November 28, 2007

Part 2: Big 12 Championship's Big questions

Each day leading up to the Big 12 Championship game, our resident experts will break down one of the key questions surrounding the matchup between the Tigers and the Sooners.

Today's Question: What is the offensive key for each team to win this game?

Josh McCuistion of For Oklahoma offensively I think there is no doubt that they'll have to win at the line of scrimmage. With the absence of Demarco Murray I expect that the Tigers will focus on slowing down fellow freshman All-American, quarterback Sam Bradford. For the Sooners to overcome this they'll need the offensive line to open holes for Allen Patrick who is a talented runner but lacks Murray's ability to make something out of nothing and thus will need his line to set the table for him. If that can happen Patrick is a back that is certainly capable of burning a defense. With the absence of Murray, Oklahoma will likely go to a lot more I-formation and thus Patrick's ability, or inability, to run will play a very big impact in setting up Bradford's play-action passing. This is generally the Sooners' preferred style of air transportation and again if Patrick can set the table for the team Missouri will have a lot of problems in various areas. If they can slow him and put the Sooners into passing-probable situations then the Tigers figure to have a lot of success.

Gabe DeArmond of For Missouri, the obvious answer is to hold on to the football, which they failed to do in Norman. In the first game against OU, Missouri lost four turnovers. In the rest of the games combined, they lost 12. But I think that's a too easy answer to this question because it's the key for any offense, so I will go with third down efficiency. The major reason Missouri has been so good this season is that it has been next to impossible to get them off the field. Mizzou led the nation most of the year in third down conversion rate. In the ten games between Illinois and Kansas, they averaged about one three-and-out series per game. Against the Jayhawks, they missed their first five third downs and, not coincidentally, struggled to get started. But Mizzou converted six of the next ten and put up 36 points. There were times where Missouri lost yardage on first and second down and then Chase Daniel found a man beyond the sticks as if third and 12 was third and one. Most teams, you want to force third and long. With the Tigers, unless they have 20 yards to go, that doesn't seem to work. If OU can get off the field on third down, they're in good shape. If Missouri converts more than 50% of their chances, the Sooners are going to have to score 40 to win. and will answer a different question each day this week

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