Defense key to Oklahoma's title hopes

Oklahoma's defense, under Mike Stoops, allowed just 22.1 points per game last season. Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images

As we count down 50 days until the start of the 2014 college football season, ESPN Insider Travis Haney is answering at least one big question a day until South Carolina and Texas A&M’s kickoff on Aug. 28.

Heisman contenders, breakout freshmen, conference winners -- it will all be covered as part of Insider’s Ultimate Season Preview.

Today’s question: Starting with the speed and versatility in the front seven, has Mike Stoops revitalized Oklahoma’s defense?

I don’t know that the makeover is complete, but there are some signs that new-slash-old Sooners defensive coordinator Mike Stoops has returned an edge to the defense. That’s particularly noticeable up front. If toughness and playmaking ability had eroded while Stoops was gone running his own program at Arizona, you started to see it reappear late last season. The seven-sack, five-takeaway performance in the Sugar Bowl win against Alabama was Exhibit A.

The bowl was the end of Stoops’ second season back in charge of the defense. What had taken so long to click?