Russell Athletic Bowl
Oklahoma (8-4) vs. Clemson (9-3)
Dec. 29, 2014
It's dejå vu all over again for Oklahoma QB Trevor Knight.
Last year, Knight became the darling of the 2013 bowl season with his performance against Alabama. As the Sooners upset the Crimson Tide in the Sugar Bowl, Knight was 32-44 passing for 348 yards, four touchdowns and a lone interception.
It was Knight's best performance of his young career and came as he was wrangling the starting quarterback job away from Blake Bell, who moved to tight end in 2014. Oh, and it also set up some unrealistic expectations for Knight's 2014 season.
And they were expectations that he unsurprisingly didn't fill. Before he suffered an incredibly frightening neck injury against Baylor, Knight was in the midst of a productive yet not spectacular campaign. While his stats didn't look horrible -- his one really bad game came against TCU -- there seemed to be frequent moments of longing from Oklahoma fans. Knight was playing well, but he could also play better.
Recovered and cleared from the neck injury, Knight's presence against Clemson in the Russell Athletic Bowl will be a huge boost to an Oklahoma offense that struggled in his absence. Those same people Knight might have frustrated were longing for his presence in over the final three games of the season.
Does he have to play like he did against Alabama for Oklahoma to win? No. With both Sterling Shepard and Samaje Perine healthy, Knight simply has to make the right decisions against a Clemson defense that's one of the best in the country. Sure, a duplication of Jan. 2, 2014 would be great, but it could inflate expectations once again. And that's a cycle that's vicious enough when experienced once, let alone twice.
Why does Knight not have to be spectacular? Because Clemson's offense is downright average with Cole Stoudt at quarterback. The senior is starting his last game against the Sooners because of freshman phenom Deshaun Watson's ACL surgery.
While Stoudt has completed 62 percent of his passes, he's averaging less than six yards an attempt. It's no coincidence Clemson's best offensive performances have come with Watson at the helm. Can Stoudt buck his 2014 trend?
Vegas odds: Oklahoma (-4)
If Samaje Perine runs for 96 (or more) yards, he'll have the seventh-best rushing season in Oklahoma history. The best Oklahoma rushing season is also by a freshman. In 2004, Adrian Peterson ran for 1,925 yards. Perine is currently at 1,428.
Graham: There hasn't been a lot made about how well the Clemson defense has played this season and it's going to have a chance to really show off against one of the best running backs in the country. However, if it can't keep Perine in check, this one could get ugly quickly, especially with Clemson's beaten up offense. Clemson 21, Oklahoma 17.
Nick: Even with a couple weeks of practices, Knight could very well be rusty. But based off the preview above, I trust Knight to have a good game more than I trust Stoudt. Oklahoma 27, Clemson 17
Sam: Clemson will be without Watson and Oklahoma gets Knight back. I don't have a whole lot of confidence in Stoudt to move the Clemson offense the way Watson does. OU wins. Oklahoma 24, Clemson 21.
For more Clemson news, visit TigerIllustrated.com.
For more Oklahoma news, visit SoonerScoop.com.
- - - - - - -