The offseason is a good time to step back and take a look at the bigger picture.
Which Big 12 teams are efficient on offense and defense, excel on third down and consistently create turnovers? Those are just a few of the questions we’ll aim to answer during this weekly offseason series. In this series we’re looking to expose the programs that build themselves upon certain long-term traits as opposed to riding one or two elite players to short-term excellence.
Today, we continue the series by looking at which defenses are the toughest to move the ball against by taking a look at yards per play allowed. (All stats are in Big 12 games only and date back to 2012, when TCU and West Virginia joined the conference. Courtesy of ESPN Stats and Information.)
1. TCU, 5.25: Gary Patterson stresses run defense, allowing a Big 12-low 3.62 yards per carry during this span. The Horned Frogs are also extremely opportunistic, leading the conference with 30 fumble recoveries and 49 interceptions. TCU’s offense has seen a transformation during its time in the Big 12, but Patterson’s squad has played good defense the entire time.
2. Oklahoma, 5.31: The Sooners have had the league’s top pass defense, allowing 6.77 yards per pass attempt to top the conference. Limiting big plays has also been key for Bob Stoops’ defense, with Oklahoma allowing just 17.9 percent of opponents' plays to gain 10 yards or more, ranking first in the Big 12. The Sooners tradition of winning Big 12 championships is built upon good defense, so this is nothing new.
3. Texas, 5.43: Considering the lack of a Big 12 title it is somewhat of a surprise to see the Longhorns in the top three. Yet Texas’ defense under Charlie Strong has been the Big 12’s best in this category, allowing 5.14 yards per play to rank just ahead of Oklahoma (5.15) over the past two seasons. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Longhorns rise further up this list.
4. Baylor, 5.53: Sound run defense is at the heart of the Bears’ ranking. Baylor’s 3.88 yards per carry allowed ranks second in the conference during this span. The Bears are as disruptive as any defense in the Big 12, forcing zero or negative yardage on 35.4 percent of opponent plays. An improved secondary would make Baylor rise higher in this list.
5. Oklahoma State, 5.54: The Cowboys defense has faced the highest average of total plays per game (80.2) and pass attempts (38.75) during this span yet finished in the top half of the conference in most categories. Oklahoma State didn’t have a consistently dominant defense, but it was consistently productive.
6. Kansas State, 5.69: Bill Snyder’s defense is terrific at limiting big plays, allowing a Big 12-low 133 plays of 20 yards or more during this span. The Wildcats are also particularly disruptive with 88 sacks, ranking third in the conference. The Wildcats' defense excels at forcing turnovers, creating pressure and limiting big plays, allowing K-State to often put itself in the conference title race.
7. West Virginia, 5.92: The Mountaineers' fortunes have changed since Tony Gibson took over the defense as coordinator and the young defenders who came aboard during WVU's Big 12 infancy began to mature. During the past two seasons, West Virginia has allowed 5.33 yards per play, ranking third in the Big 12 since Gibson took charge. It allowed 6.48 yards per play during the previous two seasons.
8. Texas Tech, 6.29: The Red Raiders' struggles to slow the running game has been a consistent trademark of the defense. Big 12 offenses have averaged 5.24 yards per carry against Tech (putting Tech No. 9 in the Big 12), which faced a Big 12-high 45.64 rushing attempts per game. The first season under David Gibbs didn’t feature immediate improvement, with Tech finishing ninth in yards per play allowed (6.86) and yards per carry (5.99).
9. Iowa State, 6.46: The Cyclones allowed nearly 50 percent of opponents' plays (46.4) to gain at least five yards to rank last in the Big 12. Matt Campbell has some rebuilding (and recruiting) to do if he hopes to get Iowa State back on a positive track.
10. Kansas, 6.66: The Jayhawks rank last in several categories, including yards per carry (5.33) and passing yards per attempt (8.28). However, 29 fumble recoveries tied Kansas for second in the Big 12, providing a little bit of hope.