In Oklahoma's Defense…

If insults were the same as touchdowns, Oklahoma's defense would've long ago been routed from the field. If slights counted as points, Georgia Tech's famed 222-0 victory against Cumberland would've have been relegated to the sports dustbin next to 714 home runs, the four-minute mile and portions of Plaxico Burress' thigh.

And the Sooners would be in such a deficit not even Sam Bradford could dig them out of that hole. Of course, with the way they score, let's not get crazy.

But even for Oklahoma's 60-point-per-game man, all that doubt would make for an afternoon longer than a cross-country drive with your mother-in-law.

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And maybe they're right. Maybe Oklahoma's defense will be the story of the game.

But don't be surprised if it's because they spend enough time on the sideline to knit a Charlie Weis-sized sweater.

There is a defense that has something to prove in this game and it's not the Sooners.

Please step forward Florida. Speedily. That we're certain you can do.No, Gators, this isn't Ohio State. The Sooners aren't going to line up tight ends in the backfield as blockers and they don't consider the option the height of offensive innovation.

They're going to pass. They did that more prolifically than all but two teams in college football, averaging the kind of distance John Daly couldn't drive downhill, 346 yards per game. And they're going to run. Run, in fact, better than any team you've faced in the SEC. They're better balanced than a see-saw with Matt Millen's legacy on one side and Isiah Thomas' on the other. The Sooners averaged 205 yards per game, that's almost 60 yards more a game than Georgia and Knowshon Moreno hurdled to this season.

True, they'll play without star DeMarco Murray, but the Sooners replace running backs like most people swap out light bulbs. Chris Brown led the team in yardage and backup Mossis Madu, ran for 114 yards on 15 carries filling in during the Big 12 title game.

And they'll score. And score. And score again.

They've exposed more men than FOX's locker room cameras. They've got more 60s in victory totals than the cast of Cocoon, more 60s than the readership of newspapers, more 60s than Joe Paterno's Facebook friends.

Stop us. We could go on. Just like Oklahoma's offense

And while Florida hasn't faced an offense like this, Oklahoma has already faced a defense that might make Urban Meyer write essays on the value of the punt. Against TCU, the nation's No. 1 defense, which crushed BYU and held Utah to 14 points, Sam Bradford threw for 411 yards and four touchdowns, the Sooners jumped out to a 21-3 first quarter lead and cruised to a 35-10 victory.

The highest scoring offense Florida faced is 28th in the nation. And they gave up 31 points. At home.

Which is the real issue. If Oklahoma is questioned for the Big 12's defensive prowess, why are no eyebrows raised about the SEC, which was chock full of offenses that picked up points like they're paying for them on installment plans? Entering bowl season, six SEC teams were ranked 97th or lower in the nation in total yardage. Only Florida (18th) was in the top 20.

Sure, the Gators wet-blanketed Georgia's offense, but so too did South Carolina and Auburn, albeit in losses (And the latter missed bowl season while the former gave up 31 points in a loss to a Big Ten team).

In the SEC, defenses won games because most of the offenses couldn't win so much as a door prize. Three SEC coaches were gone by season's end. LSU, which scored 21 against Florida, had a quarterback who threw more touchdown passes to the opposing team (seven) in the regular season than Navy threw to its own team (five). Alabama threw just nine touchdown passes in the regular season despite having the sublimely talented Julio Jones to throw to. Vanderbilt lost to Duke. At home.

Let that sink in for a moment.

Florida's defense may be every bit as advertised, but for all the reasons the Big 12 gets knocked for its defense, there's enough room for doubt to drive a Greyhound through.

And Oklahoma's defense may just surprise the Gators. They will, after all, be something they haven't been since the first half of their loss to Texas, which is to say relatively healthier than a combat brigade.

Preaseason defensive player of the year Auston English, last year's Big 12 sack leader, will start again after missing three games with a knee injury and playing sparingly in the Big 12 title game. Middle linebacker Austin Box, who himself was a replacement for run stopper Ryan Reynolds, who was knocked out during Texas' second half explosion, will play, if not start.

Look beyond their gouged passing yardage, which Florida might have difficulty exploiting in the first place, and the Sooners are a solid defensive football team. They've generated 32 takeaways (only six teams, including Florida with 33, have more) and are No. 1 in turnover margin. They're excellent at stopping the run, allowing just under a yard more per game than Florida. And they've got the kind of defensive line that'll be close enough to Tim Tebow to figure out exactly what he had for lunch -- the Sooners ranked in the top 10 in the nation in both sacks and tackles-for-loss.

And if there's any way to stop Florida's speed attack, it's precisely that, getting in the backfield and disrupting their timing offense before it has a chance to put you on SportsCenter.

Want to stop Oklahoma? Try offering up chickens sacrifices, Florida. Nothing else has worked.

So go ahead and give Florida a free pass while you pile on against Oklahoma if you must. Send the Sooners to the end of a punch line if you like. Laugh it up at the Sooners' expense.

But in the end, they're only insults. Not touchdowns.

In Oklahoma's Defense... originally appeared on NCAA Football FanHouse on Thu, 08 Jan 2009 12:00:00 EST . Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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