2002 College Bowls

  Posted: Monday December 30, 2002 8:36 PM

No. 8 Oklahoma (11-2) vs. No. 7 Washington St. (10-2)
Rose Bowl: Jan. 1, 5 p.m. EST (ABC)
Rose Bowl (92,000)'s Stewart Mandel breaks down the Rose Bowl.
A Pac-10 title-clinching victory over UCLA in Pasadena on Dec. 7 earned Washington State a return trip 25 days later, its third Rose Bowl appearance in school history. Oklahoma, which beat Colorado for the Big 12 championship, has played in 35 bowl games, but this will be the school's first appearance in the Grandaddy of them All, which hosts a team from outside the Big Ten or Pac-10 for the second straight year after 55 uninterrupted years. Washington State will be playing under unique circumstances: Head coach Mike Price has already accepted a job at Alabama but will still oversee the Cougars in this game. Defensive coordinator Bill Doba will take over as Price's replacement after the bowl.

  Quentin Griffin Quentin Griffin
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Oklahoma's offense vs. Washington State's defense
Just two years after winning the national title by throwing the ball 40 times a game, this season's Sooners have developed a power running game out of their spread formations, led by senior tailback Quentin Griffin (133.9 yards per game), who's had nine consecutive 100-yard games. An aggressive Cougars defensive front led by Outland Trophy winner Rien Long (20 tackles for loss, 13 sacks) will have to fend off Griffin largely on its own, as the Sooners' multiple-receiver sets often necessitate extra defensive backs. Washington State has a couple talented corners in Marcus Trufant and Jason David who should be able to handle OU's receivers one-on-one, but QB Nate Hybl (22 TDs, 8 INTs) likes to take advantage of openings in the short field and find TE Trent Smith. But he'll need protection against what will likely be heavy pressure from Long, Fred Shavies, Isaac Brown and the rest of a defense that has 52 sacks.

  Jason Gesser Jason Gesser
Otto Greule Jr./Getty Images
Washington State's offense vs. Oklahoma's defense
Record-setting QB Jason Gesser (3,169 yards, 27 TDs) leads a Cougars offense that averages 35 points and 437 yards per game. But he'll be going against one of the nation's most heralded defenses, one that allowed only 15.5 points per contest. Oklahoma's defenders are unusually fast and athletic, but Texas A&M and Oklahoma State showed that they can be burned deep. With his ultra-quick release, Gesser will look to get burners Devard Darling, Mike Bush and Jerome Riley in one-on-one matchups with Sooner corners Derrick Strait and Andre Woolfolk. But count on OU's coaches to use plenty of wrinkles to confuse Gesser, moving safety Brandon Everage all over the field and dropping versatile LB Teddy Lehman into pass coverage. Washington State would like to have some balance with RB Jermaine Green, but Oklahoma allows a mere 3.2 yards per carry on the ground.

The Sooners have a dangerous weapon in punt returner Antonio Perkins (14.3 yards per return, two TDs) and have blocked four punts but have also had three of their own kicks blocked. The Cougars have a reliable field-goal kicker in Drew Dunning, though his range is limited, as is Oklahoma's Trey DiCarlo. Bob Stoops and the rest of the OU coaching staff is arguably the best in the business at big-game preparation. It will be interesting to see what effect Price's situation has on the Cougars, who could either rally around their departing coach or be distracted.

Washington State QB Jason Gesser
Sr., 6-1, 200
2002 stats: 219-of-368 (59.5 percent), 3,169 yards, 27 TDs, 11 INTs

The three-year starter's 24-10 career record is by far the best in school history, while his 8,815 yards of offense rank seventh in Pac-10 history.

Oklahoma FS Brandon Everage
Jr., 6-0, 190
2002 stats: 87 tackles, five INTs, 11 pass break-ups

The Thorpe Award semifinalist is one of the top playmakers on Oklahoma's defense, returning his five interceptions for 92 yards.

No question Washington State has the athleticism to keep pace with Oklahoma. Gesser has the potential to have a huge day passing if he can get the right protection. But the Sooners are a much more physical team and should be able to wear down the Cougars' defense through the course of the game with Quentin Griffin, like Maurice Clarett and Ohio State did earlier in the season.
The pick: Oklahoma 26, Washington State 21

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