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2009 Sun Bowl - Stanford vs. Oklahoma
Stanford RB Toby Gerhart & OU DT Gerald McCoy
Stanford RB Toby Gerhart & OU DT Gerald McCoy
Posted Dec 24, 2009

The CFN 2009 Sun Bowl Preview - Stanford vs. Oklahoma

2009 Sun Bowl

Stanford (8-4) vs. Oklahoma (7-5)

El Paso, TX, Dec. 31, 2 pm, CBS

Scroll Down For Bowl Histories & Best Moments

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Team Pages and 2009 Season


- 2008 CFN Sun Bowl Preview
- 2007 CFN Sun Bowl Preview
- 2006 CFN Sun Bowl Preview
National Rankings
O   S
28th Total Offense 13th
7th Total Defense 85th
30th Scoring Offense 10th
7th Scoring Defense 65th
69th Rushing Offense 11th
7th Run Defense 61st
17th Passing Offense 59th
22nd Passing Defense 105th
41st Turnover Margin 59th
Position Ratings
relative to each other
O 5 highest
1 lowest
3.5 Quarterbacks 2
4.5 RBs 5
3.5 Receivers 3
3.5 O Line 4.5
5 D Line 2.5
4 Linebackers 3
4.5 Secondary 1.5
5 Spec Teams 3
5 Coaching 5
Sun Bowl History
2008 Oregon State 3, Pitt 0
2007 Oregon 56, South Florida 21
2006 Oregon State 39, Missouri 38
2005 UCLA 50, Northwestern 38
2004 Arizona State 27, Purdue 23
2003 Minnesota 31, Oregon 30
2002 Purdue 34, Washington 24
2001 Washington St 33, Purdue 27
2000 Wisconsin 21, UCLA 20
1999 Oregon 24, Minnesota 20
1998 TCU 28, USC 19
1997 Arizona State 17, Iowa 7
1996 Stanford 38, Michigan St 0
1995 Iowa 38, Washington 18
1994 Texas 35, North Carolina 31
1993 Oklahoma 41, Texas Tech 10
1992 Baylor 20, Arizona 15
1991 UCLA 6, Illinois 3
1990 Michigan State 17, USC 16
1989 Pitt 31 Texas A&M 28
1988 Alabama 29, Army 28
1987 Oklahoma State 35, West Virginia 33
1986 Alabama 28, Washington 6
1985 Arizona 13, Georgia 13
1984 Maryland 28, Tennessee 27
1983 Alabama 28, SMU 7
1982 North Carolina 26, Texas 10
1981 Oklahoma 40, Houston 14
1980 Nebraska 31, Mississippi State 17
1979 Washington 14, Texas 7
1978 Texas 42, Maryland 0
1977 (Dec.) Stanford 24, LSU 14
1977 (Jan.) Texas A&M 37, Florida 14
1975 Pitt 33, Kansas 19
1974 Mississippi State 26, North Carolina 24
1973 Missouri 34, Auburn 17
1972 North Carolina 32, Texas Tech 28
1971 LSU 33, Iowa State 15
1970 Georgia Tech 17, Texas Tech 9
1969 Nebraska 45, Georgia 6
1968 Auburn 34, Arizona 10
1967 UTEP 14, Mississippi 7
1966 Wyoming 28, Florida State 20
1965 UTEP 13, TCU 12
1964 Georgia 7, Texas Tech 0
1963 Oregon 21, SMU 14
1962 West Texas A&M 15, Ohio 14
1961 Villanova 17, Wichita State 9
1960 New Mexico State 20, Utah State 13
1959 New Mexico State 28, North Texas 8
1958 (Dec.) Wyoming 14, Hardin-Simmons 6
1958 (Jan.) Louisville 34, Drake 20
1957 George Wash 13, UTEP 0
1956 Wyoming 21, Texas Tech 14
1955 UTEP 47, Florida State 20
1954 UTEP 37, Southern Miss 14
1953 Pacific 26, Southern Miss 7
1952 Texas Tech 25, Pacific 14
1951 West Texas A&M 14, Cincinnati 13
1950 UTEP 33, Georgetown 20
1949 West Virginia 21, UTEP 12
1948 Miami-Ohio 13, Texas Tech 12
1947 Cincinnati 18, Virginia Tech 16
1946 New Mexico 34, Denver 24
1945 Southwestern (TX) 35, New Mexico 0
1944 Southwestern (TX) 7, New Mexico 0
1943 Second Air Force 13, Hardin-Simmons 7
1942 Tulsa 6, Texas Tech 0
1941 Case Reserve 26, Arizona St 13
1940 Arizona State 0, Catholic 0
1939 Utah 26, New Mexico 0
1938 West Virginia 7, Texas Tech 6
1937 Hardin-Simmons 34, UTEP 6
1936 Hardin-Simmons 14, New Mexico State 14

