From the moment Georgia hired Kirby Smart, you knew the Bulldog defense was going to be stout year in and year out.
In Smart’s first year taking over the program the defense ranked 35th nationally in scoring, 36th nationally in run defense, 16th in pass defense, and 16th nationally in total defense. In year two Georgia showed marked improvement almost across the board defensively.
However, Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley, whose squad played Kirby Smart and Georgia in the Rose Bowl semifinal on New Years Day, let his thoughts be known on Sirius XM’s ESPNU channel, saying that Georgia’s defense wouldn’t be a top five defense annually if they had to play in the Big 12.
"If you throw Georgia in the Big 12 every year there is no way they are a Top 5 defense in the country"
— Danny Kanell (@dannykanell) July 3, 2018
Riley points out that in saying that he’s standing up for the Big 12, not taking a shot at Georgia.
That’s not a shot at Georgia….they were absolutely one of the best defenses last year…it’s a compliment to our league-
— Lincoln Riley (@LincolnRiley) July 3, 2018
In the Rose Bowl semifinal game last year, Riley’s Sooners moved the ball nearly at will racking up 531 yards of total offense before losing in a 54-48 double overtime thriller for the ages. Baker Mayfield went 23-35 for 287 yards and two touchdowns, while Rodney Anderson rushed for over 200 yards on 26 carries with two touchdowns.
In the Big 12, seven of the 10 teams averaged over 30 points per game, while just half the SEC managed to do the same. And while the Sooners led the Big 12 in points per game last year at 45.1 points per game, you had Oklahoma State nipping at their heels at an even 45 points per game. We all know the Big 12 is an offensive dominated league, so does Riley have a legit point?
We’ll never know for sure whether Riley’s statement would hold water in real life, but it sure makes for some fun off season conversation.