Florida defense vs Oklahoma offense: there’s much ado about Florida’s speed, and their ability to cover, rush the passer, etc. Texas has speed and pass rush ability, as does TCU. This has proven out in pre and postseason nonconference games. While Texas didn’t knock anyone’s socks off last night in the Fiesta Bowl, it wasn’t the lack of speed that got them in trouble, it was power running and a slippery dual threat QB that kept TOSU in the game. In the TCU game, Bradford was 19-34 for 411 yards and 4 TDs. Granted, some of that was aided by two slips by TCU defenders. Let’s look at the Texas game, another game against a topflight D. In that game, Bradford was 28-39 for 387 yards, 5 TDs and 2 interceptions. The second interception was a throw into the end zone as time expired on a ten point loss. In the loss, Bradford averaged 10 yards per attempt and completed almost 72% of his passes. The question at hand will be Oklahoma’s ability to run the ball. Against UT, the Sooners compiled 13 total rushing yards, and lost the time of possession battle 37 to 23. OU has run the ball better since then, but really hasn’t played teams that were adept at stopping the run. Against TCU, the Sooners rushed for 36 yards. If Florida can stuff the run, and make OU a pass-only offense, then they will be able to take control of the game and get Bradford more on the run. Alternatively, looking at Florida’s stats tells you they are better pass defenders than run defenders. Teams were able to run the ball semi-well against the Gators gaining between 3-5 yards / carry in most games, but the Gator D shut down their passing games. Aside from the loss to Ole Miss and, the Gator’s foes were averaging 3-5 yards per attempt. If OU is getting 5 yards per attempt, that’s going to get you in trouble. It seems kind of simple to say, but if OU can run the ball effectively and make the Gators play run and pass defense, Bradford can lead the O to score some points. If Chris Brown and Mossis Madu can’t find anywhere to run, it’ll be a long night in Miami.
Oklahoma defense vs the Florida offense: I think this is a difficult matchup for the Sooners. The Sooner defensive stats are somewhat misleading, but make no mistake, this is not the 85 Sooners. The Gator strength is running the ball and having a balanced attack. The Gators have four backs with more than 50 carries that average more than 7 yards per carry. Speed is the name of the game, as 3 of the four weigh in at less than 200 pounds. That’s probably better for the Sooners, ad I don’t think they would matchup well vs a power running game. The Sooner D allowed only 2.4 yards per carry in the first half this year, which is pretty solid. The second half was a different story, with the Sooners allowing 4.05 yards per carry then. Why were the better against the run in the first half than the second? I don’t know. I know many of the games were over by then. Oklahoma has to shut down their running game, then get pressure on the passer. However, Tebow is difficult to bring down.
What the Sooner D lacked in domination was made up for in turnover margin. The Sooner D was excellent this year at third down conversions and creating turnovers. Why was that the case? One, I believe the Sooner D is quick, and most years have been ball-hawking types of units, and two, the proficiency of the Sooner offense forced the opponent to take chances and force the ball where they otherwise may not. On the contrary, Florida takes care of the ball well and is 13th in the country in third down conversions.
At the end of the day, the Sooners D performance in the last three BCS games has been atrocious, allowing 55, 43 and 48 points. And statistically, I believe those teams were better than this one. That leaves it up to the offense. I don’t think the Sooners can trade scores with the Gators, as I think the Gator D is more likely to stop the Sooner O than the Sooner D is likely to stop the Gator O. So, I’m not feeling very warm and fuzzy at this point.
How could I rationalize a surprise performance by the Sooner D?
- Frank Alexander. FA has been a beast since he returned from a stabbing after the UTC game in late August. His pressure from the defensive end spot could be critical.
- Experience. The Sooners had three first year starters in the LB this year. Now, it’s the end of the season, they’ve had a season of experience, and another month of practice at the end.
- Motivation. Stoops plays the underdog really well. All this talk about no defense, and the Sooners not being able to keep up with the Gators, will hopefully be a motivation factor to Stoops, Venables and the player to have a superior performance.
What do I think will happen? Florida victory, 45-35, and I'm hoping I'm wrong.