wade Winning The Individual Battles Key To Winning The War

Image from Sooner Sports

If Oklahoma is going to win this Sugar Bowl game Thursday night against Alabama, it goes without saying they are going to have to win a number of individual battles. I’ll grant you that’s a ‘captain obvious’ type of statement, but that doesn’t make it any less true of a true statement.

And yeah, sure, we could sit here and feature guys like A.J. McCarron, T.J. Yeldon, Amari Cooper, C.J. Mosley, and countless others, but why bother wasting your time telling you things you already know. You don’t need this site, or any others, to tell you those are really good players and that limiting them in this game will be key to OU’s chances for an upset.

Instead, we’ve chosen to focus on some of the other individual match-ups that may not be receiving the same level of attention but could easily play just as important a role on Thursday night.

It should come as little surprise to most here that several of these ‘versus’ match-ups will feature prominently along both sides of the line of scrimmage. It’s a popular opinion that if the Sooners are going to have any chance in this game against Alabama, they are going to have win more often than not at the point of attack. I don’t necessarily think OU has to dominate, mainly because I know that they’re capable of actually accomplishing that against this Alabama team, but they will have to win more than their share of battles.

Jordan Wade vs. Chad Lindsay

Once again it appears the pressure to disrupt things up the middle for this OU defense will fall squarely on Wade’s shoulders. The only healthy guy behind him, Torrea Peterson, is expected to be unavailable in this game for reasons Bob Stoops (or any other OU coach) has refused to go into. Thus, much like the Oklahoma State game, it’s not unrealistic to expect Wade to once again play every snap at nose tackle.

If there is a plus here for the Sooners, it’s that Wade won’t be facing an All-American and Rimington Trophy winner like Alabama had last year in Barrett Jones. Which is not meant to disrespect Lindsay, Bama’s current starting center and a very capable player in his own right, but rather to simply point out this is a match-up Wade can (and needs to) win.

If Wade can disrupt things up front, even drawing double teams, it will help greatly to limit the rushing opportunities for Yeldon, Kenyan Drake, and others.

Gabe Ikard vs. Brandon Ivory

The other respective match-up in the middle and one that could be just as important if Oklahoma is to have success running the ball, something they’ll obviously need to have if they hope to win this game. Not unlike the Wade/Lindsay battle, this is another where Alabama not having a player like a Marcell Dareus or Terrence Cody helps OU’s chances of winning this match-up.

No one starting for Alabama lacks for talent, but Ivory is not the elite difference maker those other two guys were. So with OU lining up an All-American of their own in Ikard, this is a battle the Sooners need to win.

Whether it’s Brennan Clay, Roy Finch, Trevor Knight, or whoever running the ball for OU, they’re going to need lanes with which to run through and the ability to gash Bama up the middle would be huge for this offense.

Charles Tapper vs. Cyrus Kouandjio

Mike Stoops will move his defensive ends around throughout the game, but when Tapper is lined up across from Kouandjio it will be a true test of just how far the incredibly talented OU sophomore has progressed this year.

Kouandjio is a consensus All-American and could be a Top 10 NFL draft pick should he choose to come out a year early. While Tapper has all the talent in the world and though still raw as a football player, has more than enough athleticism to give Kouandjio problems.

And Tapper will need to do just that because getting pressure on McCarron and making him uncomfortable in the pocket are of utmost important in this game. Granted, it won’t solely be on Tapper to do so but he’ll need to be one of the primary sources of said pressure or it could prove to be a long night for OU.

If McCarron is allowed to stand in the pocket and given the time to go through multiple reads, it makes the job of this OU secondary all the more difficult. While as experienced as just about any quarterback in the country, McCarron is not unlike most who play the position in their…shall we say lack of excitement in getting hit. If he’s repeatedly picking himself up off the ground, even if they’re not sacks, that is a very good thing for this OU defense.

Sterling Shepard vs. Jarrick Williams

I’ll confess this one is more of a gut feel than anything. Oklahoma has the talent at wide receiver in Shepard and Jalen Saunders to win the battle against Alabama’s corners. The strength of this Crimson Tide defense is their ability to avoid giving up the big plays, tackling well, and limiting an opponent’s opportunities for big yards after the catch.

Which is where Shepard and Saunders come in.

