Here we sit in the last week of the regular season. Let pundits say what they want about defense in this league, but the two teams mostly likely to play in the ‘ship are coming on strong defensively. They don’t give out trophies for starting well, but they do for finishing well.
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…
TCU: DEFENSIVE BACKFIELD
How fitting that the Horned Frogs should return to the top spot headed into the final week of the season. They held a traditionally potent offense to a mere field goal.
Holding Texas Tech to three points on offense probably tasted better to Gary Patterson than a whole batch of Thanksgiving pies. Three points is the lowest point total of the Kliff Kingsbury era and the first time the Red Raiders have been held without a touchdown in over ten years.
The last team to do that was….also TCU. Gary Patterson’s teams have a knack for stopping offenses in red and black and Saturday was no different.
On a day when the Horned Frogs were all banged up, the defense came through by keeping the Red Raiders out of the end zone.
Texas Tech got inside the TCU 35 yard line six times, but each go around the Horned Frog defenders came away with big plays. The most impactful was probably defensive back Jeff Gladney’s pick six, which came just as Texas Tech had managed to get to the Horned Frogs 11 yard line late in the game.
I believe we said something last week about points being more important than yards, no? TCU didn’t let quarterback Nic Shimonek have either, holding him to 137 yards and a QBR of 12.4.
There’s one more contest left in the regular season, but we don’t need another data point to say that this is the best defense in the Big 12. It’s also the best scoring defense Gary Patterson’s had since TCU joined the conference, giving up 15.1 points per game.
That’s just not right. Actually, in the opinion of Your Truly, there’s a lot right with that. That performance is a testament to the power of good coaching.
Next up is Baylor at home. Win and the next game is a quick bus ride to Jerry World just down the street.
The way Horned Frogs are playing defense right now, they might be able to beat the Bears with a turkey under center.
OKLAHOMA: SCORING DEFENSE
The Kansas Jayhawks were also held to only a field goal on Saturday against Oklahoma, who won’t get as much credit for their defensive chops on the day. In college football, though, three points is three points.
Despite all of the accolades received by the offense, the other side of the ball for the Sooners is quietly improving. Oklahoma is now fourth in the Big 12 in scoring defense, giving up 25.1 points per game.
On Saturday, the Sooners defense helped themselves out by getting off the field on third down. They forced six three-and-outs, mostly by being able to stop the run.
Oklahoma held the Jayhawks to just 32 yards rushing on 27 attempts, putting Kansas in predictable down-and-distance situations all day.
The Sooners might have the best defensive line in the Big 12 and they’ve been leaning on that group throughout 2017. Being able to win up front helps prevent big plays in the running game and gives opposing quarterbacks limited time to make decisions.
Next up, the Sooners get West Virginia before they get a chance to play for some hardware.
The Mountaineers have enough Red Bulls to overcome that tryptophan drowsiness, so be ready to run down the guys in the coon skin caps.
TEXAS: RUN DEFENSE
While they only had to face Will Grier and his rocket of an arm for less than a quarter, they prevented backup Chris Chugunov from replicating Grier’s dynamic passing numbers.
Texas allowed the Moutaineers to get only seven points on offense and mostly contained West Viriginia’s collection of talented wide receivers.
The Longhorns were able to stop the run with penetration by their defensive line and get pressure on the quarterback. They allowed a mere 1.9 yards per carry and Chugunov completed a mediocre 14 out of his 26 pass attempts.
A big part of that defensive effort was Big 12 co-defensive player of the week Gary Johnson, a linebacker who had a sack and forced fumble against West Virginia.
With one game left, Texas has held its opponents to an average of 14.09 points per game in Big 12 play. When you’re holding the other team to 14, you only need 15 to win.
At 6-5 on the season, the Longhorns have won more than they’ve lost to this point and that’s been good enough to get them to bowl eligibility.
Up next, Texas hosts the Red Raiders in a Black Friday matchup. Time to skip hunting bargains and focus on tracking down another potent wide receiver corps.