PASADENA -- Finally it's here. <i>The Tonight Show</i> appearances are done. The Lawry's prime rib fest is digested. The conjecture over the prudence of <b>Mike Price</b> being on the sidelines is mute. It's time to strap on the pads for the Granddaddy of Them All.

for more pictures from the Cougs appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. (AP Photo)

In little more than 24 hours we'll know if an 75-percent healthy Jason Gesser is good enough to dissect the zone-blitzes and multiple-formations of Oklahoma's lightning-quick stop corps.

We'll know if the Cougar defense's late-season snuffing of every running game this side of Onterrio Smith can continue its mastery against a 5-foot-7 tailback who's so good that college pundits just call him The Q in the belief that most everyone knows who they're talking about.

We'll know if two weeks was enough time for the Cougars to regroup after the shocking announcement that their head coach was leaving for Alabama. Perhaps we'll also know if the budding rumors of Oklahoma head man Bob Stoops going to the NFL have distracted the Sooners.

It's the 11-2 champions of Big 12 vs. the 10-2 champions of the Pac-10. It's No. 6 WSU vs. No. 7 Oklahoma.

It's two of the winningest programs in Division I over the last two years.

It's a program steeped in winning against one trying to claim the ultimate prize for the first time since Lone Star Dietz's boys did it 86 years ago.

It's the 89the renewal of the Rose Bowl game.

Both teams like to spread the field on offense and both rely on speed and solid line-play to make their defenses click.

From my vantage point, I see this one going down to the wire with turnovers and special teams the deciding factors.


TELEVISION: ABC with Keith Jackson on the call.

THE WEATHER: Sunny and near 70 degrees

THE LINE: Sooners by 6 1 / 2

THE KEYS: On defense for the Cougars, it's pretty simple: Contain Quentin Griffin with no more than six men in the box so that the secondary isn't vulnerable to Nate Hybl hooking up long with his talented receivers. On offense, the Cougars need to effectively mix play-action and quick-release passes with misdirection stuff to neutralize Oklahoma's fast, swarming defense that has surrendered an average of just 15 points per game this year.

LOOK FOR: A big game by Cougar DT Jeremey Williams as his battery-mate, Outland Trophy winner Rien Long, fights double teams much of the day.

ALSO LOOK FOR: Gesser to go stretch the field. If Oklahoma's D has a weakness, it's the secondary. In the Sooners' two losses this year, to Texas A & M and Oklahoma State, they got burned by the pass. Cougar receivers have a height advantage, and speed burners like Devard Darling, Sammy Moore and Jerome Riley could make some serious hay on deep routes.

THE SERIES: WSU and Oklahoma have met on the gridiron just two times. In 1967, future Heisman Trophy winner Steve Owens led the Sooners to a 21-0 victory and in 1938 Babe Hollingbery's Cougar squad dropped a 28-0 decision to the Sooners in the season finale. Both games were played at Oklahoma.

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