We have all heard it. I’m pretty sure ESPN actually thinks it is the conference’s official motto: “The Big 12 doesn’t play defense”. It’s time to change the narrative.
Every week I’ll give props to the side of the ball in the Big 12 that gets no love from the national media. I’ll give a shout out to teams, players, position groups or units that had a particularly outstanding performance the week prior.
Defense is about discipline and toughness. Let’s throw some praise to those who got it done in the first week of conference play. Here they are, from best to least best. Props to…
TCU: Everyone Involved, Players To Staff
Gary Patterson’s reputation as a defensive coach usually precedes him and everyone knew that it probably needed to show up in Stillwater right after the Frogs put down that skillet they won in week three. As it turns out, Gary P (yeah, we’re cool like that) was up to the task. James Washington picked up an 86 yard touchdown run by doing what he does and it looked like the Pokes might be off to the races, but the boys wearing purple and white buckled down and didn’t give up another TD until midway through the third quarter.
The Frogs seemed determined to not let OSU have a lot of big plays down the field, repeatedly dropping up to eight defenders into coverage and entrusting their pass rush to the three men up front. That was enough to slow down the Pokes’ offense and allow the TCU offense to control the clock while playing with the lead.
TCU is in the top two of the Big 12 in the following categories: Rushing Defense, Scoring Defense, Total Defense, Sacks By and Interceptions. Oh yeah, and they’re third in Red Zone Defense and Opponent’s Third Down Conversion Rate. That’s some good work right there.
Does anyone ever remember that TCU actually has someone employed as their defensive coordinator? When you’re 4-0, does it matter? Getting wins is all that matters. The Horned Frogs get to rest this week before they host some guy named Will Grier and an offense that also has some weapons and who also do eye-catching things.
Texas Tech: Dakota Allen 2.0 And The Tackling Party He Brought With Him
How about those Red Raiders? David Gibbs’s squad acquitted themselves well against Houston, getting five turnovers on the day. Gibbs was brought to Lubbock to take the ball away from other teams and get it back to Kliff Kingsbury’s offense. So far, it looks like the investment in the third year DC is paying off: Tech currently leads the Big 12 in turnover margin.
Of course, not all of those turnovers were created by the Texas Tech defense, but the unit did enough to keep Houston from getting into an offensive rhythm and the Coogs ended up swapping out former five-star Aggie QB Kyle Allen for his backup.
Led by Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week Dakota Allen, the Red Raiders were able to come up with big plays to get Houston into uncomfortable down-and-distance situations. Through three games, they are giving up 26.3 yards per game and have the makings of a solid unit, one that is an undeniable improvement over those of recent memory: they hold up well along the defensive line, tackle well and appear to be on the same page in the secondary.
Defensively, the winds of change seem to have blown in onto the South Plains. It’ll be intriguing to see how the Red Raiders fare against Mike Gundy’s Cowboys, who put up close to 500 yards last Saturday on what was considered a bad day offensively.
Oklahoma: Run Defense, Especially The Big Bubbas Up Front
While the Sooner secondary had some scary moments that they no doubt heard about in the film room this week, OU’s run defense was all business on Saturday. Baylor was excited to see Terence Williams get back on the field, but probably less happy about him averaging 2.4 yards per carry.
Oklahoma’s leading tacklers (Murray, Beal and Okoronkwo) were all guys whose job it is to come in and clean up when the D-line does it job. Meaning that the OU defensive line did its job and then some, holding the Bears to only 60 yards on the ground total. You usually win when you do that.
Wearing black may make you look slimmer, but it doesn’t make you harder to track down and tackle after you get a handoff. The Sooners proved that to be true in Waco and their reward is an extra week to prepare for Iowa State’s David Montgomery, who has a puncher’s chance to have a 1000 yard season for the Cyclones in 2017.