Defense On The Rise In Big 12?

Defense On The Rise In Big 12?

ARLINGTON, Texas – The perception of the Big 12 as a defense-deficient league was a recurrent theme (again) at Big 12 Media Days, and new West Virginia head coach Neal Brown wasn’t alone in getting a couple of queries about that issue.  Noted for building solid defenses at Troy, one of his many tasks at WVU will be to rebuild a unit that can slow Big 12 offenses.

Neal Brown
West Virginia head football coach Neal Brown

Brown, like several coaches at the league’s showcase, at least sense a shift in the “offense only” perception, and note that new coaching hires, some shifting offensive priorities, and perhaps an inevitable downturn in the extraordinary talent at quarterback could all contribute to better defensive results.

“There has been an extremely high level of quarterback play in this league going back to 2008 or so,” said Brown, who has his own experience in the league as the offensive coordinator at Texas Tech from 2010-12. “The run of quarterbacks over the last 10 to 12 years has been remarkable. Regardless of what conference you’re in, it’s hard to defend them. It’s hard to defend those type of quarterbacks. I do think the defenses in this league are better than maybe what’s presented on the national stage.”

Defensive end Reese Donahue accurate points out that the fast pace of many Big 12 offenses contributes to high point totals, but that too might be changing. Several coaches hinted, if not said outright, that tight ends, more running, and more balanced offensive attacks could be in the offing. Brown, who has had a six year hiatus from the Big 12, sees the potential for a shift.

“In ’10, ’11 and ’12 when we were at Texas Tech, those are some of the best offenses in the country at that time. I think you change, the game evolves,” Brown explained. “We won’t look the same that we did. Last time I called plays in this league in 2012 at Texas Tech, we’ve evolved. We’ve changed. We are probably a little bit more balanced now than we were at that point. If you look at what’s being done in this league, I think it is changing. I think that with some of the recent hires it will continue to improve.”

That includes new Oklahoma defensive coordinator Alex Grinch as well as West Virginia’s Vic Koenning, who brings a wealth of experience and a different defensive system to WVU. Will they be able to slow offenses on their own merits?

“Being a play caller in this league three years I do understand what we’re getting into,” Brown said, perhaps unconsciously echoing the sympathy extended by league commissioner Bob Bowlsby a day earlier, who noted he did not envy the task of the new head coaches. “This is a league with a ton of dynamic offensive play callers, quarterbacks and playmakers on the offensive side. You will have to score to win games, but I do think it’s important if you look at the teams that have had the most success it’s been the teams that have been able to run the ball, especially when people know you’re going to run the ball. Those are the teams that have won close games.”

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    Defense On The Rise In Big 12? ARLINGTON, Texas — The perception of the Big 12 as a defense-deficient league was a recurrent theme (again) at Big 12
    [See the full post at: Defense On The Rise In Big 12?]



    I think the high flying offenses have hurt the Big 12  in perception of how good the teams were.  However, are the defenses geting better or the offenses declining?  This season WVU  will probably rely more on the running game than the passing game.


    Never understood how Oklahoma could recruit such good offense and have such poor defense.


    OK’s defense has the same quality of players as its offense.  The problem since we’ve joined the league is QB play across the board.  This league has had a run of truly top shelf QBs and because of that, these QBs have been able to pierce all the teams defenses.  The level of QB talent this year is not up to the normal standards, so don’t be surprised to see some “better” defenses in 2019.


    A good way to test the defense theory, pro or con as it applies to the Big 12, is to compare the Power 5 non-conference games of Big 12 teams. Do the non-Big 12 defenses do better against the Big 12 offenses than the Big 12 schools’ defenders? If I have 5 hours some day I might check on that. Anyone who wants to do it is welcome to check it out.


    What the hell, I did the comparison of Big 12 offenses against non-conference Power 5 teams and season averages.

    Comparing 2018 Big 12 scores against Power 5 non-conference opponents, 7 of the 10 teams averaged more points against non-conference foes than their season average.

    TCU did 3 times better than its season average. Oklahoma State was more than double its season average. Texas Tech was almost double its season average.

    Only Baylor, Kansas State and, surprisingly, Iowa State were below their season averages against non-conference rivals.

    My conclusion: Big 12 defenses look weak because they’re going against Big 12 offenses because, as a league against teams in leagues of similar strength, 7 out of 10 did better against non-conference opponents.


    Season averages

    Oklahoma offense 33.15   defense 24.15  vs. non-conference 56 (about 40% more than season average)

    Iowa State offense 20.46  defense 16.9     vs. non-conference 14.5 (one-fourth below season average)

    West Virginia 31.08 offense defense 21.75  vs. non-conference 40 (one-third more than season average)

    TCU offense 13.15 defense 18.0    vs. non-conference 35.0 (almost 3 times more than season average)

    Baylor offense 16.92 defense 22.07  vs. non-conference 40 (less than half season average)

    Kansas State offense 16.0 defense 19.42   vs. non-conference 10 (almost half as much as season average)

    Texas Tech offense 23.42 defense 23.08     vs. non-conference 45.0 offense (almost double season average)

    Oklahoma State offense 23.38 defense 26.0  vs. non-conference 58 (more than double season average)

    Kansas offense 14.75 defense 26.08   vs. non-conference 55 (about 3 ½ times more than season average)


    I’ll believe it when I see it. Individual talent on defense has been present. Scheme and coaching has been missing. #mikestoops

    OU And UT have no excuse. The offenses have not been THAT good.

    Criticism has been justified


    Excellent numbers, CFE!

    I do think some of the criticism of defenses is justified, but does tend to get overblown at times.

    Bob Bowlsby’s point abouy Big 12 defenses holding all but on of its 2018 bowl opponents under their season scoring averages is a bit of a one-off stat, but it also does point out that Big 12 defenses aren’t the abysmal mess some make them out to be across the board.

    The thoughts here about defensive talent are interesting. It’s hard to imagine OU playing as bad on defense as it did last year. Did they suffer from the Rodriguez disease of taking all the best athlete/players for offense? OR was it scheme – a Joe DeForest problem? Watching what they do with a new defensive coordinator this year.

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