What I Learned from Watching an Oklahoma Football Game
Back in November I recorded the Oklahoma-Texas Tech game on my DVR both in hopes of capturing the career-defining win for Mike Leach (so much for that), and just in case Florida ended up playing either of them in a bowl. I figured it would be good to have a game in which both played another top team to get some good studying in.
As it turns out, Texas Tech's threat to win the game was about as real as the cherry flavoring in Diet Mountain Dew Code Red. The entire team, and Graham Harrell especially, just plain had a bad game. As a result, it didn't turn out to be that great of a game for study. I should have saved the Red River Shootout instead, but I forgot to record it that weekend. Such is life.
Despite that issue, I was still able to pull some nuggets of wisdom from the game after re-watching it yesterday evening after work.
The Fox telecast on Thursday might end up the worst sports broadcast ever.
The Fox cameras had trouble at times keeping up with the pace of the Texas-Ohio State Fiesta Bowl. With the up allegro tempo that the Sooners sometimes run their offense, the film crew could fall hopelessly behind. We might never see the Sooners' formation for more than a second before the snap.
But seriously folks, the Sooners' fast break is a variable speed machine.
The fast pace of the Sooners' offense has enabled them to set a scoring record despite the new clock rules slightly reducing the number of plays per game over last season. They seldom snap the ball with less than 15 seconds to go on the play clock and often hike it with more than 20. By contrast, you almost never see Florida snap it with more than 15 seconds to go.
The fast paced OU machine is not a consistent thing though. The farther away from the opposing end zone they are, the generally longer they take in between plays. I guess the idea is to be more careful so as not to get any turnovers close to the opponents' goal.
When they were within their own 35 or 40, they generally snapped it with 13-18 seconds to go. From about their own 40 to the Red Raiders' 30, they hiked with about 19 to 25 seconds to go. From there in, the pace got up to a breakneck speed that's faster than most teams run their hurry up, two minute offense.
So yes, they do go fast. Ricky Bobby fast, even. However, they do have more nuance to it than most give them credit for.
This Bradford guy looked awfully familiar...
It was bothering me for more than a quarter. You know what it's like, when you see someone and you know they remind you of someone else but you can't quite place it.
Eventually I got it. Sam Bradford reminded me a lot of Georgia's Matthew Stafford. It wasn't so much in his delivery, and he didn't make as many bad decisions as Stafford generally does over the course of a game. However the way he stood in the pocket, handed off, and threw down field gave me flashbacks to watching the Bulldog signal caller play.
It is true that Florida's defenders haven't seen an offense as prolific as OU's, but they have seen a pocket quarterback with an excellent arm. Bradford almost certainly won't be gift wrapping any interceptions though, and that makes the task that much tougher.
Gresham will be a problem.
Jermaine Gresham is by far the best tight end Florida will have seen all season, and he's the biggest pass-catching target too. The Gator secondary has seen a 6-6 receiver in FSU's Greg Carr and it did just fine against him, but Gresham won't be running jump ball routes all game as Carr does. Plus, the Sooner tight end outweighs Carr by about 50 pounds.
I can't say enough about how well the Gator secondary has played. They surpassed all of my expectations. However no one is especially big, and bringing down Gresham in the open field one-on-one will be perhaps the toughest task they face.
Zone defense is choosing death against Oklahoma.
I like Florida's defensive line, but it is not the 2006 unit. Oklahoma has a monstrous offensive line, and I have a feeling the Gators up front will have even more trouble getting pressure than they did against Alabama. Any pressure will probably come from the ends or blitzers, but it won't come as often as it did in Glendale against Troy Smith. The result is that Bradford will have some time to go shopping for receivers.
Texas Tech played a lot of zone, and Bradford picked them apart. Given the protection he had, there was always time for someone to get open in a hole in the zone.
Fortunately, Florida doesn't play much zone. They don't play strict man coverage, something that allows guys like Joe Haden and Janoris Jenkins some freedom, but they cannot stray too far. If Florida is to get many sacks, they are going to have to be coverage sacks.
Oklahoma will miss DeMarco Murray.
I know the guys behind Murray are great backs and they'll be productive. Neither of them appeared to be able to bring as much to the table as Murray does however.
The more things a single player can do, the more dangerous he is. If you have to use more than one guy to replicate someone you're missing, then you're going to be under your peak potential.
The Sooners will need to embrace the blitz.
In general, Texas Tech's offensive line did a good job of protecting when OU only rushed four players. Far more often than not, no blitz meant that Harrell had time to set his feet and throw. The problem was that he just plain missed his receivers too often to mount a credible counterstrike to the Sooners' offensive onslaught.
The trouble came whenever an extra defender or three went after the quarterback. The Tech blockers often became confused with the creative blitzing schemes and that is usually what got Harrell into hot water.
Florida's offensive line has been a huge part of the post-Ole Miss turnaround, even to the point that Urban Meyer says its the main thing that makes the offense go. From what I saw in this one game, I'd say that the Gator O-line will be able to handle the Sooners' front four well enough to allow Tebow's Flying Circus to do almost anything they want to.
I have no doubt that Brent Venables has been cooking up some new wrinkles for bringing some extra heat. His crew is going to need it because Florida has a great O-line this season.
There are some possibilities for running against them.
It's one thing to look at numbers all the time, and something else entirely to see a team play. It may have something to do with how pass-heavy the Red Raiders are, but the Oklahoma run defense didn't appear to be that fearsome. They missed some open field tackles that I would have expected them to make.
The Sooners did a good job of stopping the screen pass game, which Tech often uses in place of a traditional run game. On the other hand, the Red Raiders enjoyed some success in traditional rushing with RBs Shannon Woods and Barron Batch going for 4.9 and 5.9 yards per carry respectively.
Woods and Batch are nice backs, but they do not have the speed or explosiveness of Percy Harvin, Chris Rainey, or Jeff Demps. Emmanuel Moody is probably an upgrade too. Florida will have a lot a success running the ball if Oklahoma hasn't shored up its rush defense in the time since.
The best defense is a good offense.
You've heard this phrase a million times, but in this game it was true. Texas Tech didn't score until the second quarter, but it moved the ball well enough to have it for a little over half of the first quarter. With the Sooners' offense on the sideline more often than not, it was only able to manage a single touchdown.
When the second quarter came around, the Red Raiders ended up having the ball for only about a third of it. Thanks to some turnovers and a downturn for the offense, Oklahoma exploded for 35 points in that second period alone. It was the knockout blow.
This may seem like a cliche (because it is) and fairly obvious (because it is), but it is relevant because Florida's offense can chew up clock with the best of them. UF is understandably known for long runs and big plays, but the power running and short passing game can grind out yards too.
Don't be surprised to see the Gators come out and try to run between the tackles early and not just because the mini Woody Hayes in the back of Urban Meyer's mind tells him he must at the beginning of nearly every game. It will also be to keep the offensive Sooner Schooner parked in neutral.
Watching for details in a 65-21 blowout reveals all kinds of things you would normally miss as you dismiss the game as not worth watching anymore. I have an even greater appreciation for how effortless Oklahoma can make offensive football look, and it can do it to a degree not even this year's Florida team can match.
I cannot wait for this game to come to see how everything turns out.
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