I chose to single out Shepard because he’ll most likely be matched up against Williams, Bama’s nickel back, and because of his ability out of the slot to find AND exploit those ever so slight openings in the middle of an opposing defense.

I think Shepard is a guy that can give this Alabama defense problems and if they have to start accounting for and/or doubling him, then it opens up things for everyone else on this OU offense.

Those are several of the match-ups we’ll be keeping a close eye on, but we want to hear some of those you’ll be watching for in this Sugar Bowl game. So hit us up in the comments with some of your key match-ups and how you think OU will fare.

  • Indy_sooner

    Excellent piece Jordan. I have a feeling that ou is taking this game a lot more seriously than they have done in the past

    • Jordan Esco


  • Ed Cotter

    Another match up to watch is Alabama WR Amari Cooper vs. Aaron Colvin. Colvin Island needs to be on his game against Bama’s best WR. This is a great opportunity for Colvin to show that he is healthy and help his draft stock, and hopefully take away one of Alabama’s biggest offensive threats.

    • Jordan Esco

      No question. Although I might suggest w/ his propensity to bite on double moves and Bama’s favor of setting up those type of routes w/ their play-action, that Zack Sanchez might be the OU corner under the most pressure.

      But I was trying to feature some of the less obvious individual match-ups that could play just as important of a role in the outcome of this game.

      Cooper vs. Colvin will be a really good test w/ respect to the latter’s NFL potential, IMO.

      • SoonerfanTU

        I worry about Sanchez. I think Saban will set him up, and they’ll probably get an easy score or long play off him biting.

        • Shelby is a Patriot

          They’ll probably try, but I really like Sanchez, and feel like he’ll be ready. But that’s just an opinion.

        • Daryl

          I honestly think Sanchez has had a better year than Colvin. I understand Colvin has been hurt and playing through the pain, but still Sanchez has been great. Even when he has been beat it has been very very rare that he wasn’t in a position to still make a play. I can only think of maybe twice where he was just left by someone. I agree he is young and that is a little frightening but I think he plays well and I will predict he gets an INT but we still lose!

          • Eric Hoffpauir

            Huh? Sanchez played well for a freshman, and Colvin, to the extent that teams went at him, didn’t play as well as he is capable, but Colvin still had a better year.

      • soonermusic

        I’m not sure whom he’d be matched up with, but it sure would be nice to see Scooba have a huge game.

        • Jordan Esco

          I think Bama is somewhat vulnerable at both corner spots. Safety, not so much, but their corners aren’t on that same elite level as they’ve been in years past, IMO.

    • Shelby is a Patriot

      Cooper seems like the one Bama WR who isn’t as focused as the others. I say this because he’s tweeted stuff about wondering why they’re in the Sugar Bowl. Now, that could mean nothing and he’ll do good, anyway, but Colvin looks hungry. Slick gonna humble this kid, hopefully.

  • AlexOU

    Ripkowski vs Mosley, someone is going to need to get a hat on that guy, guessing it will most likely be Rip. I think he does well most of the night with a few blown opportunities. Someone like Mosley is going to get his plays

  • SoonerfanTU

    I don’t know a ton about Bama’s tackles (I’m sure they are good), but is Striker somebody that can have some success off the edge tonight? Will we possibly see less of him blitzing except in obvious passing downs?

  • Sooner Ray

    Nice job Jordan, Every match up looks tough to me. I don’t think we whip them face to face, we must out maneuver them with speed and deception on D while covering tight in the secondary. On O we must be assignment sound and allow our runners to get to the second level and must have some huge pass plays down field. If we can make it 4 qtr’s without injury, we may have a chance, slip at all and it will be very ugly at the end.

  • Jive Turkey

    This will be definitely be one of the most difficult games in the last 15 years, but for once it’s a win-win. Who else thought with a bunch of young guys on defense, new QB(s), injuries, etc etc we’d be 10-2 playing arguably the best team in the country in a BCS bowl. I’m still shocked we beat OSU in Stillwater. So for once, in a long time it seems like..if we play somewhat tough through 2-3 quarters, I’ll be happy. If you lose, you were picked to, if you win, holy god hallelujah best win evverrr.

  • leatherneck1061

    Fingers crossed. Kickoff getting closer and closer. At this point I’m starting to have trouble breathing already.

  • Matthew Hawkins

    Good call on Shephard.

    Though it was Styker who beat Kouand Jio for most the game.