By Tim Chapman Writer/Analyst


Oklahoma Pass vs. Alabama Pass Defense
Edge: Oklahoma
The Sooners started slow last week, but eventually got the wagons rolling by the second quarter. Jason White ended up catching fire, throwing for 248 yards and three TDs. They did this by spreading the ball around and hitting the underneath and intermediate routes to ultimately set up the deep throw. Oklahoma's receivers are quick and rather elusive in the open field, so tackling will be a must for the 'Tide. OU will be working against a smaller 'Bama secondary, so look for the Sooners to exploit that advantage, especially in the red zone.

'Bama has to create a decent pass rush and rattle Jason White. They only sacked USF's elusive QB once, and the Bulls run a similar style of offense to that of the Sooners. The Tide might even try to send their quick LBs on stunts, and this is where and when I expect OU to go after them with both crossing patterns and screens (both RB and WR). The 'Bama secondary, though undersized, is quick and has good reactions to the ball and play-calls. Expect OU to hit the sidelines early, setting up some hitch-and-go routes, and they will score on at least one of these, mark it down! Look for big games from WRs Brandon Jones and Mark Clayton.


Alabama Pass vs. Oklahoma Pass Defense
Edge: Oklahoma
'Bama QB Brodie Croyle was a bit erratic in the start of last week's contest. But he picked things up as the game grew on. Then again, last week he wasn't playing the best defense in the country. The Sooners' pass defense came into this season with exuberant expectations and look to put that billing to its first real test this Saturday. Croyle and the 'Bama passing offense found their stride by hitting the middle of the secondary, then coming back to the sidelines, utilizing a healthy mix of routes that eventually tired the USF pass defenders. This is a much quicker, nastier defense, especially in the pass rush. The Sooners have eight D-linemen they can rotate, and all are capable, especially when fresh, of putting heat on the QB.

The thing the Tide have going for them is this- OU faced a terrible passing team last week (North Texas) that only managed 75 yards through the air. This could play in Alabama's favor early, if they properly execute their passing strategy. It might take the Sooners a quarter to get back to defending well against a legitimate passing attack, but a quarter is all it will take. The Sooners are too deep in the back-seven, so I expect that pass rush to bring Croyle to the ground many times and account for (at least) five sacks. Look for the Sooners to cause three (or more) turnovers and shut down the Tide on 3rd down conversion attempts.


Oklahoma Run vs. Alabama Run Defense
Slight Edge: Oklahoma
Oklahoma will make a more concentrated effort on running the football this week. They played a sloppy game against North Texas and had to deal with rainy conditions on a muddy field. It looks to be much of the same this week, but they will be going against a similarly tough run defense. Learning from last week's trials, the Sooners should be prepared for this one.

Oklahoma has three backs who can motor. We might see more of Kejuan Jones and Donta Hickson, as Reynaldo Works was hobbled last week. The use of all three will be advised, in order to keep a fresh and healthy backfield. The Tide allowed just 50 yards rushing a week ago and has shown great lateral movement, so look for the Sooners to run between the tackles, with an emphasis on hanging onto the football. We should also see some draw plays to bring the 'Bama secondary in close, setting up the possibility of some deep middle throws. This battle might be a stalemate when all is said and done.


Alabama Run vs. Oklahoma Run Defense
Slight Edge: Alabama
I know this is Oklahoma we're talking about, but I like 'Bama to see marginal success in the run game, at least early on. Much attention will be paid to their aerial assault, so that puts added responsibility on Shaud Williams, Ray Hudson and Kenneth Darby. The 'Bama offensive line will open holes for this group, so it will be important for them to read their blocks well and accelerate quicker than ever. It's been proven that if you hesitate for one second, this defense will eat you alive.

Oklahoma, again, did not face a tough run game last week and could find themselves lulled a little bit before waking up in the second quarter. The 'Tide need to take advantage of this right away and move the ball downfield with offensive balance and establish success with the running game. I think 'Bama will hold their own in the run game, but will need to throw the ball successfully to beat this Sooner defense. I just don't see that happening, though.


Special Teams
Edge: Oklahoma
The Sooners carry one of the best special teams units in the country. In week one, kicker Trey DiCarlo was perfect on all seven attempts he made (3 FGs, 4 PATs), punter Blake Ferguson averaged 41 yards, and the coverage teams were spectacular. If you're sound in these three areas, you're most likely going to win the special teams battles.

Wet conditions should slow down the return units and put the explosiveness of Shaud Williams ('Bama) and Antonio Perkins (OU) in check. DiCarlo is a solid kicker and Bostick on the other side is a bit erratic. I'll take OU, but I don't expect special teams to be a deciding factor in this one.


Final Thoughts
Sure, the Sooners are the easy pick, but there is a reason for that- they are just that damn good! Bob Stoops has coached in countless big games - he is the teacher. Mike Shula has coached in only one game, period! Ergo, he is the pupil. This game should be close for the first half, but I expect Oklahoma to run away big in the second half.

The Sooners will use their passing game to throttle their dominance, and that is really all they'll need. The ground game will poke its head when needed, but against this aggressive 'Bama D, throwing the ball is how you beat them. Oklahoma played on a wet field last week, so they should be more prepared for this week if conditions present themselves similarly. Bama played on a dry field under a blue sky, so they might lose a step or two in the mud.

'Bama won't be able to throw against this defense, something they simply must do. We'll see a good balance of running and passing in the first half, but the Sooners will eventually take away that run game to show Brodie Croyle that nightmarish pass rush and suffocating secondary coverage. Not sure even Don Shula could beat the Sooners with this out-manned 'Bama squad. OU rolls (slight pun intended) to victory.


Chappy's Pick: Oklahoma 34 Alabama 14.