If someone had told you four months ago that Stanford and Oklahoma would be playing in a bowl game, you’d have thought 1) the Cardinal came up with an all-timer of a season, or 2) Oklahoma was a total mess, or 3) a little of both.

For a Sooner program that has made January bowl appearances a regular occurrence the Sun Bowl isn’t exactly the prize that it is for the Cardinal, but in a transitional season when just about everything that went wrong went wrong, it’s not that bad a bowl game. At 7-5, the record equals the 1999 season under Bob Stoops, and then the next year came the national championship. Since 2000, OU has won 13, 11, 12, 12, 12, 8, 11, 11, and 12 games with four national title appearances, six Big 12 championships, and seven BCS appearances as Stoops has revived one of the college football’s elite of the elite programs. By almost any measure, Oklahoma has been a powerhouse who deserves to be considered among the elite of the elite programs over the last decade, but there has been one glaring issue that Stoops and his team have to get past. For all the great things the team has done, for all the wins, and for all the Big 12 titles, OU has become a disaster in the bowls.

Ever since Mike Stoops left to take on the Arizona head coaching job, which came around the time of the meltdown in the 2003 Big 12 Championship loss to Kansas State, OU has lost five of its last six bowls with the only win coming over Oregon in the 2005 Holiday. While winning the Sun Belt wouldn’t make up for the three national title defeats, the let down vs. Boise State in the 2006 Fiesta, and the clunker against West Virginia in the 2007 Fiesta, it would show that everything might really be fine and this season was simply a bump in the road.

Think about what might have been. Had Sam Bradford stayed healthy all year, OU would’ve beaten BYU and Miami (they lost each game by a point), likely would’ve been four points better against Texas, and wouldn’t have been awful against Nebraska. Landry Jones was a solid fill-in and showed the potential to be the next great Sooner QB, but it’s not insane to suggest that the Sooners would’ve been 11-1, assuming Bradford wouldn’t have been enough to overcome the buzzsaw loss at Texas Tech, had Bradford and TE Jermaine Gresham been able to go. Yeah, but they weren’t healthy and there were a slew of other injury problems that hit the team hard throughout the season. Stanford isn’t going to care very much that OU had issues.

The Cardinal became the Pac 10’s hot team this season thanks to a stunning 55-21 blowout win over USC, an impressive 45-38 win over Notre Dame, and with a 51-42 win over Pac 10 champ Oregon, but the consistency wasn’t there. The USC win was followed up with a home loss to a mediocre Cal team. The defense didn’t show up in losses at Oregon State and Arizona, while there was a strange, tough early season loss at Wake Forest that served as the only blemish on a great first five weeks. Led by Heisman runner-up Toby Gerhart, an “it” head coach in Jim Harbaugh, and a hotshot freshman quarterback, Andrew Luck, this was among the nation’s most fun teams. But it’ll take a win over the Sooners to truly validate the season.

The last time Stanford was in the Sun Bowl was also the team’s last bowl win beating Michigan State 38-0 in 1996. Since 1978, the Cardinal has appeared in seven bowl games and has won just two, but it has been eight years since the last post-season appearance, a Seattle Bowl loss to Georgia Tech, and this is a whole new era and a whole different program now. This isn’t a cute little story; this is a team that really is good enough to beat Oklahoma.

The Pac 10 has won the last five Sun Bowls and this usually has been an entertaining game with four of the last six games decided by a total of nine points, and unlike last year’s 3-0 Oregon State win over Pitt, this should be a bit more fun.

Players to Watch
: Toby Gerhart lost the Heisman to Mark Ingram by a hair, and now he’ll be looking to show that he probably deserved a few extra votes. The senior could come back for one more year if he wanted to, but he’s going to be off to the NFL and this will be his final chance to make a big statement against the best run defense he’ll face all season. A true workhorse with 20 or more carries in 11 of the 12 games this year, he leads the nation in rushing yards with 1,736 to go along with 26 touchdowns including 13 rushing scores in the final three games. Only Wake Forest (83 yards) and Oregon State (96) held Gerhart to under 100 yards, and Stanford lost both of those games. He’ll have to carry more of the workload than normal with Luck likely out with a finger injury, but even though Oklahoma will know the fastball is coming, it’s not a sure thing that it can do anything about it. Gerhart is that good.

