OU's defense will determine whether the Sooners win the 8th national title for the school. Sam Bradford shouldn't be expected to make it six straight sixty-plus point games. No happening.
Florida is not Missouri...OSU...TT (fyi, Mike Leach told a friend of mine he has no defensive players who would start at OU-surely a stretch, but still adds to my point that UF is really good on defense and OU's victims were not).
Texas had the best defense OU faced. UF is definitely better than them and has the invaluable advantage of having scads of time to prepare for Kevin Wilson's offensive tendencies-and he sans D Murray factor. OU popped UT for 35 and it wasn't enough. It's unrealistic to expect OU to light up the speedy athletic SEC defense in the Gators for more than 35.
So, clearly the question is whether Brent Venables and Co. can keep T Tebow and Co. under 36? The two most important big picture issues are forcing turnovers and limiting big plays.
Specific points to ponder when it comes to the challenges OU will face on defense against this Mighty Gator offense:
*UF philosophy presents wishbone concepts utilizing terrific game-breaking skill players who will take it the distance if you take a bad angle, miss a tackle, are a step slow or get one step out of position. First thing that comes to mind in seeing UF and thinking about how it attacks defenses is how some of Barry Swtizer's option teams would be held in check for much of a game.
Then, one of the his speed merchants would find a crease created by one of the things noted above, and they'd be out the gate faster than you can say Elvis Peacock.
*UF personnel is by far the most explosive OU will have faced. Texas and TT could not run. None of the others were quite good enough to outscore OU's offense. Percy Harvin is a game-breaker and can beat you in several ways. Jeffrey Demps is a world-class sprinter who'll zap you in a heartbeat if you are a step off. Then there's the premiere two-dimensional QB in Tebow.
He's amazing, but maybe not what some of our network mates hyped him to be: "best in history of college football.." By the way, someone tell people to quit talking about Tebow going pro. He'd be a third round pick. You don't leave the chance to make history to be a third round pick.
*UF is two-dimensional with almost identical numbers in yards with the run and pass. Needless to say, OU is like all teams in that teams that do both well have hurt them in the past. It's one of the reasons OU is so effective and the primary reason the great teams of the past like USC have been so tough to stop.
*Linebackers and safeties are stressed with teams like UF...and not having R Reynolds hurts and not knowing how effective his backup A Box might be is a legit concern. UF will salivate at the chance of seeing an inexperienced and less speedy Mike Balogun line up in the middle. He should be asset vs the inside run game UF likes but would be vulnerable in other areas.
*Two things Sooner fans should like: One, safety Lendy Holmes will play after erroneous speculation had him being an academic casualty for the second straight bowl game. And two, national TV voices are playing into Bob Stoops' hands.
One in particular that they listen to is essentially saying the scoreboard will light up for Florida because as he says "I love the match ups...it really favors Florida's offense. He may be right. But all I know is that Stoops and DC Venables are at their best with an "us against the world" mentality.
Shapes up to be a classic matchup-but we thought OU/USC was too, right? This Sooner team is not as gifted as the one SC ripped. But you can bet this bunch is hungrier and won't do as that one and squeal "uncle" in the middle of the game.
Have a great Christmas and we'll continue to break this one down and the OSU-Oregon Holiday matchup in the coming days.