Holiday Bowl: OSU-Oregon Key Matchups

Three key matchups for the Holiday Bowl involving Oklahoma State of the Big 12 Conference and Oregon of the Pac-10 Conference on Tuesday night in San Diego.

OSU offensive tackles Russell Okung and Brady Bond
vs. Oregon defensive ends Nick Reed and Will Tukuafu
Reed is an All-American and should be with 13 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss, but don't leave Tukuafu out here as he had seven sacks and 16 tackles for loss. This is the most productive tandem of pass rushers that the Cowboys have seen all season.

Reed is an undersized hustler of a player. The kind of guy you can really admire. Tukuafu is 6-4, 272 pounds and especially strong. The pair compliment each other well.

Remember last year in the Insight Bowl, Okung took on the challenge of shutting down the nation's sack leader in Indiana Hoosier defensive end Greg Middleton and Okung did just that, not only zero sacks but zero tackles.

The Cowboy offensive line has a lot of pride, and, remember at times, tight end Brandon Pettigrew will be there helping out as well. This sets up to be a really good battle on both sides of the offensive line.

Advantage: Strength on strength in this matchup and it could go either way. The easiest thing to do would be call it even and let it play out. I'm going to give the edge to Okung, Bond, and OSU. The reason is Zac Robinson. Most of the time Okung and Bond will protect but for those few times that they do break down then Robinson will evade the rush. He does it most of the time when a pass rusher gets loose. Oregon head coach Mike Bellotti hit on this at the Head Coaches News Conference Mon day at the Omni Hotel.

"There are a lot of players we both want to get the ball to and there is only one football," said Bellotti. "The mobility of the quarterback position in my mind is the difference maker for both these teams and that they can both run and the can beat you with their feet."

Robinson will make a difference here along with Okung and Bond.

OSU wide receiver Dez Bryant
and tight end Brandon Pettigrew
vs. the Oregon Secondary
Bryant averages 17.7 yards per reception, and even though Erin Andrews teased him about not catching a touchdown pass this season, Brandon Pettigrew averages 11.7 yards per reception.

They are the two major playmakers in the Oklahoma State passing offense, although don't forget Damian Davis. He was the last Cowboy player to arrive in San Diego, so maybe he will be the one that steps up the most.

Oregon, in many ways, resembles Missouri and we all remember what Davis did in Columbia that night. Oregon is really good and really veteran in the secondary with corners Jairus Byrd and Walter Thurmond combining for 135 tackles and eight interceptions (four each).

Safeties T.J. Ward and Patrick Chung combined for 179 tackles, three sacks, three interceptions, four fumbles caused, and one fumble recovered. Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy said Monday at the news conference he thinks they are pretty good.

"I'm not so sure that this group as a secondary is as good a group back there as we have played all season," said Gundy. "They are versatile and run to the ball and tackle well."

Of course, Gundy likes his receivers as well. It should be a good battle between the explosive and innovative wide receivers and the consistent and experienced Oregon defensive backs.

Advantage: This one is close to even too but it is Dez Bryant that puts OSU over the top on this one. As a group I would give Oregon the edge if Bryant is out of the equation but his abilities and what he is capable of doing are so far out there compared anybody else in these two groups and that is why is a consensus All-American. I really think Bryant could be the MVP and the major difference in the entire game. Go back and check last year's Insight Bowl when he had nine receptions for 117 yards and two touchdowns.

OSU defensive tackles Tonga Tea Jr. and Jeray Chatham
vs. Oregon center Max Unger
This is another good matchup to watch as Unger is tremendous. Watch him a little and you will find as athletic of an offensive lineman, and certainly as athletic a center, as there is out there. The Ducks use him to pull out and lead on plays just like they would a guard with "G" action. Unger is a mobile load at 6-5, 300 pounds. He is the unquestioned leader on that Oregon offensive line.

Tea played his best game against Oklahoma and was a major force with his desperate effort. Chatham is still struggling some with the foot injury that has plagued him all season. The Cowboys have depth with Swanson Miler and Shane Jarka. They also use defensive end Derek Burton inside in their three-man front, and he and Unger will be a good battle against each other.

Advantage: This one goes to Unger. Like we said with Dez Bryant in the matchup above, there is a reason that Unger is the All-American and the Cowboys are still trying to get better at defensive tackle. You have to factor in the Oregon guards here and they are pretty good too. The key will be if Tea and Chatham can protect and defend the "A" gap. They'll need to because I agree with this.

"I do think this game will be decided by the defense that steps up and plays and makes stops," said Oregon's Bellotti. "Making a stop against these offenses at times will be pretty awesome."

Just a stop or two could be the difference. They'll need to neutralize Unger at some point to make that happen and it won't be easy.

GoPokes Top Stories