The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Friday February 3rd

Sooner Crowd, `D' Await Tar Heels

Oklahoma's offensive line is a trouble spot for the Sooners, but their defense is among the nation's best.

Site: Memorial Stadium.

TV/radio: ESPN will televise the game nationally. The Tar Heel Sports Network will provide live radio coverage; its flagship station is WCHL1360 AM.

Records: Season opener for both teams.

Series: Oklahoma leads 6-0.

Personnel update: North Carolina -- PK Jeff Reed (sprained ankle) is questionable. Oklahoma -- None reported.

The Key Matchup: Oklahoma's weakest area might be its offensive line -- unfortunately for North Carolina, that isn't really saying much.

Three starters return on the Sooners' line, but junior Josh Smith, who played nine games last season, is a new starter at center, and redshirt freshman Wes Sims takes over the right tackle spot.

It's a small opening for the Tar Heels, but it's one they're going to have to exploit to keep the score respectable.

All-American defensive end Julius Peppers surely will keep the pressure on junior quarterback Nate Hybl, who takes over starting duties for Heisman Trophy runner-up Josh Heupel.

Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said last week he would decide whether to adjust OU's blocking scheme to account for Peppers during practice this week.

"Certainly, he's an exceptional pass rusher and defensive player, Julius Peppers," Stoops said, "and without question we will pay close attention to where he is all the time."

It's almost certain, though, that the Sooners will stick to their usual one-on-one scheme.

But if Peppers starts to dominate -- and UNC tackles Ryan Sims and Will Chapman and end Joey Evans get penetration -- Oklahoma could have some problems offensively.

"They're not better than us up front," Peppers said. "We've got four of the best `D' linemen in the country."

Final analysis/prediction: Jeff Reed was upgraded from doubtful to questionable Thursday and will be available, maybe, for extra points, which could cost UNC a field goal or two. Reed sprained his left ankle at practice Tuesday while practicing kickoffs.

But his absence could just make the score more lopsided, not cost UNC a win.

North Carolina has talent, but the Sooners are way too deep defensively, and the Tar Heels might never see the red zone, let alone the end zone. Oklahoma linebacker Rocky Calmus and strong safety Roy Williams could be the best at their positions in the nation.

UNC running back Willie Parker and quarterback Ronald Curry really don't stand much of a chance with a young offensive line in front of them.

And if the sold-out crowd of 72,765 gets to them, it could get ugly.

"You try to simulate it as best you can," said North Carolina coach John Bunting, who has been pumping crowd noise from speakers at practices. "But nothing can replace the actual experience."

It'll be a learning one for UNC.

Oklahoma 27, UNC 3.

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