OSU-OU: Key Matchups

Robert Allen's key matchups as the 11th-ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys (9-2) take on the third-ranked Oklahoma Sooners (10-1) Saturday night at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater. Kickoff for the nationally televised game (ABC-TV) is scheduled for 7 p.m. (Central time).

Oklahoma State middle linebacker Orie Lemon
vs. OU center Jon Cooper
This is a controlling position on both sides of the football when the Sooners have the ball. Oklahoma has been making most of its yards and points throwing the football but last week we saw a return to hammering the football and the guess here, partly based on how OU played offensively last season against the Cowboys, is they will try to hammer it Saturday.

It serves three purposes. One, it controls the game and keeps the ball out of the hands of the OSU offense. Two, it is the most secure way of moving the football, although with Sam Bradford's pass efficiency that has been a sure thing this season too. Finally, it is intimidating and Stoops loves to intimidate opponents he perceives to be below OU on the Big 12 food chain.

Cooper is the best center in the Big 12 and one of the OU offensive linemen that doesn't have to rely on holding to win his match-ups. He is smart, strong, and athletic in the middle, which really helps him in going to make blocks on the second level.

Lemon has really come on this season and has improved every game to the point that he is one of the most reliable players on the defense. He is also a very physical tackler.

Advantage: The slight edge goes to Cooper, but both sides will get some wins in this slice of the battle between OU offense and OSU defense. Also, there will be times that Cooper will block on defensive tackles with someone else assigned to Lemon. There may not be another lineman for OU up front athletic to find and block Lemon playing downhill or side to side.

OSU's running game
(Kendall Hunter, Keith Toston, Zac Robinson, and Offensive Line)
vs. OU's Defensive Front Seven
An absolute must for Oklahoma State to win the game is to be able to run the football. It will take the entire repertoire' with zone, zone read, options, and more. A key here will be the match-up within this match-up of Cowboy offensive tackles Russell Okung and Brady Bond, along with tight end Brandon Pettigrew, against the inexperienced defensive ends starting for OU.

Redshirt freshman Frank Alexander and sophomore Jeremy Beal have played well and played really well against Texas Tech. Now they will need to do it against better competition in an unfriendly road atmosphere while dealing the option and the threat of option with a really talented running quarterback. The situation plays into Oklahoma State even a little more with the youth the Sooners have at linebacker, although Travis Lewis is playing outstanding.

Advantage: Slight advantage to Oklahoma State here. The Cowboys have to run the football and we expect they will be able to. A reasonable over and under on the yards needed in the run game would be 200. The Cowboys need to stay balanced and 200 yards on the ground with another 200 yards or more passing can get it done.

OSU linebacker Andre Sexton
and strong safety Ricky Price
vs. OU tight end Jermaine Gresham
Much like Oklahoma State in big games, the tight end is becoming a major instigator position for the OU offense. Just like Brandon Pettigrew can influence so much on the field, now so can OU tight end Jermaine Gresham.

Like Pettigrew, he is a finalist for the John Mackey Award for the top tight end in the country. He is deserving as his blocking has greatly improved and he has eight touchdown catches this season and he is averaging 22 yards per catch on those scoring plays. He is effective as a short receiver but is also fast enough to stretch the field.

Sexton and Price will have the chore and the tough part of it is dealing with Gresham's 6-6 height and his reach. It helps having the likes of Pettigrew and Jamal Mosley to work against in practice.

Advantage: We'll go into the game calling this dead even. Gresham and his physical prowess against the craftiness and experience of Sexton and Price. Earlier this year Chase Coffman of Missouri had his moments against the Cowboys but the Cowboys had the biggest moment in winning the game. Of course, a healthy pass rush on OU quarterback Sam Bradford would really help in this situation..

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