OU vs. Oregon: The Matchups

See inside for a unit-by-unit preview of Thursday's OU-Oregon Holiday Bowl matchup. Pictured above: Oklahoma quarterback Rhett Bomar (left) and Oregon quarterback Dennis Dixon (right). (Photos by the Associated Press)

When Oklahoma has the ball:

Oklahoma running game vs. Oregon defense


Adrian Peterson says he's 100 percent for this game, and if he says it, I believe it. Even when he was not at 100 percent during the last five games of the year, Peterson was near the form that led him to a Heisman runner-up finish as a freshman. Look for Peterson to get yeoman work Thursday evening, as Oklahoma tries to control the clock and keep the ball away from the Oregon spread offense.

Will Rhett Bomar run? Possibly. But it may not be necessary if the Sooners have as much luck moving the ball on the ground as most quality teams have against the Ducks. Bomar has also had some time to get those bumps and bruises healed and it will be interesting to see if new offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson show his affinity for the quarterback run game in his debut.

The Ducks do have a consensus All-American in 340-pound defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, and it will be interesting to see if the OU offensive line can contain him. Oregon allowed over four yards per rush this season, compared to less than three yards per carry allowed by the Sooners defense.

Oklahoma passing game vs. Oregon secondary

Bomar has been sacked just three times in the last four games and the increased time has allowed him to hit a much higher percentage of his passes and cut down on interceptions, with just two during that same time span. That will be key against an Oregon defense that likes to blitz and has had success forcing the opposition into throwing interceptions.

Strong safety Anthony Trucks had a team-high 11 sacks and led the team in tackles, while cornerback Aaron Gipson is tied for the national lead in interceptions with seven. As a team, the Ducks rank in a tie for second nationally with 22 picks.

It doesn't look like senior Travis Wilson will be a factor in the game. His presence would have helped the young and improving receiving corps, but Malcolm Kelly and Juaquin Iglesias may get some help from Jejuan Rankins for the first time this year. Rankins is supposedly in much better physical shape after the layoff and could see extended action at wide receiver.

If the Sooners are successful early with the running game, play-action passes could take some of the heat off of Bomar and lead to some success in the air as well.

When Oregon has the ball:

Oregon running game vs. Oklahoma run defense

The Ducks running game is nothing spectacular, averaging less than four yards per carry on the season. Senior Terrence Whitehead will get the bulk of the carries. He led Oregon with 636 yards on the year. Redshirt freshman Jonathan Stewart is the goal line back, with six touchdowns in 51 carries this season.

Interestingly enough, the Ducks second leading rusher is quarterback Kellen Clemens with 228 yards. Clemens played just eight games before being grounded for the season with an injury against Arizona.

Oklahoma had one of the country's top defenses against the run for most of the season, and with a healthy Dusty Dvoracek up front, they should negate any ground game for Oregon.

Oregon passing game vs. Oklahoma secondary

This is where the Sooners will face their most trouble and this is why it is imperative for the Oklahoma offense to control the football.

Sophomore Dennis Dixon took over after Clemens injury and completed over 68 percent of his passes on the season. He will also split time with 6-5 sophomore Brady Leaf, the younger brother of former NFL No. 1 draft pick Ryan Leaf. Leaf came in to throw the winning touchdown in overtime against California this year. Dixon will run, while Leaf is more of a pocket passer.

Dixon, who has carried the ball 40 times for 138 yards, completed 68 percent of his pass attempts for 670 yards, six touchdown passes and three interceptions, while Leaf hit on 58.6 percent of his passes for 331 yards with just two touchdowns and two interceptions. The receiving corps for Oregon is solid, with 6-2, 200 senior Demetrius Williams leading the pack. Williams caught 55 passes for 1,032 yards and 10 touchdowns this season, averaging almost 19 yards per catch. Junior college transfer James Finley has come in this season to give the Ducks a solid possession receiver at the other wide out, with 48 catches.

Much like Texas Tech, the Ducks like to throw to the running back. Whitehead has 46 catches and four touchdowns receiving this season. Oregon is averaging almost 40 passes per game and over 25 completions per contest, so the football will be flying when they have the ball.

The Sooners secondary will be in transition once again for this game, with the dismissal of cornerback Chijioke Onyenegecha. Eric Bassey will step into the starting lineup for his final game and will need to have a big performance. Oklahoma will also have to have help from the linebacking corps against the Ducks spread formation. It will be difficult for the front to get much pressure with Oregon using quick passing plays. Ducks quarterbacks were sacked just 17 times all season.

Special Teams

Oregon has the distinct advantage on returns, as Stewart has run back two kickoffs for touchdowns this season and has averaged 37.5 per return and Justin Phinisee, also an All-Conference cornerback, ran a punt back for a touchdown and is averaging 12 yards per return.

The Sooners have had virtually nothing on punt returns, and although Reggie Smith has shown some promise as a kickoff return man, he has averaged just under 21 yards per return this season. Still, OU should get a chance for runbacks against Oregon, as kickoff man Matt Evensen has recorded just 13 touchbacks in 59 kickoffs this year. Opponents are averaging over 23 yards per return against the Ducks this year.

Oklahoma also may be at a disadvantage in the punting department, as juco transfer Mike Knall might have to make his season debut due to an injury to Cody Freeby. Freeby injured his non-kicking foot a couple of weeks ago and has been slow to recover, but has been kicking in workouts this week. He will try to go, but stay tuned.

Oregon's punting game is nothing special. Matt Dragich has the starting job, even though he's averaged less than 37 yards per kick, but he has put six of his 24 kicks inside the 20. Opponents have averaged over 10 yards a return and scored a touchdown on the Ducks punt coverage team.

The Ducks do have an outstanding long range field goal kicker in Paul Martinez, who has hit 8 of his 9 attempts over 40 yards, including a 51-yarder. He's 19-24 overall. By comparison, OU's Garrett Hartley is 13-21 overall and just 5 of 10 over 40 yards. However, Hartley has hit two of his three kicks over 50 yards this season.


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