Oklahoma Offense is a Challenge

For the Florida Gator defense, a big part of defending the Oklahoma Sooners in the BCS National Championship game will be to keep up with the tempo in which the Sooners run their offense. Oklahoma runs a no huddle offense designed to take away any chance of their opponent to make substitutions and also to confuse defenses. This is a chess match that will be played many ways on January 8.

The Florida versus Oklahoma matchup pits the No. 1 scoring offense nationally in Oklahoma against the nation's fifth ranked scoring defense in Florida. As the saying goes, "something has to give".

This particular matchup will be the one that most focus on and it is a match up that is cause for debate. Eleven of the Big 12 teams, of which Oklahoma has played nine games this season, are ranked 57th or lower in total defense. The SEC by contrast has only three teams ranked lower than 58th in total defense. The offenses in the Big 12 are quite the opposite.

Gators' Assistant Defensive Coordinator Chuck Heater tends to believe that the offenses are just very good in the Big 12 and put an inordinate strain on the defenses.

"I think their offenses are very good," Heater said of the Big 12 conference as a whole. "I don't buy the fact that the defenses aren't good...not at all. Sometimes schemes get ahead of defenses. Wide open and throwing the ball, sometimes they can get way ahead of you. I think that happens sometimes in spread offenses, they are just a little bit ahead of where you are and out-executing you."

Oklahoma uses a pass happy spread offense and throw the ball around a lot. Unlike Florida who would prefer to keep the ball on the ground and beat teams into submission, Oklahoma uses the short to intermediate passing game to get their team rolling. The Gators really haven't seen anything like the Oklahoma offense all year, which presents a challenge in itself.

"Us a little bit, but the quarterback doesn't run like ours." Heater said when asked to compare the Oklahoma offense to any the Gators have seen all year. "We really haven't faced anything like this. Maybe Hawaii in game one, but that was a long time ago. They were similar, but obviously not the same as the team we are playing."

The Sooner offense and Gator defense should be the real key in this game and Heater knows everyone will be waiting to see how each team fares.

"It's an exciting game in terms of build up and anticipation," Meyer said. "We are anxious for that moment to see how it matches up and compares. It's a challenge."

One real challenge for this Gator defense will be the tempo of the game. The Sooners use a hurry up, no huddle offense. They try and get to the line of scrimmage quickly and try and dictate tempo and personnel to the defense as much as they can.

"We have watched every game and are into our preparation and game planning," Heater said of his teams focus on the game. "We are trying to get caught up to the pace that they play at. They get a lot of plays in. They are actually very fast and set the tempo for the game.

"We are trying to simulate that in practice. (Defensive Graduate Assistant) Sean Cronin has done a great job of that, but every guy I talk to says it is never as fast as how it goes on the field."

Despite all the issues with pace and non-football stuff, the bottom line according to Heater is Defense 101. The Gators are going to have to get after the ball carrier and get them to the ground.

"You have to out-execute them," he said. "There are times when you have to know where they are. You have to cover them, get in your gaps, and out-execute them. Ultimately you have to tackle them. Most bad days on defense are a result of bad days in tackling."

Heater's secondary will have it's hands full. Juaquin Iglesias is a thousand yard receiver and the Sooners host a quartet of outstanding wide receivers. Oklahoma as as much talent catching the ball as anyone the Gators have faced all season.

"I tell my guys, these are good guys," Heater expounded about the Oklahoma wide outs. "Every good SEC team probably has three good receivers, but these guys have four or five. The same kind of guys we have, there are no weaknesses. They make plays in space and they get past you. They do a good job getting the ball to them."

The Gators will definitely have their hands full. Oklahoma is on a current five game streak of scoring 60 or more points against their opponents. They are a scoring machine and the Gators will have to be on their "A" game to keep the Sooners from making it six in a row. Heater is not ready to be that sixth team and has not been on the losing end of one of those battles.

"I don't think anyone scored 60, but there were times when it was close...that's why I've been fired so many times," he said jokingly about his coaching career. "That would be an awful Saturday or Thursday or whenever that game was(when it did happen).


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