2006 Independence Bowl - OSU vs. Bama

Posted Dec 14, 2006

2006 PetroSun Independence Bowl - Oklahoma State vs. Alabama

Oklahoma State (6-6) vs. Alabama (6-6)

Dec. 28, 4:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

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PetroSun Independence Bowl Player Profile: Oklahoma State WR Adarius Bowman, team bowl history and more

Talk about two programs going in opposite directions.

Oklahoma State has a hot young team with offensive explosion, an aggressive defense, and an interesting coaching staff that appears to have the program on the verge of big things. On the flip side, while the Alabama administration and fans don't think the program is in a rebuilding mode, things aren't exactly going well when you fire your head coach and several big name coaches have no interest. The Tide is in a holding pattern until it finds its new head man and will turn to defensive coordinator Joe Kines to lead the way through the bowl season.

Getting to a bowl marks the first big step in the Mike Gundy era at Oklahoma State, while not going to a big, New Year's Day game represents a mega-disappointment for an Alabama program that won ten games and the Cotton Bowl last year. Oklahoma State is eighth in the nation in scoring offense, while Alabama's offense struggled against even the most average of defenses. Alabama is great against the pass, Oklahoma State can't stop the pass. Oklahoma State has one of the nation's best pass rushes, while Alabama can't get to the quarterback.

National Rankings
Oklahoma St Alabama
Total Offense
16th  409 ypg 60th  340.92 ypg
Total Defense
92nd  371.42 ypg 18th  287.58 ypg
Scoring Offense
8th  35.33 ppg 73rd  22.25 ppg
Scoring Defense
79th  25.17 ppg 29th  18 ppg
Run Offense
8th  208.08 ypg 75th  124.33 ypg
Run Defense
83rd  149.92 ypg 37th  117.75 ypg
Pass Offense
57th  200.92 ypg 45th  216.58 ypg
Pass Defense
87th  221.5 ypg 16th  169.83 ypg
Turnover Margin
41st  0.33 16th  0.67
Oklahoma State
Missouri St W 52-10
at Ark St W 35-7
Fla Atlantic W 48-8
at Houston L 34-25
at Kans St L 31-27
at Kansas W 42-32
Tex A&M L 34-33 OT
Nebraska W 41-29
at Texas L 36-10
Baylor W 66-24
at Tex Tech L 30-24
Oklahoma L 27-21
Hawaii W 25-17
Vanderbilt W 13-10
UL Monroe W 41-7
at Ark. L 24-23 2OT
at Florida L 28-13
W 30-14
Ole Miss 26-23 OT
at Tenn. L 16-13
W 38-3
Miss State L 26-14
at LSU L 28-14
Auburn L 22-15
Position Ratings
relative to each other
OSU 5 highest
1 lowest
4 Quarterbacks 3.5
4.5 RBs 3.5
4.5 Receivers 4
3.5 O Line 3.5
3.5 D Line 3
3 Linebackers 4
3 Secondary 4
4 Spec Teams 3
4 Coaching 2.5

But while the two teams might be good at different things, one thing they have in common is a losing streak with the Cowboys losing two straight and the Tide coming in on a three-game slide.

Alabama was mediocre after a 3-0 start losing six of its final nine games while bottoming out in a home gag to Mississippi State and punctuated by a fifth straight loss to Auburn. The Tide needed overtime to beat a bad Ole Miss team, along with wins over FIU and Duke teams that went winless, to get to six wins and a bowl game after losing to all the good teams on the slate.

Oklahoma State had its breathtaking moments throughout the year with a 42-point second half explosion to beat Kansas, a big offensive day to beat Nebraska, and coming within a fingertip of getting a touchdown catch that would've beaten Oklahoma. This is a fun team on both sides of the ball, but when things are working well, the ground game is rumbling.

While the win over the Huskers was nice, the Cowboys need more brand-name wins. With a lousy non-conference schedule an annual ritual, if they're not beating the big boys in the South like Oklahoma, Texas, Texas A&M and Texas Tech (going 0-4 against them this year), they're not going to get much in the way of national attention.

