Running game (Advantage: OU)
• Oklahoma’s Joe Moore Award-winning offensive line has helped pave the way for six games of 300 rushing yards or more this season. The backfield is young — led by Trey Sermon (sophomore), Kennedy Brooks (redshirt freshman) — and has been limited by injury, but the Sooners still average 253.9 rushing yards. Alabama’s Damien Harris is second all-time in the SEC in career yards per carry (6.56). SEC defensive fronts are more daunting than the Big 12’s, but on paper, OU’s run game has been better.
Passing game (Advantage: OU)
• How’s this for a slim statistical difference: Alabama averages 325.5 yards passing to OU’s 324. Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has an efficiency rating of 202.30 and has thrown for 3,353 yards and 37 TDs, despite not playing a number of fourth quarters. So why the OU advantage? The Sooners are more comfortable winning this way, or as Lincoln Riley put it many times this week: “Everyone has their own formula.”
Run defense (Advantage: Alabama)
• Alabama allows just 117 yards rushing per game, ranking 19th nationally. Five different teams have rushed for fewer than 70 yards against the Crimson Tide, and neither Louisville (16 yards), LSU (12) nor Tennessee (31) could crack 35 yards. Four different Alabama opponents couldn’t manage any runs longer than 11 yards. OU, of course, allowed Kansas to run wild (348 yards).
Pass defense (Advantage: Alabama)
• Alabama’s been hit for some big passing totals this season, but the Crimson Tide still surrender just 178.4 yards per game and have picked off 14 passes. OU’s been tinkering with its secondary, moving cornerback Tre Norwood to safety in its previous game to get an extra experienced defensive back on the field. The Sooners could be better in that scenario Saturday, should freshman Brendan Radley-Hiles remain out of the defensive game plan, but how much better?
Special teams (Advantage: OU)
• OU’s Austin Seibert needs six points to become the FBS’ all-time leading scorer among kickers. He’s a weapon in all three phases of the kicking game for the Sooners. Meanwhile, Alabama’s Joseph Bulovas has missed five extra points this season. Including Austin Jones’ struggles, the Crimson Tide have missed eight total. Bulovas is 12 of 16 on field goals, with misses from 30, 33 and 24 yards.
Intangibles (Advantage: Alabama)
• OU receiver Marquise Brown and Tagovailoa’s health will play a factor, but Brown’s ability to reach 100 percent means more to the Sooners. At full speed he can keep the secondary honest and create bigger plays — he leads the nation since the start of last season with 14 catches of 50 or more yards. But can Brown really reach full speed? Alabama needs Tagovailoa, too, but has a sturdy backup in Jalen Hurts.
Palmateer is sports editor for for The Norman Transcript, a CNHI News Service publication.