The Norman Transcript


November 7, 2009

NEW: Tonight's battle will have more than just nostalgia

LINCOLN, Neb. -- National championships and conference championships have been won and lost on the outcome of Oklahoma-Nebraska games.

Tonight's meeting between the Big Reds at Nebraska's Memorial Stadium doesn't have those implications. The 20th-ranked Sooners (5-3, 3-1 Big 12) are out of the national championship picture and hopes of representing the Big 12 South in the conference title game are minute. Nebraska (5-3, 2-2) might win the North, but share the Sooners' lack of position in the national title race.

And still there will be a very interesting battle tonight.

OU defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh are widely considered the two best defensive linemen in college football. They're neck-and-neck for just about every national award a defensive linemen can get. They're also thought to be two players who will be very high picks in the 2010 NFL draft.

If there were two Heisman Trophy-contending quarterbacks, it would be a can't-miss contest. Instead, it's two fantastic defensive linemen.

"Their guy is a great player, and everyone knows how we feel about Gerald," OU defensive coordinator Brent Venables said. "They're both tremendous players. Two of the best defensive tackles that have come through this conference in a long time."

They're so dominant that statistics can't fully measure the impact they have on games. Suh has five sacks, McCoy has 31?2. McCoy holds the edge in tackles for loss with 12 to Suh's 11.

But what numbers they put up are only accumulated after fighting through double teams every snap. The attention they get opens opportunities around the defensive lines they play on.

Great support

OU defensive end Jeremy Beal is as good a defensive end as the Sooners have produced. He has 81?2 sacks and 131?2 tackles for loss in just eight games. But don't think for a second some of that credit doesn't belong to McCoy, who typically lines up inside of Beal, demanding attention the defensive end therefore doesn't face.

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