This might be a battle of also-rans, but these are two teams that likely have much bigger things ahead. It's possible this will be the last time you'll see these two in an early bowl game for a while.

Players to watch: Oklahoma State's Bobby Reid was the high-profile quarterback recruit the program has tried to build things around, but after injuries gave him problems earlier in his career, and inconsistency, along with a shoulder problem, was an issue throughout this season, it was Zac Robinson getting the key snaps late in the Oklahoma game. So angry was Reid that he wasn't in that there were rumors (that turned out to be unfounded) he was going to transfer. There's no question going into the bowl game; Reid is the number one guy and should go coast-to-coast. With a great combination of mobility and raw passing skills, he's a dual threat who needs to be accounted for every time he roams out of the pocket. Against Alabama, he has to establish himself as the unquestioned starter going into 2007, but if he has a game like he had against Texas Tech, completing 11 of 31 passes, Robinson might be in the mix.

Whoever's under center will not just have All-Big 12 WR Adarius Bowman to throw to against the Tide, he'll have him next year as the 6-4, 220-pound junior has decided to return for his senior year. He's a first day pro prospect with game-breaking speed and too much size for most defensive backs to handle. A 13-catch, 300-yard, four touchdown day against Kansas highlighted his season, but he was consistently good throughout the year.

For Alabama to win, it needs to get its running game going and has to hope for Ken Darby to be Ken Darby again. The senior has been one of the year's biggest disappointment with 820 yards, only two 100-yard rushing days, and no rushing touchdowns. Part of the problem was a more pass-happy offense, part of the problem was an average year from the offensive line, and part of the problem was Darby, who didn't show off much of the same pop he had in previous years. If he has any NFL dreams, he needs to come through with a big performance in the final showcase.

The more attention paid to the passing game was justified with a receiver like junior D.J. Hall, who turned into one of the most reliable playmakers in the SEC. Despite being the target of every opposing team's defensive gameplan, he cranked out seven 100-yard games over an eight-game stretch with the one down moment coming against FIU, when the offense ran the ball. While he's a great deep threat with great moves, he's not a scorer with no touchdowns over the final five games.

Oklahoma State will win if... it gets the game into some sort of a shootout. Alabama might have a decent passing game, but it's ill-equipped to get into a firefight. Oklahoma State gives up points and yards, that's a given, while Alabama needs to win with its defense. Bama went over 20 points in six games against Hawaii, UL Monroe, Arkansas (because the game went into overtime), Duke, Ole Miss, and FIU, and only hit 30 in three games. Oklahoma State scored 20 ore more against everyone but Texas and averaged 35.33 points per game. If the Cowboys can get up early, and if the pass rush can come up with a few key sacks, they should be able to come away with the win.

Alabama will win if... turnovers aren't a problem. The Tide is 16th in the nation in turnover margin, but when it did give the ball away, there were almost always disastrous results. This isn't the type of offense that can overcome plenty of mistakes, and it can't afford to go on long drives only to come up empty after a turnover. Bama's defense has to get into the backfield better than it had all season long and has to force the OSU quarterbacks to be off. The Tide run defense should keep OSU from going nuts, and the secondary is strong enough to not get bombed on for a full four quarters, so if the offense can keep pace and take advantage of every opportunity, the program will get its second bowl win in a row.

What will happen: The Oklahoma State offensive balance will be too much for the Tide. Bama QB John Parker Wilson will connect on several big pass plays and Ken Darby will run effectively, but it won't be enough. Alabama's defensive front won't do enough to pressure Bobby Reid, while the get-into-the-backfield-at-all-costs Cowboy defense will do more disruptive harm than normal.

Line: Oklahoma State -2.5 ... CFN Prediction: Oklahoma State 27 ... Alabama 20

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PetroSun Independence Bowl Player Profile: Oklahoma State WR Adarius Bowman, team bowl history and more