December 28, 2006

Breakdown: Tide, Pokes set to square off

The Alabama Crimson Tide (6-6, 2-6 in SEC) will look to snap a three-game losing streak when it takes on Oklahoma State (6-6, 3-5 in Big 12) in the 2006 Independence Bowl (3:30 p.m. CT/ESPN). The Tide is 30-20-3 all-time in bowl games.

BOL senior writer Travis Reier takes a closer look at Thursday's match-up.

Alabama running game vs. Oklahoma State run defense: In the weeks following Mike Shula's dismissal, there's been talk of a more concerted effort to establish the run in the bowl game. Halfback Kenneth Darby has wondered aloud how the season might have turned out had Shula been more committed to the ground game. As for me, I'm wondering what the guys behind Darby might have done had they received more opportunities.

Edge: More so than the talents of Darby and Jimmy Johns, the struggles of the Oklahoma State defense against the run is a major reason why Alabama will likely look to pound the ball early. And ball control is the best way to slow down an OSU offense that ranks among the nation's best. Out of 119 Division I-A teams, the Cowboys rank 84th (149.9 rushing yards apg) in rush defense. Oklahoma ran for 238 yards against the Pokes in the regular-season finale. Edge to Alabama.

Key match up: Alabama offensive guards Marlon Davis, B.J. Stabler and Justin Britt vs. OSU defensive tackles Ryan McBean, Larry Brown and Xavier Lawson-Kennedy.

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