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Thoughts on OU/Florida

My hatred for OU grows hotter every day. The nation seems to have bought into Stoops' suggestion that their loss to Texas was insignificant, an example of a superior team overlooking an opponent playing over its head- kind of like Florida slipping up against Ol' Miss in the Swamp, or USC forgetting to wake up against Oregon State until it was too late. As we know, and the Sooners know- that was no upset. Both teams came in focused, with well-prepared game plans and intensities at season highs.

UT whipped them. The most notable thing about OU is their record-setting offense, and UT held it to a season low 35 points, only 14 of which came in the 2nd half as UT wrested control of the game. If the ref isn't faked out by OU's punter feigning contact, OU would have been scoreless for the last 25 minutes of the game. OU has given up 11 sacks the entire season- UT got 3 of them. Bradford has thrown only 6 interceptions the entire season, and Texas snagged two of them. OU has lost the ball on downs 9 times the entire season; three of those were against Texas. This was no upset.

One of the biggest mistakes fans make in evaluations is putting too much stock into lessons learned from just one game. It's a mistake for Texas fans to conclude that OU is grossly over-rated. They're not, and claiming so makes you sound like the Texas Tech fan arguing that the Raiders "proved" the Horns were unimpressive on November 1. OU has an amazingly productive offense. Others can break down the details better than me. I think there is a lot to learn in the macro numbers.

For the season, OU has scored 102 times of the 163 times its offense has had the ball (not counting defense or special teams scores), mostly TDs (tip o' the hat to the OU stats page and its drive charts). In first halves, they have scored 64 times out of 96 (66.7%), and 38 out of 67 times (56.7%) in the 2nd half. In other words, they seem to shift the offense down in the 2nd half. They use more clock (more running plays? Shorter routes?), and score less often. This is what would be expected of any team that usually has a sizable lead in the 2nd half.

Things were different in the season's last three games (TT, OSU, and Mizzou), as they tried to gain votes subjectively in the BCS. This was when Stoops realized that he was going to have to make up in the artistic judging what he lost in the technical judging, and so decided to throw some more sequins on the OU coaches' Dri-Fit polo, put some more glitter on his cheeks, and go for the gold. In those games, their offense was more magnificent than ever in the 1st half, scoring 75% of the time (15 out of 20). In the 2nd half, they scored 14 times out of 16 (88.8%). Wow. They didn't exactly let the gas pedal up. The evidence suggests that in the last three games, with the whole nation watching and judging, Stoops ran the same offense in the 2nd half as in the first. Only one of those games (OSU) was undecided at the start of the 2nd half. In comparison, Texas was like the ice dancers from China, obviously wearing some off-the-rack costume.

How does that compare to the season's first ten games? In those, OU scored 73 times out of 127 overall (57.5%), 49 times out of 76 in the 1st half (64.5%), and 24 out of 51 times in 2nd halves (47.1%). Again, the contrast with the last three games' output shows OU had a purpose in the 2nd half of their last three games- make an impression on the judges. Note- I recognize that one of those games was against Texas, where presumably they were trying their hardest to score until the end.

OU's offense is far superior to its defense. UT showed a blueprint in how to beat them. You have to treat every OU possession as a war. Every time they punt, miss a field goal, or turn the ball over is a victory. If you can make them do that half the time, while being productive on offense, you're in the game. If you can hold them to less than that, and can score, you'll probably win. Two teams have been able to do that defensively against OU this season - UT (OU scored on 5 of 12 possessions), and TCU (OU scored on 5 of 15 possessions), and of course Texas was able to win. Against all other teams, OU scored on 92 out of 136 possessions.

Turnovers are crucial. Texas never turned the ball over against the Sooners. A turnover represents another opportunity for OU to score (they average over 4 points per possession), and one less opportunity for you to score against their weakest unit. OU rarely turns the ball over themselves. TCU turned the ball over 3 times out of the 8 1st half possessions, and wasted a good defensive effort. They trailed 28 - 3 at the half, and couldn't get back in the game.

Can Florida do it? Sure. I suspect Big 12 stats are skewed to present better offenses than actually exist and poorer defenses than actually exist. Per the stats, Florida has a better defense than UT, but I suspect they're closer than appears at first glance. Florida is #9 in the nation in yardage defense (279.3 ypg). UT led the Big 12, but is only 50th nationwide with 339.9 ypg. OU, for comparison, allows 359.0 ypg (65th). In scoring defense, Florida is 5th (12.8 ppg), while UT is 20th (18.6 ppg), and OU is 57th (!), allowing 24.5 ppg). Florida seems like they should have a defense capable of making a few stops. Meanwhile, their offense is not quite as productive as OU's record setters, but may be better in a game not officiated by Big 12 refs (i.e. holding may be regulated in a traditional manner). They are 3rd in the nation in scoring, at 45.3 ppg.

How good is Florida at protecting the ball? They aren't as good as OU, which is 1st in the nation at + 1.77 TOs/game. They are actually 2nd, at + 1.69 TOs/game. This is a stat that measures how good you are at taking the ball away as well as at protecting it. Ball security/hawking will be a crucial part of this game.

Frankly, if both teams bring their "A" game, I expect Florida to win. The formula can be the same as Texas' - be productive on offense, and stop them 50% of the time on defense. Every stop is a victory, no matter where on the field it happens. Protect the ball, and look for opportunities on special teams. Florida needs to understand that if OU scores 2 TDs in their first 5 possessions (exceeding Florida's average for scoring defense), and have 200 yards of offense, the Gators don't necessarily need to change things on defense. They may be doing just fine. The OU formula for winning involves scoring over 10 points each quarter. Points are the key metric for defensive effectiveness, not yards. Conversely, if Florida has 2 TDs or less in the first half, they need to review what they're doing on offense because that's not getting it done.

What does OU need to do? They need to play defense like they haven't yet this season…unless you think what they did against Tech will work against the Gators (I don't). They need to force mistakes. If they can do that, and their offense can produce like normal, they have a chance. If they ever get three TDs up on Florida, the game may be over because then OU will be able to get very comfortable on offense while Florida will have to start trying to score quickly.

Obviously Separated at Birth