The Cowboys have a quartet of consistent performers in tackles Shane Jarka and Chris Donaldson and ends Ugo Chinasa and Jamie Blatnick. But OU end Jeremy Beal, who leads the Big 12 in sacks and tackles for loss, might be the best defensive player in the entire league. Plus, the Sooners are getting healthier at tackle with the return of Casey Walker, and end Ronnell Lewis is finally honing in on his immense talent.
Both teams have on-field leaders and tackling machines in OSU's Orie Lemon and OU's Travis Lewis. But the return of Austin Box, who's played great football since coming back, gives the Sooners the slight advantage.
The Cowboys have two All-Big 12 caliber defensive backs in safety Markelle Martin and cornerback Andrew McGee. But the Sooners match that with safety Quinton Carter and corner Jamell Fleming and a host of rising stars in the secondary like safety Tony Jefferson and cornerback Aaron Colvin.
OSU kicker Dan Bailey is a Lou Groza finalist and punter Quinn Sharp should have been a Ray Guy finalist. Tress Way is a solid punter, and Jimmy Stevens made 3 of 3 field goals at Baylor. But add on that Sharp is turning 67 percent of his kickoffs into touchbacks â€” compared with Way/Patrick O'Hara who have a combined 17 percent touchback rate â€” and this category isn't close.