Oklahoma HC Lincoln Riley: 'No Way' Georgia Is a Top-5 Defense in the Big 12

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistJuly 3, 2018

PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 01: Head Coach Lincoln Riley of the Oklahoma Sooners watches from the sidelines during the 2018 College Football Playoff Semifinal Game against the Georgia Bulldogs at the Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual at the Rose Bowl on January 1, 2018 in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

The Georgia Bulldogs defeated the Oklahoma Sooners in last year's College Football Playoff semifinals, 54-48, and Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley apparently came away from that game believing the Bulldogs defense wouldn't fare well against the rest of the Big 12, per SiriusXM's Danny Kanell:

Danny Kanell @dannykanell

From OU head coach Lincoln Riley just now on @ESPNUonSiriusXM talking with me and @TaylorZarzour about how difficult it is to play defense in the Big 12: "If you throw Georgia in the Big 12 every year there is no way they are a Top 5 defense in the country"

Riley later specified he wasn't taking a dig at Georgia, an SEC school: 

Lincoln Riley @LincolnRiley

@FootballScoop That’s not a shot at Georgia....they were absolutely one of the best defenses last year...it’s a compliment to our league-

Riley's Sooners accumulated 531 yards from scrimmage in the double-overtime thriller between the teams last season, with Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield throwing for 287 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. 

The team did more damage on the ground, however, as Rodney Anderson rushed for 201 yards and two scores. 

That was an impressive showing against a Georgia defense that finished sixth nationally in yards allowed per game (295) and sixth in points given up per contest (16.4). 

Certainly, the Big 12 schedule would challenge any defense. Five offenses from the conference finished in the top 30 in points scored per game: Oklahoma (third), Oklahoma State (fourth), West Virginia (22nd), Texas Tech (23rd) and TCU (29th).

And four Big 12 schools also finished in the top 20 in yards per contest: Oklahoma (first), Oklahoma State (second), Texas Tech (16th) and West Virginia (20th).

It should be noted, however, that Georgia faced top offenses in Notre Dame, Missouri, Auburn (twice), Oklahoma and Alabama last season and still averaged elite defensive numbers. Might its numbers take a hit in the high-octane Big 12? 

Sure. But while the SEC has a reputation as a defensively stout conference, it has its share of dangerous offenses as well.