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October 12, 2007

Missouri at Oklahoma: Who has the edge?

MORE: Daniel established as Tigers' leader | Video preview

Game of the Week: No 11 Missouri at No. 6 Oklahoma
Missouri run offense vs. Oklahoma run defense
EDGE: Oklahoma The Tigers' Tony Temple is a solid, productive back, but he sprained an ankle last week and his availability is uncertain. If he cannot play or is limited, it figures to slow the Tigers' running game - which has produced at least 195 yards in each of the past four games. Quarterback Chase Daniel is the Tigers' second-leading rusher. Oklahoma, fifth in the nation in rush defense, has held five of its six opponents to fewer than 100 yards. Linebackers Curtis Lofton and Ryan Reynolds have combined for 108 tackles.
Missouri pass offense vs. Oklahoma pass defense
EDGE: Missouri Daniel has emerged as a Heisman Trophy contender after throwing for at least 294 yards and two touchdowns in every game. Tight end Martin Rucker, who has 38 catches for 439 yards, is one of four Missouri receivers with at least 23 catches and two touchdowns. The Tigers' line has given up just five sacks. Oklahoma's pass defense has some holes. Tulsa and Texas passed for more than 300 yards against the Sooners, who have compensated with 10 interceptions. Led by end Auston English - who has six sacks - OU boasts one of the country's best pass rushes, so the Sooners' defensive success may be dependent on how well they chase Daniel.
Oklahoma run offense vs. Missouri run defense
EDGE: Oklahoma Although much of the attention surrounding Oklahoma has focused on the passing of quarterback Sam Bradford, the Sooners also average 216.7 rushing yards per game. Tailbacks DeMarco Murray and Allen Patrick both have rushed for more than 400 yards, but Murray figures to get more attempts after rushing for 128 yards and a 65-yard touchdown in last week's victory over Texas. Missouri limited Nebraska to 74 rushing yards last week, but four weeks ago, Ole Miss' BenJarvus Green-Ellis gouged the Tigers for 226.
Oklahoma pass offense vs. Missouri pass defense
EDGE: Oklahoma Bradford, who has been sacked just four times, has passed for more than 200 yards and three touchdowns in five of OU's six games. The receiving duo of Malcolm Kelly and Juaquin Iglesias is among the nation's best, and tight end Jermaine Gresham is dangerous, too. Missouri limited Nebraska to 223 passing yards last week, but twice has surrendered more than 300.
Missouri special teams vs. Oklahoma special teams
EDGE: Oklahoma Missouri's Jeremy Maclin is an excellent return specialist and ranks 13th nationally with a 16-yard average on punt returns. That includes two touchdowns. Oklahoma has good coverage units, and punter Michael Cohen averages more than 44 yards an attempt. Missouri punter Adam Crossett averages 35 yards. Both kickers Jeff Wolfert of Missouri and Garrett Hartley of Oklahoma are having so-so years. Oklahoma's Murray doesn't return many kickoffs, but when he does, he's a threat to score.
Missouri coaching staff vs. Oklahoma coaching staff
EDGE: Oklahoma In 8 years at Oklahoma, Bob Stoops is 91-20, no matter what the NCAA says. In that span, the Sooners have won at least seven games each season and have won four Big 12 championships and a national title. In 6 years under Gary Pinkel, Missouri is 42-35 and may be closing in on its first Big 12 North crown.
Missouri will win if
Daniel has time to find his open receivers. The Tigers have two of the best tight ends in the country in Rucker and Chase Coffman, and they could present mismatches for an Oklahoma secondary that had some problems with Texas tight end Jermichael Finley last week.
Oklahoma will win if
The Sooners can get another solid running game from Murray, which also would limit Missouri's offensive opportunities. Getting the ball to Kelly, who has eight touchdown catches, also is a high priority. Kelly did not catch a pass against Colorado, the only team to beat OU. Also, the Sooners can't give Daniel too much time or he'll pick apart their secondary.
Few home fields are more of an advantage than Oklahoma's. The Sooners have lost just twice in Norman under Stoops. Conversely, Missouri hasn't been a strong road team in recent years. In the past three seasons, the Tigers are 5-9 on the road. This year, Missouri defeated Ole Miss 38-25 in its only true road game.
The picks
Buchanan's pick: Oklahoma 35-31
Other Rivals.com expert picks:
Mike Huguenin, college sports editor: Oklahoma 35-28
Bill King, Rivals Radio host: Oklahoma 31-27
Steve Megargee, national college writer: Oklahoma 28-17
Check out the rest of the Rivals.com Expert Picks.

MORE: Daniel established as Tigers' leader | Video preview

Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at obuchanan@rivals.com.

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