Oklahoma finished seventh in the nation against the run anchored by All-America DT Gerald McCoy, a 6-4, 297-pound star who’s playing his final college game. The junior has already said he’s leaving early for the NFL and will almost certainly be a top five pick in the 2010 Draft as long as he can get through this game healthy. While he’s not a stat-sheet filler like a Ndamukong Suh of Nebraska, and he’s not a block of granite type of tackle who clogs everything up like Alabama’s Terrence Cody, but he does a little of everything right. 14.5 of his 31 tackles came behind the line of scrimmage, and while he’s a disruptive force who demands a double team on every play, he might have problems against a line that allowed a mere six sacks on the year.

While this game doesn’t mean much in the overall scheme of the planet, it’s a big moment for the Oklahoma offseason and the perception of Landry Jones, the talented freshman who played like a burgeoning superstar at times, throwing five touchdown passes against Texas A&M and six against Tulsa, and a freshman in other games with five picked against Nebraska and 13 overall on the year. Unlike Sam Bradford last year, Jones didn’t get the benefit of playing behind a veteran line that was one of the best in America, and he didn’t have the targets to work with that the Heisman-winner enjoyed. Stanford will give up passing yards in chunks and the opportunity will be there to hit several big plays, but the key will be to make the routine ones. As long as Jones settles into a groove and takes what the soft Cardinal secondary will give him, he should be able to keep the chains moving. However, it’ll be tempting to bomb away on a Cardinal D that gives up 252 yards per game and doesn’t generate much pressure into the backfield.

Stanford will win if ... Tavita Pritchard has the game of his life. Assuming that Luck is out, or possibly limited, it’ll be up to Pritchard to show early on that the Stanford passing game needs to be respected. It’s not like he’s being plucked out of chem class to get his shot in the big game; he was the starter for most of last year and was a big part of the upset at USC two years ago. While his main job will be to hand it off to Gerhart, he has to push the ball down the field successfully early on or else OU defensive coordinator Brent Venables will send everyone and the Sooner Schooner up to the line to stop the run. Pritchard’s biggest issue has been interceptions, and considering he’ll be under pressure, he has to keep the mistakes to a minimum and not be afraid to eat the ball and live to fight another day.

Oklahoma will win if ... the run defense stuffs Gerhart. OU faced two teams this season that could run, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M. The Cowboys ran for 62 yards in a 27-0 loss, while the Aggies ran for 59 yards in a 65-10 nail-biter. Stanford should have a few new wrinkles added to the mix with all the extra time to prepare, but in the end it all comes down to blocking and tackling, and OU does that extremely well. Outside of the 41-13 disaster at Texas Tech, the defense’s problem has been coming up with the big stop late in losses to Miami and BYU. But for the most part, the D isn’t the reason OU is 7-5.

The other big key for OU will be to care and to handle itself outside of the State of Oklahoma. This has been a cute stat over the last few years, and now it has become a major issue. Since an opening day loss to TCU on September 3, 2005, Oklahoma is 33-0 inside the state’s borders. Step outside, even in neutral site games or relative home dates in Texas, and over that same span OU is 15-16 and 0-5 this year. Oklahoma, even in a down year, is better than Stanford, but it has to play like it and treat this seriously.

What will happen: Pritchard won’t be Luck, and even if Luck is able to go the Stanford passing game won’t go anywhere. The Oklahoma run defense will bottle up Gerhart and will hold him to his lowest output of the season, Jones will come up with a huge day throwing the ball, and with one big game, and Oklahoma will be back to being among the highly ranked programs in the 2010 preseason rankings. Stanford is well coaches and isn’t going to get rolled over, and Harbaugh and his staff should be able to make a few adjustments to keep this interesting, but OU’s defense will be the story.

CFN Prediction: Oklahoma 38 … Stanford 17 ... Line: Oklahoma -8

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Best Sooner Bowl Moment: Although the last five BCS bowl appearances have been eminently forgettable, OU’s 24-17-1 bowl record ranks among the best of any program with at least 15 appearances. The Sooners, regulars in Miami throughout the years, used the 2001 Orange Bowl as a vehicle to regaining their status as a perennial national title contender. The Oklahoma defense suffocated high-powered Florida State in a shocking 13-2 win that captured the school’s seventh national championship.

