This could have been a compelling showdown, pitting the of the nation’s best freshman QBs against one another. But Andrew Luck’s injury leaves Stanford starting senior Tavita Pritchard, who has 19 career starts, but only three pass attempts this season.
Landry Jones has struggled away from Norman, but you have to like his chances against a Stanford defense that’s been lit up by the pass all season.
The sun will set on arguably the best tandem backfield in the Bob Stoops Era. DeMarco Murray and Chris Brown have combined for more than 4,500 career rushing yards.
But Toby Gerhart is, in my opinion, the best running back in college football after leading the nation with 1,726 yards and 26 TDs. He will be a load for OU to handle. So will blocking fullback Owen Marecic.
The OU front can’t buy a break. This game, they’ll be starting LT Trent Williams at center, and TE Eric Mensik at right tackle.
Stanford’s, meanwhile, is healthy and one of the best in the nation led by tackle Chris Marinelli and center Chase Beeler, who transferred from OU two years ago. Think Beeler could help the Sooners out right now?
As bad as OU’s group has been at times this year, there are reasons to feel about the receivers heading into the bowl game and next season. Sophomore Dejuan Miller has become a solid threat. Freshman Jaz Reynolds is showing signs of life. And Stanford defensive coordinator Ron Lynn called Ryan Broyles the “best he’s seen” all season.
Ryan Whalen is solid for Stanford, and Chris Owusu can deliver some big plays. But Broyles is a difference-maker.
Does OU even have any tight ends left? After the move of Mensik, all that’s left is walk-on Trent Ratterree and James Hanna, who has made strides in recent weeks.
But Stanford’s Coby Fleener and Jim Dray are stud blocking tight ends, and can make plays in the pass, too.
This is the strength of the Stanford defense, led by nose tackle Ekom Udofia. But that’s not saying all that much, considering the Cardinal ranked No. 65 in scoring defense.
This is the strength of OU’s team, but that is saying much. GK McCoy figures to be a Top 5 pick in the NFL Draft. Throw in fellow tackle Adrian Taylor and rushing end Jeremy Beal, and you have arguably the best d-line in football outside of Lincoln, Neb.
The fact that safeties Delano Howell and Bo McNally lead the team in tackles tells you what you need to know about the play of the team’s linebackers this season.
Look for senior Ryan Reynolds to go out in style for the Sooners, who also boast several young, talented linebackers led by Travis.
Stanford will have all its cornerbacks healthy finally. Quinn Evans and Kris Evans are back from injuries and, along with Michael Thomas, will back up starters Richard Sherman and Johnson Bademosi. Veteran safety McNally is an underrated star.
But Dom Franks and Brian Jackson, both All-Big 12, form one of the best corner tandems in the nation, and Quinton Carter and Jon Nelson are becoming standouts after strong closes to the season at safety.
With Tress Way, the nation’s fourth-best punter, OU has the edge in punting. With Nick Whitaker, who booted a 54-yarder this season, Stanford has the edge in place-kicking.
Prediction: Stanford has the best player, but OU has the better team. A season to forget ends on a high note. OU 35, 24.