College Football Playoff: Oklahoma Defense In Focus

Last Updated: 2017-12-28

Three teams in the College Football Playoff give up between 11.5 points and 13.2 points per game on the defensive side of the ball. However, the fourth team gives up 25 points per game. On the surface, you may not know who the first three teams are but you definitely know the program that’s letting opponents score almost double of every other participant in the College Football Playoff. That’s why the semi finals are an intriguing mix of styles.

No. 2 Oklahoma Sooners Defense- Big 12 Champions

While the other three College Football Playoff teams are noted for winning with defense, the Oklahoma Sooners are an offensive juggernaut. However, they won’t get enough opportunities to score if the defense can’t keep the Georgia Bulldogs’ offense off the field. You guessed it, the Sooners are the team giving up 25 points per game. They ranked No. 52 in scoring defense. During their lone loss, the Sooners gave up 38 points to the Iowa State Cyclones.

The Sooners only forced two opponents to score in the single digits. They held UTEP to 7 points and Kansas to 3 points. However, they still won games by an average of 19.9 points per game. Therefore, the defense can’t be all bad and they were actually great during the biggest games of the season.

For example, the Sooners limited the Ohio State Buckeyes to 16 points in Week 2. They also held the TCU Horned Frogs to 37 total points in two games, including the Big 12 Championship game. The Buckeyes ended the season with a 42.5 scoring average, while the Horned Frogs scored more than 33 points per game. Well, if the Horned Frogs were held to 18.5 points per game by the Sooners, they may have the recipe to slow down the Georgia Bulldogs in the Rose Bowl.

Opponents have run for 144 yards (42nd rank) per game against the Sooners. Furthermore, they have averaged four yards per carry this season. That’s not a great number. However, the Sooners have held opponents to 36 rushing attempts per game. More importantly, the ground attack wasn’t the reason why the Sooners lost to the Cyclones early in the season. During the comeback victory, the Cyclones ran the ball 32 times for 81 yards. They needed to rely on the pass and that’s where the Sooners became susceptible in the second half. Remember, the Cyclones threw for 368 yards and 3 touchdowns. The Sooners also didn’t force a turnover in the game.

Overall, the Sooners forced 17 turnovers this season. Even when the defense was no match for the Oklahoma State Cowboys, the Sooners found a way to force three miscues by that dynamic offense. The Cowboys shredded the Sooners’ defense for 661 yards. Yet, they turned the ball over three times in the 62-52 showdown. If the Sooners have any chance of blowing out Georgia, they are going to need those takeaways. Otherwise, the defense might be on the field too long. Still, the Oklahoma defense has seen the best passing quarterbacks in college football. They shouldn’t be overwhelmed by a freshman quarterback in this position.

As a result, the Sooners will be looking to force Jake Fromm to win the game on the strength of his arm. Here’s why. The Bulldogs have three running backs capable of going off for 200 yards. All three backs average at least 6.2 yards per carries and have accounted for 29 rushing touchdowns. In the worst case scenario, the Sooners may see the five top running backs. If that’s the case, it means that the Sooners aren’t causing 3-and-outs or turnovers. As a result, the game will be shortened, playing right into the Bulldogs’ hands. Plus, we will find out if the Sooners’ defense has the toughness to defend the run. Coming into the game, the Bulldogs average 45.7 rushing attempts per game. Meaning, we may tell the winner by the number of rushing attempts.

Therefore, expect the Sooners to stack the box with defenders. Keep in mind, the Bulldogs are averaging 170 passing yards per game. They will succumb to pressure if the Sooners are able to get off the blocks. However, the Sooners are coming into the College Football Playoff with 24 total sacks. They will have to manufacture pressure if Ogbonnia Okoronkwo can’t get to the quarterback. He leads the Sooners with eight sacks. Yet, Okoronkwo might be more valuable against the run. First and foremost, the front seven must be driven to stop the run.

In the end, we know what the Sooners bring on the defensive side of the ball. Their mission is to do whatever they do and do it quickly. Any sustained drives by the Bulldogs automatically becomes a win unless it ends in a defensive touchdown. The more possessions there are in the game, the more the Sooners can get accustomed to the Bulldogs rushing attack without getting worn down. However, a game with around eight possession apiece might doom Oklahoma’s chances at their first national title game in this format. Remember, they average 31 minutes in time of possession despite the allure of this dynamic offense. That means the defense doesn’t spend the majority of the game on the field.

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