How much has Ryan Reynolds' injury devastated OU's defense?

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Jake Trotter of the Oklahoman had an interesting story Wednesday about how much Oklahoma's defense has struggled allowing big plays in recent games.

The Sooners have been streaky defensively and have particularly struggled since starting middle linebacker Ryan Reynolds was lost with a season-ending knee injury with 11:40 left in the third quarter of the Texas game.

That was the pivotal event in the Longhorns' win. After that the Longhorns rolled up 25 points in less than 20 minutes to cruise to a 45-35 victory.

The Sooners have struggled since then as well. Kansas scored 24 points in 22 minutes. Kansas State put up three touchdowns in just over a quarter.

At times, the Sooners have played outstanding defense without Reynolds. Oklahoma limited Kansas to four first downs and no points during a stretch of five-straight second half possessions. The Sooners produced seven turnovers in their last two games. And the defense limited Kansas State to only 65 yards in the third quarter when Oklahoma took that game over.

I went back and looked at what the defense averaged before and after Reynolds' injury and found some rather eye-opening statistics.

More worrisome are the points and first downs allowed the Sooners have been gashed for since Reynolds' injury.

Obviously, the quality of offenses have increased with Oklahoma facing Texas, Kansas and Kansas State. And Reynolds did not play every defensive snap in the first five games. But the numbers do indicate the value of Reynolds to Oklahoma's defense.

And it will only get worse, considering that Oklahoma finishes the regular season with Nebraska (29th in scoring offense), Texas A&M (tied for 50th), Texas Tech (third) and Oklahoma State (sixth) during the rest of the regular season.

It's not unfair to speculate that the play of Oklahoma's defensive unit will be the major determining factor in whether the Sooners will be gunning for a third-straight Big 12 championship in the Dec. 6 title game in Kansas City or will be preparing for a bowl game in a place like San Diego, Jacksonville or San Antonio.

We will find out over the next few weeks.