Best Cardinal Bowl Moment: When you’re a member of the Pac-10, success is measured by Rose Bowl victories. For Stanford, that hasn’t happened since the early 1970s. The Cardinal actually won back-to-back games in 1971 and 1972 under the guidance of head coach John Ralston. In 1971, it handed Ohio State its first loss of the year, 27-17, behind Heisman-winning QB Jim Plunkett. In 1972, it gave Michigan its lone blemish, 13-12, on the strength of QB Don Bunce and a game-winning field goal from Rod Garcia with 12 seconds left.

Stanford Bowl History (9-10)

2001 Seattle Georgia Tech 24, Stanford 14

1999 Rose  Wisconsin 17, Stanford 9

1996 Sun Stanford 38, Michigan State 0

1995 Liberty East Carolina 19, Stanford 13

1992 Blockbuster  Stanford 24, Penn State 3

1991 Aloha Stanford 18, Georgia Tech 17

1986 Gator Clemson 27, Stanford 21

1978 Bluebonnet Stanford 25, Georgia 22

1977 Sun Stanford 24, LSU 14

1971 Rose Stanford 13, Michigan 12

1970 Rose Stanford 27, Ohio State 17

1951 Illinois 40, Stanford 7

1940 Rose Stanford 21, Nebraska 13

1935 Rose Stanford 7, SMU 0

1934 Rose Alabama 29, Stanford 13

1933 Rose Columbia 7, Stanford 0

1927 Rose Stanford 7, Pitt 6

1926 Rose Alabama 7, Stanford 7

1924 Rose Notre Dame 27, Stanford 10

1901 Rose Michigan 49, Stanford 0
Oklahoma Bowl History (24-17-1)
2009 BCS Champ. Florida 24, Oklahoma 14
2008 Fiesta West Virginia 48, Oklahoma 28
2007 Fiesta Boise St 43, Oklahoma 42 OT
2005 Holiday Oklahoma 17, Oregon 14
2004 Orange USC 55, Oklahoma 19
2003 Sugar LSU 21, Oklahoma 14
2002 Rose Oklahoma 34, Washington State 14
2001 Cotton Oklahoma 10, Arkansas 3
2000 Orange Oklahoma 13, Florida State 2
1999 Independence Mississippi 27, Oklahoma 25
1994 Copper Brigham Young 31, Oklahoma 6
1993 Hancock Oklahoma 41, Texas Tech 10
1991 Gator Oklahoma 48, Virginia 14
1988 Citrus Clemson 13, Oklahoma 6
1987 Orange Miami 20, Oklahoma 14
1986 Orange Oklahoma 42, Arkansas 8
1985 Orange Oklahoma 25, Penn State 10
1984 Orange Washington 28, Oklahoma 17
1982 Fiesta Arizona State 32, Oklahoma 21
1981 Sun Oklahoma 40, Houston 14
1980 Orange Oklahoma 18, Florida State 17
1979 Orange Oklahoma 24, Florida State 7
1978 Orange Oklahoma 31, Nebraska 24
1977 Orange Arkansas 31, Oklahoma 6
1976 Fiesta Oklahoma 41, Wyoming 7
1975 Orange Oklahoma 14, Michigan 6
1972 Sugar Oklahoma 14, Penn State 0
1971 Sugar Oklahoma 42, Auburn 22
1970 Astro-Bluebonnet Oklahoma 24, Alabama 24
1968 Astro-Bluebonnet SMU 28, Oklahoma 27
1967 Orange Oklahoma 26, Tennessee 24
1964 Gator Florida State 36, Oklahoma 19
1962 Orange Alabama 17, Oklahoma 0
1958 Orange Oklahoma 21, Syracuse 6
1957 Orange Oklahoma 48, Duke 21
1955 Orange Oklahoma 20, Maryland 6
1953 Orange Oklahoma 7, Maryland 0
1950 Sugar Kentucky 13, Oklahoma 7
1949 Sugar Oklahoma 35, LSU 0
1948 Sugar Oklahoma 14, North Carolina 6
1946 Gator Oklahoma 34, NC State 13
1938 Orange Tennessee 17, Oklahoma 0