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December 3, 2011

OU must find way to answer doubters once again

We get set for another edition of Bedlam. This one will be the most important in the history of the Oklahoma State program. How do the Sooners pull out the win and another Big 12 Championship? SoonerScoop.com's Carey Murdock gives his breakdown.

1. Oklahoma's pass defense against Oklahoma State's passing offense

It doesn't take a genius to figure out this one of the biggest keys to Oklahoma's chances tonight in Stillwater. Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon aren't just a dangerous combo, but they are particularly good at one thing that could be devastating for OU's defense - the deep ball.

After getting torched by Baylor's Kendall Wright just three weeks ago, this is a team searching for confidence in its secondary. How will the Sooners address this?



Willie Martinez could move Tony Jefferson into a full-time safety position. But Jefferson is just starting to regain his status as a playmaking machine in the run game after last week's game against Iowa State when he made seven tackles.

But leaving the fate of your season in the hands of backup safety Sam Proctor isn't so appealing when he was the man responsible for allowing Baylor to score the winning toouchdown two weeks ago.

This will be the biggest decision of the week for OU coaches. What personnel decisions have they made to address Oklahoma State's passing attack and their failures earlier this season?

2. Oklahoma's running game against Oklahoma State's run defense

Oklahoma State fans and analysts are concerned about the Blake Bell package. That's because they know the Cowboys can't stop anybody with a physical run game. I've heard things like, 'OU's offensive line isn't as good as Kansas State's line.'

The paranoia is a little bit overblown. It's not as though OU is going to drop their base offense just to let Blake Bell run the Belldozer the entire game.

Josh Heupel and Jay Norvell believe in their offense. They aren't going to scrap it for going with the Belldozer the entire game.

Brandon Williams was hobbled early in the week, but we're told he'll play tonight. He'll be needed as Roy Finch has been used more than coaches planned initially. He's been carrying the ball too much and he needs Williams to spell him more often.

The loss of Adam Shead will be a factor for this offensive line. We're told Bronson Irwin has been a player coaches have wanted to play more and more. He is the next-best young linemen in the program right now.

Maybe he can have a similar impact as Shead if he really is that type of player.

Regardless, OU's running game is the single biggest advantage the Sooners have in this game. They must take advantage of it.

3. Finding pressure against Weeden

Frank Alexander is banged up, but he'll give it a go tonight. The Sooners will need him to play through the pain and be the player he has been all season.

No one knows if that is possible. Just from talking to people, it sounds like it will take everything Alexander has to fight through the pain just to be on the field tonight.

David King can be a player who gets off the edge. R.J. Washington can be that too.

I'm just not willing to buy in to any rumors about Ronnell Lewis playing tonight. Our sources say he hasn't been practicing this week. It would be more miraculous to see him play against Oklahoma State than it was to see Travis Lewis take the field against Florida State.

It's possible Corey Nelson can provide them a nice pass rush in certain situations. But I'd expect him to make his biggest contributions in long-yardage situations.

Weeden can be erratic when pressured. He and Landry Jones both have 12 interceptions this season. And Weeden had a really rough game against Iowa State.

4. The championship mentality

How many times has this Oklahoma team been doubted? It was thought Missouri would get Oklahoma in 2007 after they lost a close game on Owen Field earlier in the season. The Tigers came into the game ranked No. 1 in the polls and Oklahoma destroyed them in the Alamo Bowl 38-17.

The Sooners had to go to Missouri and Oklahoma State in 2006 when no one gave them a chance. They won both games and a Big 12 Championship.

Going to Stillwater late in the season and become a rite of passage for this Oklahoma squad. The Cowboys have always given them a stiff challenge, but the Sooners have always overcome.

The question is being asked again: Can Oklahoma win a game late in the season for a Big 12 Championship when everyone is doubting them?

History says yes.

But this is also a team with some internal issues. We've seen key injuries to Ryan Broyles, Ronnell Lewis and Adam Shead. We've seen one of OU's best receivers serve another suspension late in the season.

We've seen Kenny Stills (late in the season) and now Frank Alexander hobbled.

Does this team have enough to fight through the issues and win another championship?

5. How Oklahoma wins

The Sooners only chance in this thing is to come up with a magical performance on defense. Bob Stoops' teams have rarely shown us the ability to win shootouts. When the defense lets down, the offense lets down.

Oklahoma made nice comeback efforts against Texas Tech and Baylor, but they still fell short in the end.

If the Sooners are going to come away with a win tonight in Stillwater, the defense will be the reason.


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