- KC Joyner, NFL Insider
The Jim Thorpe Award, which honors the best defensive back in college football, for a stretch seemed to be a staple honor for the Big 12 and, its predecessor, the Big 8. The conference has taken home nine of 26 Thorpe awards since its creation in 1986, and at one point claimed the winner in five out of six seasons (2001-03, 2005-06).
But since that last winner in 2006 -- Aaron Ross, Texas -- the Big 12 has not been able to lay claim to the prize.
The competition for the Thorpe Award this season again will be tough, with a slew of top-level secondary players -- USC cornerback Nickell Robey; North Carolina State cornerback David Amerson; Florida State's Xavier Rhodes; Mississippi State's Johnthan Banks; and of course LSU's Tyrann Mathieu chief among them -- but the Big 12 may have more strong Thorpe candidates than any other FBS conference.
Below is a ranking of the top eight Big 12 Thorpe Award candidates (in order of their chance to win this honor). Each player has a list of pros and cons for his candidacy, as well interception and passes defensed numbers from 2011. In addition, each candidate also has the yards per attempt (YPA) and vertical yards per attempt (VYPA) metrics from a review of a minimum of eight games versus BCS conference competition last season. (Note: All metrics include penalty plays such as pass interference, defensive holding, etc. Vertical passes are aerials thrown 11 or more yards downfield).
8hBrian Bennett and Josh Moyer
1dChantel Jennings and David Lombardi
1dBrian Bennett and Austin Ward