The Nationwide bias towards Big 12 Defenses

By: Hunter Griffitts
Twitter: @HunterGriffitts

Throughout last season one of the Big 12’s question marks was the defensive side of the ball. One of the most lackluster perspectives was that Big 12 defense was non-existent or scarce. A nation-wide bias was created. However, the Big 12 fed that perspective by displaying one of the worst examples of defense midway through the season with the game between 2016 Big 12 champion Oklahoma and Texas Tech. It was an offensive rout right from the start with both team’s defenses giving up 854 total yards.

Around the conference Big 12 defense stumbled for the most part in the 2016 season. They constantly fed the national perception that there was no defense played in the conference. Every Saturday we saw scoreboards lit up and crazy offensive stats, but nothing of context to pat ourselves on the back for defensively. Any 10-0 games like that in the SEC between Alabama and LSU?? That would’ve been very hard to come by.

Everywhere you turned someone was bashing and hating on Big 12 defenses. Until, that is, we saw the performances of Big 12 teams during bowl season.

Motel 6 Cactus Bowl – Baylor 31 Boise State 12

Baylor shut down the Broncos in that Cactus Bowl only allowing 12 points and forcing two interceptions from Boise State QB Brett Rypien. Baylor QB Zach Smith exploded for 375 yards passing with 3 TD and just one INT. Definitely a game Baylor fans needed and with Matt Rhule at the helm now this will send a wounded Baylor program in the direction they need to be.

ADVOCARE V100 Texas Bowl – KSU 33 Texas A&M 28

The Wildcats defense was led that day by JR linebacker Elijah Lee with 12 tackles and K-State was able to beat Trevor Knight and the Aggies 33-28. KSU went into that game as underdogs but ultimately prevailed. This was a big win for head coach Bill Snyder and the Big 12.

Valero Alamo Bowl – OSU 38 Colorado 8

I doubt anyone really saw the dominating performance coming from Mike Gundy’s Cowboys against Colorado after getting beat by Oklahoma for the Big 12 championship. However, Colorado had also came off a tough loss, getting outran by the Washington Huskies in the Pac-12 championship game, 41-10. The Cowboys dominated in every aspect of the game. Vincent Taylor led the day with 7 tackles for OSU.

Allstate Sugar Bowl – OU 35 Auburn 19

OU forced Auburn into using 4 different QB’s during the game. It was an eye opener for many OU fans as the highly talented true freshman outside linebaker, Caleb Kelly, erupted for a team leading 12 tackles as he anchored the defense. It was a great confidence booster, something that OU defense will need in 2017 if they intend to be in contention for a spot in the College Football Playoff.

The Big 12 sent 7 defensive guys to the NFL Combine and all put up good numbers. Which then raised the question…. Why does the Big 12 have such a nation-wide bias towards their defense? In bowl games, Big 12 defenses combined to give up the least amount of points

It’s hard for people on the outside looking in to really grasp the way that Big 12 offenses are ran. Those spread offenses will most likely cause a defense to give up more points than other teams that run different types of offensive schemes. For example, look at Nick Saban and his Alabama defense against spread offenses. It’s definitely a weakness. He has historically struggled against spread offensive throughout his career at Bama. Examples of this are the struggles against Clemson’s offense in the past two National Championship games and OU’s offense in the 2014 Sugar Bowl.

Big 12 defenses sent a message to the national media during bowl season by shutting down high powered offenses and showing that they can play with teams from different conferences. However, the bias will still haunt the Big 12. It’s something that comes with running high scoring spread offenses. Hopefully the Big 12 can vanquish that bias and the bowl season performance is one stepping stone closer to getting there.

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