The Oklahoma Sooners have the potential to be the second-best team in college football. Few would argue that Alabama is the best. Most would point to Penn State, TCU, Wisconsin, or Georgia as the next best team because they’re also undefeated. Some may even say it’s still Clemson despite their loss. No, it’s Oklahoma, and the only thing holding them back is their defensive coordinator, Mike Stoops.
They have the talent on defense. As with previous Sooner teams, they have the rare combination of speed and size that should make them a top-10 defense to go along with their top-5 offense. It’s not in their defensive talent or defensive style but in their defensive play calling. It’s horrible. Stoops is the problem.
In previous years, we could point to nepotism from big brother Bob as the reason Mike is still around. Bob Stoops stepped down and made way for Lincoln Riley to take the helm. Keeping Mike was likely a necessary move to maintain a measure of stability while also paying homage to the Stoops brothers, but that goodwill should end after this season. It was poor defensive play-calling that made the Baylor game much closer than it should have been. It was poor defensive play-calling that kept Texas and Kansas State alive until the very end of the games. It was poor defensive play-calling that made the Sooners lose to Iowa State at home.
Yesterday’s Kansas State game was a perfect example. Somehow, every quarterback that plays the Sooners (with the notable exception of Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett) has the game of their career. Alex Delton nearly doubled his career passing yardage going 12/14 for 144 yards and his first career throwing TD while rushing for three scores on 142 ground yards. Is it because the Sooner lack defensive playmakers? No. Is it just poor match-ups that are conducive to an opposing team or two? No. We see them failing whether it’s a running quarterback, a pocket quarterback, or even a terrible quarterback.
No, the problem is that when it’s time to bring pressure, Stoops tells the defense to play conservative. When it’s time for max coverage or reads, he’s blitzing. If it makes sense to bring pressure form the right, he comes from the left.
The Sooners defense played admirably in spite of being given the wrong plays against Kansas State, yet the game was tied with less than a minute on the clock. A win’s a win so there’s no reason to panic, but with an offense as potent as theirs and a defense with the talent they possess, there’s no reason they shouldn’t be in an isolated conversation with only them and the Crimson Tide as the clear 1-2 and everyone else off in the distance.
Look at how much other teams have scored against them. Baylor’s 41 against the Sooners was only topped by the 45 they scored against Liberty. Heck, the UTSA Roadrunners kept them to 10 points. Iowa State scored 7 against Texas a week before putting up 38 on the Sooners. Is it all just bad matchups or bringing out the best in the opponent? No. It’s Mike Stoops.
There was an opportunity to see one of the best championship matchups in modern history between two incredible teams. Unfortunately, one of them has a coach who can’t figure out when to do what with his defense. Now, the Sooners are going to have a hard winning the Big 12, let alone earning a spot in the playoffs.