If there ever was a Clash of the Titans in college football this is it. Oklahoma’s offense finished as the most prolific offense that the modern world has seen with and average of 54 points per game scored. On the other side of the ball is one of the most dominating defenses in the country with the Florida Gators whose stingy defense only allows 12.8 points per game. Obviously something has got to give here.
The circular arguments of SEC defenses vs. Big 12 offenses will end tonight on the field as the Florida Gators will attempt to do something that no other team has been able to do this season and that is stop Oklahoma’s fast paced/quick strike offense. It should be noted that three of the seven SEC bowl teams (S. Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama) have given up more than their season average of points allowed in their bowl games while only Kansas of the Big 12 has exceeded their regular season offensive output in the bowl game. What does this mean in the grand scheme of things? Absolutely nothing! The SEC has four bowl wins and the Big 12 has three. If we are going to crown a conference king based on bowl performances then let’s just all bow down to the Pac 10 (5-0).
The Big 12 doesn’t have to be better that the SEC for Oklahoma to win its 8th national championship. Oklahoma just has to be better than Florida tonight and to do that the Sooners are going to have to crank up their offense against what is spastically one of the best defenses in the country. Just as the Gators are lightning quick on the offensive side of the ball they aren’t lacking for speed on defense. They have intercepted opposing quarterbacks 24 times this season and returned 5 of them for scores. Against the rush the Gators are 17th in the country allowing opponents only 3.3 yards per carry and 105.3 yards per game. They’ve been a little more susceptible to the pass where their defensive unit ranks 31st in the country in that category by allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete 52% of their passes for 174 yards per game. However, the Gators have only given up 10 touchdowns through the air this season.
We know what Oklahoma’s offense is capable of. Led by Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford the Sooners have the nation’s 3rd ranked passing attack with 356 yards per game. The Sooners aren’t too shabby on the ground either where they are rushing for an average of 205.6 yards per game (12th in the nation) with OU ball carriers crossing the goal line 45 times this season. Oklahoma brings a truly balanced offensive attack against a Florida defense that has had tremendous success in keeping teams out of the end zone.
When I think of Florida’s defense two things come to mind. First, the Gators have 7 sophomores starting on defense. That’s a whole lot of inexperience on one side of the ball. While Florida has tasted victory and these young guys have established themselves as a dominating defensive unit I can’t help but think that there has to be something in that youth movement that Kevin Wilson can exploit with an offensive unit that is more seasoned. Granted Oklahoma hasn’t faced a defense like Florida’s but the Gators haven’t seen anything like the offensive machine that the Sooners are rolling in either. You just have to feel that experience is going to be a huge factor.
The second thing that I think about is that the SEC had a game that ended with a 3-2 final score this year. I realize that this opens up the whole Big 12/SEC can of worms here but this side of the Sun Bowl how many college football games end with a baseball score. Is that great defense or just bad offense? Four of the SEC bowl teams have also failed to match their scoring output for the season and the Gators haven’t played against a Top 25 scoring offense yet. At least Oklahoma went up against a couple of Top 25 scoring defenses in TCU and Texas and the Sooners also have Cincinnati checking in at #26.
All that said, this game won’t be played by stats but on the field. That means there are some things that the Sooners are going to have to do in order to experience offensive success.
How Oklahoma’s Offense Can Beat Florida’s Defense
*Protect Bradford – Sam Bradford has only been sacked 9 times this season as Oklahoma’s offensive line has remained healthy and lived up to their hype. If Bradford is allowed his normal time in the pocket then its game over for the Gators.
*Maintain Balance – The weakness (if you can call it that) of the Florida defense is against the pass but Oklahoma must run the ball to do what they want to accomplish offensively. The Sooners have proven that they can score points when their running game has been stopped but this offensive machine does the real damage when OU is balanced in their attack.
*Catch the Ball – That sounds pretty basic doesn’t it? After I called out Jermaine Gresham for having the dropsy’s late in the season he went out and proved me to be wrong in both the Bedlam and Big 12 Championship games. Every pass is an opportunity and OU can’t afford to have any of those dropped.
*Protect the Ball – You can almost bank on the fact that Florida isn’t going to turn the ball over and the Sooners shouldn’t either. With the explosiveness of each of theses offenses the last thing you want to do is give them an extra opportunity to score.
*Score Early! – By doing so Oklahoma can set the tone for the game. The Sooner offense has the ability to overwhelm an opposing defense and scoring on early possessions is the key to doing that. Remember this is a young Gator defense. There’s no telling where they’ll be mentally should the Sooners score on three of their first four possessions.