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Breaking down the Bedlam matchups

COLLEGE FOOTBALL — Mike Baldwin and John Helsley see how the Sooners and Cowboys stack up.
BY MIKE BALDWIN and JOHN HELSLEY, Staff Writers Published: December 1, 2011
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Reigning Biletnikoff winner Justin Blackmon highlights a deep receiver corps complemented by steady targets Josh Cooper (60 catches) and Tracy Moore (44) and expecting the return of big-play threat Michael Harrison. Randle must also be accounted for out of the backfield.

The Sooners surrendered 485 passing yards against Baylor, 452 to Texas Tech and 379 to Texas A&M. The Cowboys are better than all three.

Free safety is a huge question mark. Javon Harris' risky play was burned against Baylor. Sam Proctor started last week. Pass coverage by the linebackers has been inconsistent.

Aaron Colvin, who plays wherever needed, is solid. Jamell Fleming and Demontre Hurst are a quality cornerback tandem.

OU's pass rush is a key variable. Defensive end Frank Alexander has had a monster season (8 1/2 sacks) but Ronnell Lewis (5 1/2), sidelined by a sprained knee, won't play Saturday night.

Edge: Cowboys

OU PASS OFFENSE

VS. OSU PASS DEFENSE

Protected by an O-line that has allowed the nation's fewest sacks (six), quarterback Landry Jones owns most of OU's career passing records.

Losing Ryan Broyles (torn ACL) has affected the offense, but there are still a bevy of weapons, including Kenny Stills (52 catches) and Jaz Reynolds (39 despite missing three games). Dejuan Miller had seven catches last week. And running backs and tight ends can provide occasional big pass plays.

The Cowboys rank among the nation's lowest-ranked pass defenses but they often counter with timely big plays.

Led by Blatnick, OSU has collected 25 sacks. Brodrick Brown and Justin Gilbert highlight a ball-hawking secondary that has 21 interceptions, which ranks second nationally.

Edge: Sooners

SPECIAL TEAMS

This is a strength for both teams in most areas.

Each kicker ranks among the national leaders in field goal percentage.

OU redshirt freshman Michael Hunnicutt is 19-of-22, although two misses against Texas Tech were costly.

OSU junior Quinn Sharp is 17-of-20, but missed a potential game-winning kick late in regulation in the Cowboys' only loss at Iowa State.

The Cowboys gain field position advantages with Sharp leading the nation in kickoffs for touchbacks (50).

The Sooners gain field position advantages with Tress Way, second in the nation in punts downed inside the 20.

Gilbert provides a home run threat with four career kickoff returns for touchdowns, including two this season. OU's Trey Franks has improved on kickoff returns the past month.

Edge: Cowboys

INTANGIBLES

The Cowboys are at home, where an energized crowd figures to turn Boone Pickens Stadium into a wild environment in anticipation of a Big 12 championship and BCS bowl berth.

With the Sooners taking multiple injury hits, the Cowboys sense that they're the better team and carry a real confidence into kickoff.

Still, OU's won eight straight Bedlam clashes and owns its own high level of confidence, regardless of the venue. For this group of Sooner seniors, it's their third trip to Stillwater in their careers. And they haven't lost yet.

Edge: Cowboys


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