Bowl Breakdown: Sun

Publish date:

No. 19 Stanford (8-4) vs. Oklahoma (7-5)Dec. 31, 2 p.m. ET, CBS

Reason to watch: Stanford's Heisman runner-up, Toby Gerhart (1,736 yards, 26 TDs), plays his last collegiate game, and he'll be going up against a star-studded Oklahoma defense (led by All-America defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and All-Big 12 linebacker Travis Lewis) that ranks seventh nationally in both rushing defense (88.6 yards per game) and total defense (273.5). Gerhart comes in having averaged 188.5 yards in his last four games.

Keep an eye on: Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones and Stanford counterpart Tavita Pritchard. Jones, a redshirt freshman who replaced 2008 Heisman winner Sam Bradford, has struggled mightily away from home (five touchdowns against nine interceptions, compared to an 18-to-4 ratio at home). He needs a big game to garner confidence heading into next season. Pritchard, a senior who started 19 career games before giving way to freshman Andrew Luck this season, will get one last shot at redemption with Luck recovering from a broken finger. He'll need to show marked improvement from his junior season, in which he ranked 89th nationally in pass efficiency.

Did you know: The Sooners are expected to start their fourth different center this season. Opening-day starter Brody Eldridge moved to tight end before eventually injuring his neck; Ben Habern started 10 games at center before breaking his leg Nov. 21; his replacement from the season finale against Oklahoma State, Brian Lepak, sprained his knee during bowl practices. At least the latest center will be a familiar face: All-America left tackle Trent Williams.

Final analysis: There's no question Gerhart is an exceptional player, but at least part of his increased production this season was due to the emergence of Luck, a gifted downfield passer. Unless Luck returns early in the game (he's back at practice), the Sooners' defense will feast on a one-dimensional attack. And Stanford's 85th-ranked defense shouldn't rattle Jones too badly.

The pick: Oklahoma 27, Stanford 14.

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