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ROSE BOWL * WASHINGTON STATE vs. OKLAHOMA

Breakdown

January 01, 2003|David Wharton

Oklahoma run offense vs.

Washington State run defense

* The big difference in this season's Sooner team is an emphasis on the ground game and running back Quentin Griffin, who ranks seventh in the nation at 134 yards a game. Washington State has Outland Trophy winner Rien Long on the defensive line, but the Cougars earned their No. 7 ranking in run defense against pass-oriented Pacific 10 Conference opponents.

Edge: Oklahoma

Oklahoma pass offense vs.

Washington State pass defense

* Another category where numbers might be deceiving. Washington State ranks 103rd in pass defense but weathered the likes of Carson Palmer and Cody Pickett. Jason David and Marcus Trufant anchor the secondary at the corners.

Edge: Washington State

Washington State run offense vs.

Oklahoma run defense

* Though a trio of Cougar backs led by Jermaine Green provided support for the team's aerial game, other than USC's, they haven't faced a defense like Oklahoma's. The Sooner front seven, with Tommie Harris at tackle and Teddy Lehman at linebacker, held opponents to 116 yards a game and shut down Colorado in the Big 12 championship game.

Edge: Oklahoma

Washington State pass offense vs.

Oklahoma pass defense

* In Jerome Riley, Devard Darling and Mike Bush, the Cougars have big, talented receivers who can fight for the ball when it is in the air. Quarterback Jason Gesser should not be effected too much by an ankle injury because he knows how to play hurt. Oklahoma's secondary struggled against Oklahoma State receiver Rashaun Woods.

Edge: Washington State

Special teams

* Oklahoma is a little better at returning punts with Antonio Perkins, who broke free for long touchdowns against Tulsa and South Florida. Washington State punter Kyle Basler averages more than 40 yards. The difference here could be Cougar kicker Drew Dunning.

Edge: Washington State

Coaching

* No matter what Coach Mike Price says, his team was shaken when he unexpectedly took the Alabama job a few weeks ago. The Oklahoma staff, led by Coach Bob Stoops, is a tightly run group, no room for controversy.

Edge: Oklahoma

Intangibles

* After years of playing the role of doormat, Washington State is starting to build a nationally known program. Still, the Cougars have scant experience in big games and stumbled against Ohio State early in the season. Oklahoma has been a national contender ever since Stoops arrived on campus.

Edge: Oklahoma

Prediction

* Washington State is something of a wild card with its aerial attack and a bag full of trick plays, but Oklahoma has been down this road before. The Sooners have proven their mettle in a slew of tough games the last three seasons and should be able to limit Washington State's offense by controlling the clock with Griffin.

Score: Oklahoma, 27-21.

-- David Wharton

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