Bleacher Creatures Debate The Red River Rivalry: Defense, Who's Better?

J. Robert ByromCorrespondent IOctober 13, 2009

DALLAS - OCTOBER 11:  Quarterback Colt McCoy #12 of the Texas Longhorns runs the ball against Brian Jackson #2 of the Oklahoma Sooners during the Red River Rivalry at the Cotton Bowl on October 11, 2008 in Dallas, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

This week I will be debating the Red River Rivalry with Texas Featured Columnist Dino. Today we argue who has the better defense. Naturally, we will be taking the position of the teams we write about even if we are not quite sure we agree with everything we say, but it is all about looking at the questions through the crimson/burnt orange glasses so we can really get a good point/counterpoint going.

Today's question starts with defense, and we both debate which defense is better. Being on my homefield I will allow Dino to bat first and let him have the first crack at answering the question.


Why Texas' Defense is better

I look at this game and I see two defenses that can flat out play.

Texas ranks fourth in total defense and Oklahoma is not far behind at ninth. Both squads boast a boatload of talent, specifically along the defensive line. The Longhorns and Sooners are particularly adept at stopping the run (first and third, respectively). 

In a game that is so evenly matched on the defensive side of the ball, I'd have to give the edge to the Longhorns, but by the slimmest of margins.

Sergio Kindle leads an under-sized, yet speedy defensive line that really knows how to put pressure on the quarterback (14 sacks in five games). While Kindle is the big time name on the line, I look for junior Sam Acho to take advantage of double teams on Kindle. 

Acho has good speed and has racked up three sacks on the season to go along with three fumble recoveries. Defensive tackle Lamar Houston has proven to be Texas' best run-stuffer and will be key in slowing down Demarco Murray and Chris Brown.

Looking at the linebackers, Roddrick Muckelroy may be one of the better players Mack Brown has had at the position in some time. Last season versus the Sooners, "Muck" single-handedly shut down the OU running game, getting in on 16 solo tackles. Look for Muckelroy to pound on the Sooner backs early and often. Keenan Robinson and Emmanuel Acho will need to continue their improvement to aid against the Sooner running attack as well.

The secondary may be the most improved unit on the team. This group has eight interceptions through five games (last season they had a total of six). 

Sophomore safety Earl Thomas has been the defensive MVP so far this season (four interceptions). He flies all over the field and does an excellent job of reading the quarterback's eyes, allowing him to defend virtually any route a receiver could run. 

Aaron Williams and Curtis Brown have been solid, but neither has a pick so far this season. In a game that is annually decided by turnovers, these two will have to step up and make some big plays.

The Sooners have looked just as impressive on defense, but they have already suffered two losses (BYU, @ Miami). Granted they were by one point a piece, but contrary to popular belief, it was the defense, not the offense, that cost Oklahoma in both of those games. 

The Sooners held a lead late in both games, but the defense was unable to make the critical stops needed to preserve the victory. Moreover, the Sooners have yet to face a quarterback of McCoy's talent, so they should be in for a rude awakening.

On the other hand, Texas' defense has saved them from a couple of scares. When the Longhorns traveled up to Laramie, Wyo. to face the Cowboys, they had a three-point halftime lead. 

While the offense struggled mightily, the defense was able to hold Wyoming to 273 yards of total offense (much of which came against the Longhorns' second stringers late in the game) and shut out the Cowboys in the second half.

Just last weekend against Colorado, the Texas offense struggled in the first half, but the defense came up huge (96-yard interception return for a touchdown by Earl Thomas and a blocked punt recovery for a touchdown by Ben Wells) essentially winning the game for Texas.

Because the Longhorn defense has been able to bail Texas out of some sticky situations and OU's defense has cost them some tight games, I give the edge to Texas.

Why the Sooners' Defense is Better

The key to any good defense is the front seven and OU has the better front seven than Texas. Some will point to the numbers and say that Texas has the better defensive numbers and allowed less yards. Which is true, but who have they played?

Texas has allowed about five less running yards per game than OU. However, Texas has yet to play an offense that can run the ball. Of the two conference games they have played one team doesn't even try to run and the other gets stopped by second-and-third-tier teams on their schedule.

OU has played two ranked teams that can and do run the ball. They held one to less than 30 yards rushing.

Plus Tulsa, the No. 1 offense in the country in total yards the past two seasons. Unlike Texas Tech, Tulsa tries to both run and throw the ball but could not do either against OU.

Another plus for OU is scoring defense. Despite have a much tougher strength of schedule than Texas, OU is allowing nearly a touchdown less than the Longhorns per game. OU has almost allowed half of the points than Texas despite the fact that Texas has yet to play a ranked team and the Sooners played two ranked teams away from home.

The one place you would expect Texas defense to be much better is pass defense. The Texas pass defense is highly regarded while the Sooners' is considered second class at best.

But the numbers are not that different, OU has allowed 990 pass yards to date while Texas has allowed 934.

Texas has played only one good pass offense all year and that was Tech, whom burnt Texas passing for 420 yards in Austin. Some will say, "yes, but that is Tech and they cannot be stopped" but remember what happened to them last time they went to Norman?

The only yards they got were against OU's prevent defense trying to burn out the clock for nearly two full quarters. So Tech can be stopped and usually are when they step up against a good defense.

Which brings me to final point. It remains to be seen whether Texas is a good defense. They lead the nation in a few defensive categories but have yet to play anyone ranked and have allowed way too many points to teams that should not be scoring on a top-tier defense.

OU on the other hand is much more proven having almost identical numbers despite having a much tougher schedule especially on the road.

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