin that much more effective on the ground. On the short passes keep an eye out for linebacker Clint Ingram as he has three interceptions to lead Oklahoma this season. The back end has been burned, so OSU needs to put the OU defensive back's feet to the fire a few times or more.

OSU Defensive Front vs. OU Offensive Line
The Cowboys have to be able to stop Adrian Peterson and the running game. Peterson is still brilliant when he gets into the open field, but between his ankle injury and the ability of the Oklahoma offensive line and all the injuries that have been suffered by that group he hasn't seen open the field as often. The Cowboys defensive line needs to do a good job of occupying the Oklahoma interior line. Xavier Lawson-Kennedy has been outstanding at that over the past three games. The Cowboys get a boost at end with the return of Nathan Peterson who is ready for the Bedlam game having missed Texas Tech and Baylor since a hamstring injury in the second half of the Texas game. The linebackers need to do what they have done all season and move to the target and take care of it. Together Jamar Ransom (85 tackles), Rodrick Johnson (74), Paul Duren (61) and Lawrence Pinson (42) have combined for 262 tackles. That's as good as it has been in a long time as too many tackles have been made on the back end of the Cowboy defense. Peterson is still averaging 4.5-yards a carry. Keep him below that and the Cowboys will have done their job. No big chunk plays in the running game and lots of pressure on Rhett Bomar go a long way to getting out of Norman with a win.

OSU Special Teams vs. OU Special Teams
Both teams have struggled in special teams. They aren't necessarily bad, they just aren't as distinguished as they usually are. The Cowboys have the advantage on field goals with Oklahoma having the edge on punting. The Cowboys have done a better job on kickoff returns by two yards and on punt returns by just a yard. Oklahoma doesn't take a lot of risks in special teams, which makes them less susceptible to fakes. It could come down to just doing the basics best.

Al Pena vs. Al Pena
We listed this match up one other time - before the Texas game - and it worked. Trying it again, Pena has to be the kind of quarterback he showed in the Texas game, in his relief duty in the Texas Tech game, and the Baylor game (minus his first play from scrimmage). It comes down to turnovers and taking care of the football, knowing when to make a play and when the odds are stacked and it's time to throw the ball up in the stands of Gaylord Family Memorial Stadium. Heck, if he can hit a Gaylord in the stands then let's give bonus points for Big Al. Seriously, Pena gives the Cowboys the best chance to win because he has proven himself in situations. His 351-yard and four-touchdown effort last week was the second best of any Division I quarterback on that day. He also knows he will have more margin for error than say he did against Texas. The Oklahoma defense is not as good as the Longhorns and there will be more green light plays than red during the contest. On those red light plays just don't turn the ball over.

Last week was an embarrassment at Baylor. Go back and play that again with three turnovers or less and Pena at quarterback and it would be hard not to see the Cowboys winning. It's too late for that, there's no second chances. Pena gets the start in this one. The Cowboys have shown no signs of a Baylor hangover and the seniors are determined to get their last hurrah, and the rest of the squad seems very willing to help them get it. It's a consolation prize, but one that is well worth it for Oklahoma State players. Oklahoma is good, but not nearly as good as the OU teams OSU defeated in 2001 and 2002, and played to the wire last season. The Cowboys aren't as good either. The game is in Norman and that is a big point in favor of Oklahoma. That said, when it is this close there is no way I'm going to pick Oklahoma. This is one that can go either way, if the Cowboys hang onto the football.

(With two or fewer OSU turnovers)
Oklahoma State 28, Oklahoma 20

(With three or more OSU turnovers)
Oklahoma 38, Oklahoma State 21

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