Oklahoma football: Where things stand halfway through the 2017 season

5 of 5
WACO, TX – SEPTEMBER 23: Denzel Mims
WACO, TX – SEPTEMBER 23: Denzel Mims /

Biggest disappointment

For the past couple of years, the biggest knock against Oklahoma football was that the Sooners were one of the country’s most explosive and high-scoring offensive teams, but they did not play well enough on the defensive side of the ball to counteract a bad offensive game.

With the exception of the game against Houston to open the 2016 season and the disappointing loss at home to Ohio State that same season, the OU defense played well enough against teams in the Big 12 to enable the Sooners to go undefeated in the conference, but was still considered the team’s biggest weakness.

In the offseason leading up to the start of the 2017 season, the word inside the Sooner football program was that the OU was going to change the alignment of its front seven and that the added year of experience for the returning starters, especially in the secondary, would make for an improved Sooner defense this season.

We saw our first validation that the OU defense was better this season in the stellar performance turned in against a very good Ohio State team.

Then came the Baylor game, two games later, in which Sooner fans thought they were seeing a ghost from recent seasons. Baylor quarterback Zach Smith shredded the Oklahoma defense for 463 yards passing and not one, but two deep balls that both went for 70-plus yards and a pair of Baylor touchdowns. Smith through four touchdown passes in that game, and Baylor wide receiver Denzel Mims consistently beat OU cornerback Jordan Thomas, reported to be one of the best cover corners in the conference.

Optimistically, Oklahoma fans were hoping the Baylor game, which the Sooners were fortunate to win, was just an aberration and the result of breakdowns in pass coverage and individual assignments that could be quickly corrected.

The Sooners played sound defense in the first half against Iowa State, but in the second half, the Cyclones successfully attacked the OU secondary in much the same way that Baylor did. Iowa State took advantage of size mismatches with taller wide receivers being defended by short Oklahoma defenders, and it paid off in a big second half and another big passing game against the OU defense that this time did in the heavily favored Sooners.

Next: The 30 best games in Oklahoma football history

The more prolific passing teams in the Big 12 are still ahead on the Oklahoma schedule. If the issues at the back end of the Sooner defense don’t get shored up quickly (and this includes the ability to put more pressure on the opposing quarterback), a season that started off in such grand style and with substance to back it up, could quickly turn into a season to forget.