It started with a simple message from Lincoln Riley to his team in the offseason. Whoever OU brought in to be the new defensive coordinator, the Sooner defense had to be all in.

"I do remember specifically telling them I can go bring in Vince Lombardi himself, and if you guys don't believe in it, it's not going to work," Riley said. "Your buy-in is just as important, if not more, than who we bring in. And if we get it right and you guys buy in and we do bring in the right person, then it's going to get pretty fun."

And it has been a pretty fun year for the defense, especially compared to the last few seasons. The Sooners finished the regular season allowing the fewest yards per game in the conference, a year after finishing second to last.

"When he said this is the guy, I believe him 100%, 1,000% in Coach Riley," junior linebacker Kenneth Murray said. "When he said this is the guy, then I knew this was the guy. So from day one, whatever Coach Grinch said, I was always bought into."

Up next for the Sooners is the Big 12 title game against Baylor Saturday at 11 a.m.