Just like that, we have a month of football left. Big 12 defenses are starting to turn some heads and start some conversations. We’ve been here the whole time at the Props.
Every week, I give a shout out to teams, players, position groups or units that had a particularly outstanding performance the week prior. Let’s throw some praise to those who got it done on Saturday. Here they are, from best to least best. Props to…
IOWA STATE: RED ZONE D
Every week it seems like Iowa State has a defensive performance that tops the last one. They’ve got some things figured out in Ames.
Let us take a minute, though, and point out that Iowa State has been getting some Props throughout the month of October. We aren’t just now jumping on the bandwagon. We fed, watered and hitched up the horses that pull the bandwagon.
This team did not allow TCU’s offense to score even a point. Yours Truly had to dust off the old record books to find out the last time that happened.
That would be December 28, 2001 in the Galleryfurniture.com bowl. The Frogs scored nine points in that one, all thanks to their defense.
We’re giving a shout out to the Cyclones defense, though, which has been making its name with a notorious three-man front. This unit was more than happy to cede some yards to the ground, but reserved the right to refuse any service in the red zone.
They came away with two turnovers when the Horned Frogs got inside the 20 yard line.
For that, give some credit to the guys up front for Iowa State, who gave TCU reason to commit multiple penalties that put them behind the chains.
Make no mistake, the Iowa State defense is legit and is here to stay. They’re giving up 18.8 points per game to date, a stat that ranks them in the top 25 in the nation.
Next week in Morgantown it’s muskets vs. Spears, Marcel Spears that is, who earned Big 12 Player of the Week honors for the second week in a row.
TEXAS: RUN DEFENSE
After giving up a trauma-inducing amount of rushing yards against Maryland in their opener, the Longhorns have righted the ship defensively, specifically against the run.
Texas now has climbed all the way up to become the second best run defense in the Big 12, holding teams to 109.6 yards per game. While opposing offensive lines are trying to hold up against the big boys up front, linebackers like Malik Jefferson are able to flow to the ball and make eye-catching tackles.
That might cause an offense to have to work from, for example, 3rd and 8 from, and, let’s say just (for kicks), their own 27 yard line. Being in an obvious passing down might – hypothetically, of course – cause an opposing quarterback to feel the pressure and throw an ill-advised pass, one that gets tipped and then picked off and taken to the house.
Okay, yes, I’m messing with you. That actually happened. DeShon Elliot got his sixth interception and second pick six in 2017 when he got Texas on the board against Baylor’s Zach Smith.
Elliot is having an outstanding junior campaign, one that has made him a Thorpe Award Semifinalist. One would hope he shares those honors with the front seven, though, who often help set up such big plays.
Up next, Texas will have see how they do against a TCU ground attack that’s averaging 195 yards a game.
Which is the taller task for coach Tom Herman – scoring points against a Patterson defense or cloning Texas defensive coordinator Todd Orlando before he becomes the head coach at Nebraska? Probably a toss up.
OKLAHOMA: FRONT SEVEN
There was much ballyhoo that Sooners vs Red Raiders 2017 would resemble Sooners vs Red Raiders 2016, a contest that had those of us who like defense questioning everything we believed in last year.
The ESPN guys on the call each had sticky notes that said “when in doubt, just say SHOOTOUT” and early on, it wasn’t pretty. Or maybe it was, if you like that kind of thing.
After allowing 20 points in the first quarter, though, the Sooners stiffened up and allowed only one score the rest of the way.
Much of that was due to the improved play of the front seven.
Texas Tech came out running the ball, and looked to be ready to score in bunches when they repeatedly handed the ball off to running backs for big gains. After the first quarter, Oklahoma’s defense stepped up and allowed only 43 yards on the ground throughout the rest of the game.
The one-dimensional Red Raiders just couldn’t spin the pill the same way against the pass rush of guys like Obo Okoronkwu and D.J. Ward, each of whom had a sack. The front four managed to get pressure on quarterback Nic Shimonek and linebacker Caleb Kelly snagged himself an interception.
Obo is the reigning sack leader in the Big 12 and looked every bit the part on Saturday. With the kind of pressure the Sooners can get on their pass rush, they might be rounding into championship form headed into November.
This week? Oh just a little rivalry game against those Oklahoma State Cowboys. They put up 50 points last week.
Mike Stoops better make sure Obo takes his vitamins. It is flu season, after all.