So Long As The Big 12 Is A Spread League Defensive Issues Like Oklahoma's Rose Bowl Will Persist

A pass happy team in a pass happy league will have a defense that goes against its own offense every day in practice and similar - and in the case of Oklahoma's foes <b>lesser talented</b> - offenses every week in conference play struggles against championship caliber offenses out of conference. That was the problem with the WAC, Pac-10 and ACC in decades past and is the problem with Oklahoma and the Big 12 now. It has gotten even worse with Nebraska and Colorado leaving the conference, and when Texas, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M (before the latter left also) abandoned their more pro-style and option offenses.

I want to say maybe 10-15 years ago when Mack Brown was running pro-style and option offenses with Chris Simms/Major Applewhite/Vince Young at Texas, R.C. Slocum was at Texas A&M, Les Miles ran a version of the spread that included a lot more power and between the tackles running at Oklahoma State, and Nebraska and Colorado were running pro-style or power option programs, the Sooners wouldn't have even considered trying to win championships playing 210 pound linebackers and 240 pound DEs, and doing it in a so-called 3-4 defensive scheme where the DEs are supposed to be at least 280 and the LBs are supposed to be at least 235. The only scheme where you can get away with DEs and LBs as small as Oklahoma's is a 4-6, and they have to be a lot stronger, faster and more athletic than Oklahoma's ... more akin to those FSU and Nebraska defenses in the 1990s.

Oklahoma recruits like this not because they are forced to like the likes of Iowa State, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and TCU, but because they want to. More accurately, because playing essentially lesser talented versions of themselves week after week, year after year allows them to. If the Big 12 foes were running the same system with similar talent, that would force Oklahoma to adapt. If they were running different systems with lesser talent - say if Oklahoma State, WVU or TCU were winning 8 to 10 games a year by playing like Stanford or Mississippi State instead of trying to imitate Oklahoma using lesser players - then yeah that would force Oklahoma to adapt. But in a conference where the only "variety" from a program that is actually capable of beating OU and winning a conference title involves TCU having Kenny Hill throwing the ball more than Baker Mayfield did despite knowing that he isn't half as good.

Here is the funny thing: back when Oklahoma and Nebraska were running the option and losing national title games everyone quickly identified the "problem" - the option - and promoting the solution - shifting to the passing game. But now we see Oklahoma and the Big 12 failing to win titles with the spread for far longer than Oklahoma and Nebraska did with the option - 14 years for the Big 12, 19 years for Oklahoma - and no one wants to admit that just maybe the spread is the problem? It would be one thing if other programs were winning titles with this offense in other conferences. They aren't. The Pac-12, Big 10, SEC, ACC ... no one from those leagues have won a national title with an Oklahoma style offense ever. The Oklahoma 2000 season is the only example. The other spread programs to win titles have done it with attacks that featured power running like LSU in 2003 and 2007, Ohio State in 2014 and kinda sorta Florida in 2006, or true dual threat QBs like Texas in 2005, Florida in 2008, Auburn in 2010, Ohio State and Clemson in 2016. Yet the next outcry for Oklahoma to be more like the programs that beat them in title games will be the first. Instead, there is scapegoating of head coaches, offensive and defensive coordinators. The ire that is being aimed at Mike Stoops now was directed at Brent Venables before. Brent Venables leaves and goes to Clemson - which runs a title winning version of the spread and plays ACC and SEC teams that run a variety of offensive schemes that he has to recruit and scheme against from week to week - and would you look at that, he is a Broyles Award winner again.

Oklahoma can keep trying the same thing over and over again expecting different results. Or they can admit that the offensive system that Hal Mumme and Joe Tiller brought to big time football at Kentucky and Purdue in 1997 (yes Mike Leach was an assistant at Kentucky that Bob Stoops brought with him from the SEC when he took the Oklahoma job in 1999 and the rest is Oklahoma and Big 12 history) and switch to either a pro-style offense or a version of the spread that actually wins. Until that happens, the defenses won't improve, and the chances of winning titles won't either.

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