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Published: December 29, 2008
(8) Penn State Nittany Lions [11-1] – Big Ten Champions vs. (1) Oklahoma Sooners [12-0] – Big 12 Champions
Cotton Bowl – Dallas, Texas
Coming off an easy victory over Troy, the Sooners cruise into Dallas with their starters well-rested and with their offense operating like a well-oiled machine. However, the Sooners will be without electrifying running back, DeMarco Murray, who will be sidelined for the remainder of the tournament with an injured knee. That means the carries will be split between junior Chris Brown and sophomore Mossis Madu. Without the dynamic Murray, Oklahoma definitely loses some of it’s offensive potency, but with 2008 Heisman Trophy quarterback Sam Bradford at the helm, along with their exceptional fleet of receivers, the Sooners are still a tremendously formidable offense. Penn State comes in to the quarterfinal matchup after outlasting 9th seeded Boise State, 24-20, in Happy Valley. Sophomore running back Evan Royster had a big game, rushing for over 100 yards and a couple of scores, while junior quarterback Daryll Clark was his normal steady self, displaying great decision-making and efficiency throwing the ball coupled with terrific deftness running, as well.
This game showcases everything you like to see in a football game; speed and athleticism blended with toughness and plenty of hard-hitting. The primary key in this particular match-up is how well Penn State’s secondary can contain Bradford and the Sooner passing attack. If the Nittany Lions can create pressure with their talented front four, then the task of corralling Bradford is made much easier. Defensive ends Maurice Evans and Aaron Maybin may be the best pair of bookends in the country, combining great athleticism with impressive strength. Without the pass rush, the Nittany Lion secondary — while talented and experienced — will be picked apart. When Penn State takes the field on offense, they must be efficient; converting touchdowns when they’re in the red zone as much as possible. Clark is a heady player who is helped exponentially by the two-headed monster at running back in Royster and freshman, Stephfon Green. The problem is that the Sooners are strong up front, behind future NFL first rounder at defensive tackle, in sophomore Gerald McCoy. While the loss of Murray must not be over-looked, the Sooners are able to get by in this game despite being unbalanced offensively. Bradford comes up huge once again and the Sooners are successful on defense in stymying the Penn State rushing attack, forcing Clark to carry the load himself. Oklahoma wins a close one as the Nittany Lion secondary proves it is not up to the task of defending Bradford, though, the fact the Sooners were so one-dimensional exposes them badly in the process. Final: Oklahoma 34, Penn State 24.
Player of the Game: Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford