Monday, December 3, 2007

BCS Bowls previews: Fiesta Bowl

I'll be previewing each bowl game over the next few days, in order of which match ups I find most entertaining. First up, the Fiesta Bowl.

Oklahoma vs. West Virginia: I love this matchup. Oklahoma, just happy to be in a bowl after a crazy season in the Big 12, draws a West Virginia that laid down arguably the biggest choke job of the season on Saturday, losing to a four-touchdown underdog at home when they controlled their destiny for the national championship game.

The game itself should be good as well. Oklahoma has a good run defense — No. 8 in the country at 92 rushing yards allowed per game — but they haven't faced an offense with this many options. Obviously, when people hear "Mountaineers," they think Steve Slaton/Pat White, though maybe not in that order. However, the two biggest factors in the game for WVU will be fullback Owen Schmitt and running back Noel Devine. Against a Mountaineers offense that only has one real receiving threat (WR Darius Reynaud), the Sooners will probably stack 8 in the box and try to shut down the option early, since White's legs really open up the rest of the Mountaineers attack. Here's where Schmitt comes in: WVU will need his freakish physicality to open up holes for Slaton up the middle when the option isn't working. The other thing the Mountaineers might (and should) do is give Devine 10-12 touches out of the backfield. He's a threat to hit the endzone no matter where they have the ball, and the possibility of Devine turning the corner for 25-yard or more runs should keep the Sooners honest.

On the other side of the ball, Oklahoma matches up very, very well with the Mountaineers' 3-3-5 defense. Oklahoma has a pair of good running backs in Allen Patrick and Chris Brown, a solid receiving corps and one of the most poised QBs in the country in freshman Sam Bradford. Bradford threw one interception every 44 passes during the regular season, a phenomenal ratio especially because it shows he doesn't beat himself. Based on the talent at the skill positions and a line that's slightly heftier than WVU, I don't think Oklahoma will have too much trouble getting to the endzone.

Bowl prediction: Oklahoma 31, West Virginia 17

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