OU-NU Preview: Sooners must stop Crouch

Oklahoma safety Roy Williams and the Sooner defense hope to force Nebraska quarterback Eric Crouch to run out of options.

It's great to see both Oklahoma and Nebraska once again ranked among the nations' powers. This is the way college football should be. This time it's Oklahoma No. 2 and Nebraska No. 3. If you remember last year those ratings were reversed. Oklahoma proved to themselves that day they were a national championship caliber team by falling behind the Cornhuskers 14-0 in the first half, only to blow Nebraska totally away 31-14.

The Sooners went on to win the national title and now have the nations longest winning streak at 20 games. For some reason, most of the nation feels like the Sooners' winning streak will be broken this weekend by Nebraska. Why? Is the question.

I realize you can over-analyze this thing to death and you can talk yourself into thinking that the odds are so great against OU that they have to lose to such a good team at such a great visiting site. However, I say that Oklahoma can overcome all those obstacles and extend their winning steak to 21.

The game within the game is between the Cornhuskers high-powered offense and the Sooners blitz-racing defense. Nebraska is led by Eric Crouch, the best option quarterback in the country. Nebraska runs everything through Crouch and no option quarterback has ever been more involved in this offense.

"Nebraska runs every option known to man and they have invented a few more," said OU Head Coach Bob Stoops.

"They also have several different ways that they are going to block each option. They have also invented new ways to run the football. Nebraska is the most dominating running football team in the country. However, they have also installed a spread package that we have to be ready for and they can still run their power package out of their spread defense. They are the most difficult offensive football team that we have to prepare for each year."

It's obvious that OU's key to winning the football game is shutting down Eric Crouch. Nebraska doesn't appear to have enough weapons to win the game if Crouch isn't his usual dominating self.

Nebraska is good at tailback, but not great. Dahrran Diedrick has rushed for 871 yards and averages 5.8 yards per carry this season. He alternates with a slender, quicker back in Thunder Collins, who has 480 yards and four touchdowns. Collins is a better receiver out of the backfield than Diedrick. Crouch is just like a running back and has 777 yards and 14 touchdowns this year. Crouch holds the NCAA record for career touchdowns by a quarterback.

Crouch has improved throwing the football, but has he improved enough to scare the Sooners? Tight end Tracey Wistrom is Crouch's favorite target and he is outstanding, but nursing an injured knee. Wilson Thomas is 6'5 and John Gibson is a 4.4 racer at wide receiver. Neither is considered a great receiver.

The Sooner secondary will have a huge edge in this game for a couple of reasons. Cornerbacks Andre Woolfolk and Derrick Strait can take out the Nebraska wide receivers in single coverage, leaving nine others to stop the run. The OU safety duo of Roy Williams and Brandon Everage is the very best in the country and they will play a big role in stopping Crouch.

The Sooner defense is the best in the country and extremely confident. They will win the battle against the Nebraska offense and win the game.

On offense, the Sooners have worked with a couple of scenarios in the offensive line. The starting unit will have Jared Fields at right tackle, in place of the injured Wes Sims. However, the Sooners have also worked Howard Duncan at right tackle again this week with Cliff Takawana getting snaps at left guard. Duncan has also worked at center just in case Vince Carter re-injuries his neck. Jammal Brown has taken a few snaps at right tackle, but that would be the last resort. Brown is still learning how to play on the offensive line.

Quentin Griffin is still not 100 percent and how much he plays is up in the air. Renaldo Works has worked with the first unit a lot this week.

Jason White has been a confident quarterback this week and seems to have had a good time at practice.

The OU special teams also get the edge, with better return men on both kickoffs and punts.

I realize it's trendy to pick Nebraska here. Nebraska was the early favorite at four points and the line never moved, which means there was not enough money bet on Oklahoma to move the line

However, despite the trend I feel very good about the Sooners. Oklahoma is a very confident football team and Coach Stoops and staff are very confident. I like Oklahoma 24-21.

The series
Oklahoma leads, 40-36-3. Nebraska has the edge in Lincoln, 20-17-2. The Sooners last victory in Lincoln was a 17-7 win which dates back to Nov. 21, 1987.

The coaches
Oklahoma Head Coach Bob Stoops is 27-5 overall and 9-0 against top 10 teams in his third year at Oklahoma. Nebraska Head Coach Frank Solich is 39-7 in his fourth year at Nebraska.

The polls
Oklahoma is ranked No. 2 in both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today Top 25 polls. Nebraska is ranked No. 3 in both polls. The Sooners are also ranked No. 1 and the Cornhuskers are No. 2 in the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) Poll, which determines who will play.

Other notables
Eight of the Sooners wins during their 20-game winning streak have come against ranked opponents...Both teams are ranked at the time of the game for the 23rd time...At least one of the two teams is ranked for the 56th time in this, the 65th meeting between the two teams...Both teams are ranked in the top 10 for the 18th time with Oklahoma winning 13 of those previous matchups.

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