Oklahoma football: Five ways 2021 will be national championship year

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - JANUARY 11: Master Teague III #33 of the Ohio State Buckeyes rushes against the Alabama Crimson Tide during the College Football Playoff National Championship held at Hard Rock Stadium on January 11, 2021 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images)
MIAMI GARDENS, FL - JANUARY 11: Master Teague III #33 of the Ohio State Buckeyes rushes against the Alabama Crimson Tide during the College Football Playoff National Championship held at Hard Rock Stadium on January 11, 2021 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images) /
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NORMAN, OK – APRIL 24: The Oklahoma Sooners defense gathers after their spring game at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium on April 24, 2021 in Norman, Oklahoma. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
NORMAN, OK – APRIL 24: The Oklahoma Sooners defense gathers after their spring game at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium on April 24, 2021 in Norman, Oklahoma. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images) /

Much improved defense

For the past two seasons, we’ve been saying that the Oklahoma defense has been getting better and better. The statistics clearly bear that out. And this year should be the big unveiling of a defense that is finally worthy of being on the same field and complementary of one of the country’s top offenses.

The Sooners’ defensive front with Perrion Winfrey, Isaiah Thomas and Jalen Redmond is the strength of this revamped defense under defensive coordinator Alex Grinch. The year before Grinch arrived in 2019, Oklahoma was giving up 33 points a game and yielding 454 yards of offense. It’s a minor miracle that team lost only two of 14 games.

Two years later, however, the Sooners were allowing just over 21 points a game and 351 yards of total offense, 100 fewer than in 2018. A major factor in that dramatic improvement was a 72-percent success rate getting off the field on third down, fourth best in the nation among FBS teams.

The 2021 defensive unit should be even better, with both experience and depth in every position group and strong competition for playing time.

An improved defense is the single biggest factor in the Sooners’ national championship chances this season. A Lincoln Riley offense is always going to be able to move the ball and score points. A more formidable and confident defense makes this team extremely dangerous and difficult to defeat.