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November 30, 2007

Who has the edge: Missouri vs. Oklahoma

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Game of the Week: No. 1 Missouri vs. No. 9 Oklahoma
Oklahoma run offense vs. Missouri run defense
EDGE: Oklahoma The Sooners are without dangerous TB DeMarco Murray, who will miss the rest of the season because of a knee injury. But Murray only gained 2 yards in the first meeting, so his absence doesn't create a crisis. The Sooners' offensive line is bigger than Missouri's defensive front, and TBs Allen Patrick and Chris Brown are more than capable of keeping the Sooners' ground game rolling. Missouri's run defense ranks 25th in the country, but has been vulnerable in several games. Four opposing running backs have rushed for more than 100 yards against the Tigers.
Oklahoma pass offense vs. Missouri pass defense
EDGE: Oklahoma The Sooners average 263 passing yards. QB Sam Bradford has passed for 2,670 yards and 32 touchdowns. He has thrown only seven interceptions and rarely is sacked. Bradford has three receivers with more than 30 catches, including TE Jermaine Gresham - who has 10 touchdown grabs. Bradford passed for 266 yards and two touchdowns against Missouri in Norman, Okla., but keep in mind that Bradford hasn't performed as well on the road. Missouri ranks 104th in pass defense and hasn't had star SS Pig Brown in the second half of the season. But FS William Moore has seven interceptions and is playing at an All-America level. Stryker Sulak and Lorenzo Williams have six sacks each.
Missouri run offense vs. Oklahoma run defense
EDGE: Oklahoma Though Missouri's emphasis is on the passing game, the Tigers run well, too. They average 170.5 rushing yards per game, with TB Tony Temple doing most of the damage. They will get explosive WR Jeremy Maclin involved on reverses and end-arounds, and QB Chase Daniel is a better runner than most think. Missouri has rushed for more than 140 yards in each of its past four games. But the Tigers managed only 57 rushing yards in the Oct. 13 loss to OU, which ranks seventh in the country in rushing defense. Temple didn't play in that game. Led by DTs DeMarcus Granger and Gerald McCoy and MLB Curtis Lofton, OU's run defense ranks seventh in the country. The Sooners held eight opponents to fewer than 100 rushing yards.
Missouri pass offense vs. Oklahoma pass defense
EDGE: Missouri Daniel, who ranks fourth in the nation in passing, has thrown for more than 200 yards in every game and exceeded 300 yards in eight games. He also has thrown 15 touchdown passes in the last four games. The Tigers have six players with more than 30 receptions, though TE Chase Coffman's status is uncertain because of injury. Rucker leads all tight ends with 75 receptions and Maclin has nine scoring receptions. Oklahoma DE Auston English leads the Big 12 in sacks, but has missed three games with injury. CB Reggie Smith is one of the Big 12's best, but the Sooners have had trouble against the pass at times. Four teams have thrown for more than 300 yards against OU, including Missouri (361) on Oct. 13.
Missouri kicking game vs. Oklahoma kicking game
EDGE: Missouri Missouri K Jeff Wolfert has converted 17 of 21 attempts, but doesn't have the range of OU's Garrett Hartley, who is 9-for-11. Sooners P Michael Cohen gets more distance than Missouri's Adam Crossett. The Sooners don't have Murray, their top kickoff return man, but Juaquin Iglesias isn't bad and Reggie Smith is solid on punt returns. But neither is as good as Missouri's Jeremy Maclin, who is a threat to score on kickoff and punt returns.
Oklahoma coaching staff vs. Missouri coaching staff
EDGE: Oklahoma Give Missouri coach Gary Pinkel credit for having the Tigers on the brink of their first conference title since 1969. Defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus has done a good job devising ways to contain high-scoring offensive teams Texas Tech and Kansas. Oklahoma is making its sixth appearance in the Big 12 Championship Game under Bob Stoops, and the Sooners have won four of them. Brent Venables always has a solid defense.
Missouri will win if
Avoiding turnovers is the main issue. Daniel threw three interceptions and mistimed a handoff exchange, which was returned for a touchdown in the Tigers' regular-season loss to Oklahoma. If the Tigers play a clean game and at least slow down the Sooners' offense, they can win their first Big 12 championship.
Oklahoma will win if
Pressuring Daniel is a great place to start, and Oklahoma did accumulate the most sacks in the Big 12. Offensively, the Sooners need to take advantage of their huge line to run successfully. Bradford, who has been shaky away from Norman, needs to have a solid showing.
In the first game Missouri did not have starting TB Tony Temple, who sat out with a sprained ankle. Of course, Missouri doesn't rely heavily on its running game, but you want your starters available against elite opponents. Temple's presence could give the Tigers a boost they didn't have when rushing for just 57 yards in that first game. Of course, in that game the Tigers did have star SS Pig Brown, who has since ruptured an Achilles and is out for the season.
The picks
Buchanan's pick: Oklahoma 34-31
Other Rivals.com expert picks:
Steve Megargee, national college football writer: Missouri 27-21
Mike Huguenin, college sports editor: Missouri 27-24
Bill King, Rivals Radio host: Oklahoma 31-28
Check out the rest of the Rivals.com Expert Picks.

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

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