It was a tough game to lose last night with Auburn & Va.Tech with that missed assingment on defense in the last 2 minutes costing us the line. But hey, I've had my share of games this bowl season that has gone that way in my favor. So I'm not going to complain too much. Congrats to everyone who had Tech.
With the USC and OU game I'm not going to go through all the stats. I think everybody knows how good these two teams are. I'm also not going to play the intangibles because they have nothing to do with my pick here which is going to be the over/under.
I'm chickening out in picking a winner here because I think either of these teams can win this game. When it comes to bragging on this board I'm going to side with OU every time. But when it comes to betting I don't get sentimental. I bet what I think will win for me. Personally i think OU has just as many great athelets as USC. And according to a few publications I've read, they probably have a few more. But two things have kept me from pulling the trigger on the Sooners in this game. Pete Carroll and Norm Chow. I believe these two coaches are the best in college football. As good a coaching staff as OU has, Bob Stoops and Co. have finally met their match here.
But as good as the coaching staffs are here, it's the players who are going to decide the outcome. The offenses and defenses are both in the top 5. So something's got to give, right? And as good as these defenses are, and the geniuses behind them, I believe the real strength of these 2 teams are their offenses.
OU's defense has gone through a lot of trial and tribulations this year. The suspension of Dusty Dvorchek from the defensive line hurt the Sooners this season. But I think OU's biggest loss there was All-American Tommy Harris going pro a year early. I also think OU lost 2 big playmakers on defense when they lost All-Americans Ted Lehman at linebacker and Derrick Strait from the defensive backfield. These 2 were bigtime playmakers. And OU has missed those guys all year. The Sooner defense has had only 8 picks this year. And hasn't caused near the turnovers as they did last year. OU still has one of the best secondarys in the country. But without Strait or hard hitting Brandon Everage they aren't quite the same. To put it simply, IMO OU's defense was better last year.
USC lost some key players too on defense. Their excellent pass rushers Omar Nazel and Udeze from the defensive line. USC has some big bodies on the D line. But I would rate them no better than last year. But that's still damn good. And they are the strongest part of this defense. I would say the weakest link on USC's D is their defensive backs. They had to replace their CB Poole (11 int. 80 tkls.) and Allmond (48 tkl and 3 int. in just 13 starts). They were replaced by the less expierenced Bing and Wyatt back there.
As close as these two teams mirror each other, I believe there are a few mismatches. I know the USC D line is strong and their number 1 priority will be to stop the run. And I've seen other teams key on Peterson this year. It means OU will have to go over the top with White to open up the running. Remember this is a healthy White this time. I think the biggest mismatch will be OU's receivers against the USC cornerbacks, who are speedy but undersize. Except for Mark Clayton, all of OU's receivers are 6'3 and around 215 lb. Big receivers against small CB's. And remember Clayton isn't his only target. Danny Bradley has come on strong at the end of the year. And he has 4.3 speed. And Travis Wilson is a helluva receiver. This is going to cause a lot of problems for USC. Also keep in mind that because of his outstanding offensive line White has only been sacked 7 times all year!
The player that Carroll said he's really concerned about is the added dimension of fullback J.D.Runells. This is simply the best FB in OU history. A devastating blocker for Peterson. But also a deadly receiver coming out of the backfield who usually gets the ball when nobody's expecting it. Yet another player USC has to look out for. This is the most balanced team USC will face this year. OU is only 1 of 8 teams in the country who averaged more than 200 yards both passing and rushing on offense. Cal is probably the most well balanced team USC faced this year. And we know what kind of yards they racked up on USC in their own backyard. And their a long way from home this time.
As much as I like Jason White, Matt Leinart is the best QB that there is in college football. He's got the makings of a great pro QB. And he's smart. He's got a fine fleet of young but talented receivers to throw to. Along with another dimension with Bush coming out of the backfield. The pressure will be on Leinart from OU's defensive ends. The USC offensive line has been the weak link to their offense allowing 24 sacks this year. But I believe Chow will have Leinart doing a few play action passes to keep the fast OU defense in check. Chow is such a good OC. This guy can figure out litarally any defense. I've seen USC play enough times this year. I'm really impressed at the adjustments he makes. Reporters this week asked Chow if he's seen a better defense than OU this year. He said they are the most sound schematically. But to say it's the best you really don't know until you get into the game. You can't tell just by looking at film. I get the feeling he thinks there isn't a defense out there he can't beat. This guy will make adjustments throughout the game to poke some holes in OU's D.
All this leads up to the over/under. You saw some good defense last night with Auburn and Va.Tech. You'll see some good D tonight too. But neither Auburn or Va.Tech have near the offenses of these 2 teams. It's no embarrasement for a great offensive team to score 30 points on you. It happens to good defenses in the NFL every week. This is a new age in college football. With many new clever offensive schemes. That's why you had so many ridiculous numbers on the over/under lines. But many of the teams in this bowl season matched those totals and more. The key nowadays is to bend but don't break and make sure you have a good offense to match it. I believe both of these teams do. I think this will be a close game and that it will take at least 30 ponts to win this game by either team. Therefore I'm calling for the OVER (53.5).