There will be plenty of offense when the Oklahoma Sooners and Texas A&M Aggies collide at the Cotton Bowl Jan. 4, but the key to an Oklahoma victory lies in the mind of defensive coordinator Mike Stoops.
The Stoops brothers grew up on defense.
Bob Stoops seasoned his coaching prowess as the defensive coordinator under the "old ball coach" Steve Spurrier at Florida before becoming Oklahoma's head coach in 1999.
Mike Stoops learned from Bill Snyder as an assistant at Kansas State and from his brother Bob as the defensive coordinator at Oklahoma the first time around.
The youngest Stoops, Mark, worked his way up the coaching ranks and held the defensive coordinator jobs at Arizona and Florida State before being named Kentucky's head coach in November.
Defense defines the Stoops brothers and it will be Mike’s job to step up in order for Oklahoma to claim a Cotton Bowl victory.
There are two glaring examples of why Mike will have to change his schemes against the Aggies.
Oklahoma's defensive line and linebackers aren't exceptionally talented and it showed against West Virginia and Oklahoma State late in the season.
The Sooners gave up 49 points and 778 total yards against the Mountaineers on Nov. 17, 458 yards coming on the ground and 345 coming from just one guy (Tavon Austin).
A week later, Oklahoma gave up 48 points to Oklahoma State. The Cowboys rushed for 225 yards and quarterback Clint Chelf dashed for 81. Although they didn't exactly destroy Oklahoma's defense like the Mountaineers, they still found major holes and took advantage.
The similarities between West Virginia, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M are far and few between but there is one glaring comparison that could mean a few sleepless nights for Mike Stoops in the near future: Each team features a quarterback that can make plays with both their arm and their legs.
Manziel finished the season with over 3,400 passing yards and over 1,100 rushing yards. He also finished with 43 total touchdowns.
The Stoops brothers haven’t had a strong track record against mobile quarterbacks. Vince Young, Brad Smith, El Roberson, Colt McCoy…and the list goes on. Manziel is not only a mobile quarterback; he's the most dynamic player in the nation.
The Sooners cannot run three-down linemen against the Aggies like they did much of the second half against West Virginia. Also, they can't allow Manziel to reach the outside like they did against Chelf and Oklahoma State.
Mike's schemes will be paramount in the Cotton Bowl. He's the leader of the defense and he has to scramble the X's and O's in order to find a game plan for stopping Manziel and Kevin Sumlin's explosive offense.
The Stoops have made a living off coaching defense. Give them enough time and they can scheme for anyone, including the best player in the nation. However, give the best player in the nation enough room and he will burn you.
Hopefully for the Sooners, there won’t be much room to work with.
(All stats via Soonersports.com and ESPN.com)