Oklahoma vs. Oregon: The Matchups

See inside for a unit-by-unit breakdown of Saturday's matchup between the Sooners and Ducks. Oklahoma running back Adrian Peterson (pictured) rushed for 84 yards on 23 carries in the Sooners' 17-14 win over Oregon in last year's Holiday Bowl.

Oregon running game vs. OU defense

It will primarily hinge on the health of running back Jonathan Stewart. The 5-11, 234 Stewart, who Oregon fans would like to compare with the Sooners Adrian Peterson, sat out most of last week's game against Fresno State with an ankle injury. In the opener against Stanford, he ran for 168 yards before leaving in the third quarter. He has been plagued by injuries throughout his career, but is an explosive runner when healthy.

His backup, Jeremiah Johnson is a quality back who had a 52-yard run against Stanford in the opener and got his first start against Fresno State. He's run for over 70 yards in each of the first two games. Quarterback Dennis Dixon is a good runner as well, so the Sooners should be ready for Oregon to try and exploit what has been an OU weakness so far this season.

Oklahoma has made some changes to try and shore up their front line, moving DeMarcus Granger into the first rotation at defensive tackle with Steven Coleman. And look for the Sooners to substitute less at the position, meaning fewer snaps for second line unit Corey Bennett and Carl Pendleton.

Oregon passing game vs. OU secondary

Dixon has become more of a pocket passer and is not as inclined to run as he was when he arrived at Oregon. He has thrown 129 passes without an interception and is completing close to 67 percent of his passes this year. Add to that the fact that the Oregon offensive line has not allowed a sack this season, and the Ducks passing game is one of the most efficient in the nation.

Even though Oregon returned its two starting receivers from last season in Cameron Colvin and James Finley, who caught seven passes against the Sooners in the Holiday Bowl, both have come off the bench in the first two games. The Ducks like to spread the wealth around, with six different wide receivers seeing significant playing time this season. Converted fullback Dante Rosario is the tight end and is also a quality pass catcher.

Oklahoma has also shaken up the secondary, with Lendy Holmes taking over for D.J. Wolfe at corner and Jason Carter bumping Keenan Clayton at safety. The Sooners secondary has not been tested in the first two games the way they will against Oregon. The Ducks will use a possession type passing game more than the deep ball – the longest completion so far this season went for 38 yards. Similar to OU, Oregon likes to run a balanced attack.

Oklahoma running game vs. Oregon defense

So far this season, the Sooners running game has consisted of Adrian Peterson, who has 304 of the teams 324 total yards on the ground. That's not a bad place to start, but look for Oklahoma to unveil some plays they haven't shown in the first two games. Paul Thompson has been judicious in picking his spots to run so far this year, partially because of the necessity for him to avoid injury and stay on the field.

Having been victimized by Peterson in the last two meetings against the Sooners, expect Oregon to concentrate on stopping him early. The Ducks front wall averages over 280 pounds and is led by senior Matt Toeaina (6-3, 301). Northeastern Oklahoma A&M transfer Jeremy Gibbs (6-3, 283) from Stillwater has grabbed a starting spot at tackle.

Oregon has given up an average of 150 yards per game on the ground during their first two contests, so the Sooners should be able to move the ball if the offensive line improves their run blocking this week.

Oklahoma passing game vs. Oregon secondary

This should be the key to the Sooners chances. Paul Thompson has performed above expectations in the first two games, adding an unexpected dimension to help balance the OU offense. He will need to be especially careful in avoiding turnovers in this contest.

Oregon's secondary may be the strength of their defense and the Ducks have defended the pass better than the run in their first two games. They will be hampered by the loss of starting left cornerback Jackie Bates, who suffered a season-ending broken leg last week. Right now, his spot will be taken by either one of two redshirt freshmen, Willie Glasper or Jairus Byrd, son of former NFL defensive back Gil Byrd, or by transfer Jameel Dowling. Look for the Sooners to exploit that area early in the game.

Expect one-on-one coverage most of the time, something that should work to the advantage of OU's Malcolm Kelly, who is off to a good start this year.

Special Teams

Excellent on both sides of the field. Oklahoma's special teams shined in all phases last week against Washington and Oregon's special teams play provided the win over Fresno State.

Reggie Smith has proven to be an exciting and explosive punt return man for Oklahoma and the Ducks Jeremiah Johnson is a good match, averaging 15.5 yards per return so far this season.

Juaquin Iglesias has gotten most of the kickoff return action for OU and is averaging over 30 yards a return. If Jonathan Stewart is healthy for Oregon, he is one of the top kickoff return men in the nation.

OU's Jason Carter is a punt blocking specialist. The Ducks blocked a field goal against Stanford in the opener and turned it into a 97-yard touchdown.

Both teams have quality punters and kickers and both teams are excellent in covering kicks.


Sooners Illustrated Top Stories