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January 7, 2014

Hot 11: Sugar Bowl

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The Sooner Hot 11 is a SoonerScoop.com ranking, compiled by associated editor Josh McCuistion, of the previous Saturday's top performers and with one of the biggest wins of the Bob Stoops era there can be no surprise that the Sooners 45-31 win over Alabama produced a ton of possibilities for the Hot 11. Not surprisingly with the Sooners dropping point after point against one of the nation's elite defenses left a load of offensive players on the list.

11. Brennan Clay, Running Back - Stats: 17 carries for 44 yards and seven receptions for 36-yards.
Analysis: Clay's running numbers were far from ideal but in one situation after another, both in the run and pass game, Clay kept finding a way to come up with the needed yardage for the Sooners. Clay was, as usual, highly effective if not overwhelming aesthetically and the kind of complete back that is hard to find and will be difficult for the Sooners to replace in 2014. Last Week: No. 11
10. Gabe Ikard, Center - Stats: N/A.
Analysis: Ikard's last game for Oklahoma came against one of the better front sevens he faced in his five years in Norman. And though Alabama's defensive line isn't an area of strength as it has been in years past it still posed plenty of problems for Oklahoma's offensive line. Ikard and his unit did a great job with the Bishop McGuinness product doing a nice job with blitz pickups as the Tide got just one sack on the opening play of the second half. Last Week: No. 5
9. Aaron Ripkowski, Fullback - Stats: N/A.
Analysis: The big fullback made blocks from just about every angle and every possible playcall. Perhaps the most notable of the blocks is on Sterling Shepard's touchdown run where Ripkowski, for the most part, picked up two blocks on the edge clearing out space. He may not be a receiver or the runner of his predecessor but Ripkowski is an incredibly physical blocker who more than matched up with the size and athleticism of Alabama's linebackers. Last Week: N/A
8. Sterling Shepard, Wide Receiver - Stats: Seven catches for 63-yards and a 9-yard touchdown along with three rushes for 14-yards and a 13-yard touchdown.
Analysis: It's easy to look at his numbers and realize why he is on this list but Shepard's downfield blocking and route running are also a big part of his performance. Whether it was through the air, blocking, or even making the Sooners lone touchdown in the run game Shepard was changing the face of the game throughout for the Sooners. And much like Clay, Shepard found a way on several occasions to convert key third downs that kept the chains moving. Last Week: No. 7
7. Aaron Colvin, Cornerback - Stats: Six tackles (five solo).
Analysis: Colvin may have had one of the more quiet nights of his career but considering that when he was challenged he made play after play. Perhaps the biggest play of the game, and a play that may have made Colvin some NFL draft money, that has gotten incredibly little notoriety was when Colvin tracked down Alabama wide receiver Deandrew White on a touchdown saving tackle. The play showed off some speed that some may have doubted he possessed . Last Week: N/A
6. Bronson Irwin, Offensive Tackle - Stats: N/A.
Analysis: This is frankly too low for a guy that not only was put in a tough spot but played admirably from that spot. Irwin did a great job of maximizing his positioning to steal every inch he could against some of Alabama's edge rushers. Not surprisingly in the ground game Irwin was his physical and violent self; dominating numerous Alabama defenders and opening several running lanes for Clay, Knight and co. Last Week: N/A
5. Jalen Saunders, Wide Receiver - Stats: Five catches for 75-yards and two touchdowns (8, 43) along with one 4-yard carry.
Analysis: It feels like Saunders was just getting started for the Sooners and now his career in Norman is over. That being said Saunders kept his late season form alive making a pair of key catches and though his numbers weren't quite that of one of his fellow receivers there is no question that the Tide came into the game with a massive focus on stopping the second-year Sooner. People love to talk about Saunders explosion but against Alabama he showed more toughness than most give him credit for. Last Week: No. 1
4. Eric Striker, Linebacker - Stats: Seven solo tackles, three sacks (23 yards), and a forced fumble.
Analysis: Striker has had some massive performances so far in his career but it'd be hard to argue that any were more impressive than on the floor of the Sugar bowl. The sophomore linebacker kept A.J. McCarron under near constant pressure and did so going up against one of college football's elite left tackles, Cyrus Kouandjio who looks set to be an NFL first rounder this spring. Striker's speed and never-ending pursuit helped Oklahoma make play after play. Last Week: N/A
3. LaColtan Bester, Wide Receiver - Stats: Six catches for 105-yards and a 45-yard touchdown.
Analysis: It doesn't feel as though Bester has received enough credit for his performance against Alabama. People seem to forget it was his big play that got Oklahoma on the board and really seemed to change the entire momentum of the game - that in the early moments felt like the game everyone had predicted from the moment the match-up was presented publicly. Bester's big catch and run wasn't his only moment as he did a nice job making several catches in traffic. Last Week: N/A
2. Geneo Grissom, Defensive End - Stats: Two solo tackles, two sacks (16 yards), two fumble recovers (34 return yards) including an 8-yard return for touchdown.
Analysis: This was the guy that Oklahoma believed they'd signed in the class of 2010. Grissom was a dominant force and though one might expect it would come solely in running past Alabama's bigger offensive linemen, that's not exactly the case. There is no question that Grissom used his quickness in tight blocking spaces to give him some advantage but he also held up well against Alabama's big blockers in run situations. All in all, a nearly perfect game. Last Week: N/A
1. Trevor Knight, Quarterback - Stats: 32-of-44 for 348-yards and four touchdowns (45, 8, 43, 9) and five carries for 10-yards.
Analysis: If one wanted to look at it as such, this game felt like a microcosm of Knight's entire season, some early troubles bled into some real promise that led to several moments of pure brilliance. If you choose to believe that, it's hard not to think what the Sooners year might have looked like if Knight was on the roster in Dallas and again in Waco. Regardless, this was the kind of effort that future seasons are built around. Last Week: N/A

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