Does Oklahoma have a national championship-caliber defense? More college football questions in #DearAndy.

By Andy Staples
September 17, 2014

A wild weekend of college football produced some weird and wonderful questions. Here are the ones we cover in the above video, so click away. We’ll wait. When you’re finished watching, scroll below for more questions and answers.

• If you’ve got the ball and it’s first-and-goal from the four-yard line, how many times do you give it to Todd Gurley?

• What are the chances of BYU and UCF being invited to the Big 12?

• Are bowties slimming?

• Is it appropriate to drink during your team’s game if you happen to be in a part of the world where it is 4 a.m. when that game happens?

From @George48245559: If Oklahoma’s defense plays with the same tenacity it did on Saturday, how do you rank it against the playoff contenders?

If by tenacity, you mean limiting an opposing offense to about four yards a play, intercepting two passes -- one returned for a touchdown -- and piling up 12 tackles for loss, Oklahoma absolutely compares favorably to other College Football Playoff contenders. Bear in mind that Tennessee doesn’t have the best offense the Sooners will face by a long shot, but based on what we’ve seen since Oklahoma’s coaches tweaked the scheme before the Sugar Bowl to the version they currently use, this is certainly the kind of defense a national title contender usually has.

RICKMAN: Where does Oklahoma land in this week's Power Rankings?

The below chart shows how the current Sooners’ defense stacks up to the past six national champions in yards per play allowed. This isn’t the most advanced statistic, but it’s the best quick-and-dirty metric to use when adjusting for tempo. Teams that face more snaps tend to give up more yards and more points. This is often because teams that run an up-tempo offense score quickly and then give the ball back to their opponents. For this reason, total defense and scoring defense provide a lousy basis for comparison when other teams like to milk the clock. Yards per play provides a much better one.

Obviously, Oklahoma has an incomplete data set because it has only played Louisiana Tech, Tulsa and Tennessee to date. Yet the Sooners are on pace to match what has become the norm for a national championship defense.

year team Yds/play rank
2014 Oklahoma 3.92 7
2013 Florida State 4.09 2
2012 Alabama 4.18 2
2011 Alabama 3.32 1
2010 Auburn 5.36 56
2009 Alabama 4.08 4
2008 Florida 4.46 10

Oklahoma has all the requisite pieces. It has an elite pocket-pushing interior lineman (Jordan Phillips), an elite pass rusher (Eric Striker), a do-it-all linebacker (Geneo Grissom) and a pair of dynamic cornerbacks (Zack Sanchez and Julian Wilson). Striker makes this defense especially interesting, as his speed allows him to hit quarterbacks even against Big 12 offenses that essentially ask the signal-caller to catch and throw immediately. Should the Sooners wind up facing a pro-style team during the postseason, Striker will become even more dangerous because those quarterbacks tend to hold onto the ball longer. AJ McCarron learned this the hard way in the Sugar Bowl.

From @shaneterry88: Coca-Cola is bringing back Surge. If you could bring back a coach, player or food from 1997-2003, who or what would it be?

Before I answer Seth’s question, a quick word about Surge. I fail to understand the wisdom behind resurrecting a drink that initially failed because the world didn’t want a sweeter version of Mountain Dew. Also, Surge was a product of the mid-1990s desire to make everything EXXXXXTREEEEEEMMME. In the Age of Snark, extremity is not a marketable quality. Of course, the Age Of Snark also coincides with the Age of Nostalgia for the Very Recent Past, so maybe the folks at Coca-Cola are on to something. Maybe I should cue up Lit's “My Own Worst Enemy,” or anything by Filter, and soak in the EXXXXXTREEEEEEMMMEness.

As for players from that era, Michael Vick in a read-option offense would have been unstoppable. Imagine someone with Vick's skill set (sprinter speed, huge arm) in Gus Malzahn's current offense. Cam Newton won a national title in it. Vick would have been better. No defense in the country would have stood a chance. In the rare event that Malzahn would call a pass, it would be wide open because defenses would have to devote one or two players to watching Vick. Only a unit with future Hall of Fame corners with impeccable conditioning would be able to survive, as the only way to stop the run would be to leave the corners one on one.

I also would have loved 1998-vintage Ricky Williams in today's era. Just imagine college-age Ricky's Twitter and Instagram feeds.

From @sdiamondATL: You're Clemson's head coach. Which quarterback do you start this week? If not Deshaun Watson, did Dabo write your column?

The only person more popular on a college campus than the five-star freshman backup quarterback is the dude with a Kegerator and unfettered access to his dad's AMEX. So, it's perfectly understandable that Clemson fans would want to see Watson play this Saturday at Florida State instead of Cole Stoudt, the senior who coach Dabo Swinney insists gives the Tigers a better chance to win.

Watson has looked great in the action he has seen so far, and that includes leading a touchdown drive in a then-tight game at Georgia on Aug. 30. That suggests he might be able to handle the hostility of Doak Campbell Stadium, which is made infinitely more hostile by the parade of future pros on the Seminoles’ defense. But Swinney has watched Watson and Stoudt in practice since March. His job is to win games, so it’s unlikely he has settled on Stoudt as his starter for any reason other than his belief that Stoudt gives the Tigers the best chance to win. Either that, or Swinney is sandbagging with the hope that Florida State won't prepare for Watson and he can spring him on the ‘Noles. The former is far more likely than the latter.

Still, if Stoudt is ineffective, there is no harm in letting Watson try his hand. With Jameis Winston suspended for the first half, the Tigers have no excuse not to be competitive. The worst that can happen is a loss that everyone predicted 11 months ago. The best that can happen is control of the race for the ACC title.

From @SteveMacrowski: I'm getting married next fall. What is the protocol for football viewing during the reception? Do I provide a TV?

Your Twitter bio says you live in Chicago, so I'm assuming you're not from the South. If you were, you never would have dared ask that question. Had you grown up in an SEC state, you likely would have been disowned for even considering a fall wedding. Proper Southern etiquette dictates that no one should get married on a fall Saturday, but if you must act like a Yankee, at least have the common decency to schedule your nuptials on the open date of the team followed by the families of the bride and groom. If the bride and groom graduated from different schools, schedule the wedding on the open date of the bride's alma mater. After all, it's her day.

Of course you should have a TV. Preferably five. I know young couples think their wedding day will be full of nothing but longing glances and pixie dust, but for your friends it's just another party. Allow them to do the things they would at any party. On a fall Saturday, that means allowing them access to college football. They will remember your wedding as one of the best they've ever attended because they weren't stuck in a ballroom watching septuagenarians grind to Tag Team.

If you think everyone leaving the reception during the chicken dance to go to the bar and watch the second overtime between Iowa and Northwestern will offend you or your bride, disabuse yourself of that notion. You won't even notice. You'll be too busy hugging distant relatives of your wife that you'll never speak to again and wondering why people keep handing you champagne when all you want is a slug of water and one bite of the rubber filet mignon on the plate that you can see but can't wade through the mass of familial humanity to reach. It'll be magical.

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