We’ll grant you that the Big 12 is a hot mess, on the field and in the presidential board rooms. It’s highly unlikely the league won’t make the College Football Playoff for the second time in three years, and the expansion saga has turned sitcom.
But for fans of high-scoring offenses, the Big 12 is the conference. Never mind the argument the defenses in the Big 12 are as effective as a screen door in a submarine. Stopping or at least limiting the offensive units is a near impossible task.
The five games in the first full week of league play had 370 points scored and 4,908 yards in total offense. The average final score was 43-30 (including the 17-16 game between K-State and West Virginia). The 10 teams averaged 490 yards in total offense, 6.4 yards per play and nearly 77 offensive snaps. There were 49 touchdowns scored and 16 covered 30 or more yards.
“The worst job maybe in America right now is the defensive coordinator, especially in the Big 12,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said, who is the Horned Frogs’ de facto defensive coordinator.
With two months of conference play looming, the defensive stats could get ugly. Eight Big 12 teams are No. 77 or worse in total defense. Six rank No. 67 or lower in scoring defense; Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas Tech and Texas are giving up more than 35 points or more per game.
The Big 12’s two “brand name” programs meet Saturday in the Cotton Bowl. The Texas defense ranks 87th in the latest FBS stats, allowing 428.5 yards per game. Guess who is No. 88? Oklahoma at 429.3.
“Defensive statistics are not what they used to be and they’re not ever going to go back to the way it used to be,” said Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy, whose team beat the Longhorns 49-31 in a game with 1,123 yards in total offense. “Offenses play fast … There’s more speed on the perimeter … (And) we’re back in a trend here where we’ve got fantastic quarterbacks playing in this league. When that happens, they’re going to run up 400-500 yards. That’s just the way it is.”
Five Big 12 teams are averaging over 500 yards in total offense. The only team that doesn’t play fast is Kansas State which has one of the best defensive units in the FBS.
“It used to be 11-12 possessions in a ballgame,” Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said. “Now that number goes up in our conference to the vicinity of 16 possessions a ballgame. They are getting the ball more and having more opportunities.
“The game is so hard defensively because the game is played out in space, as they say. It’s not an easy thing to do making tackles with all that space out there.”
As Captain Kirk always said, space is the final frontier.
Iowa State finds its offense
In starting the season 0-3, Iowa State’s offense scored a total of 43 points. In the last two games, the Cyclones have doubled that, scoring 86. All of a sudden, first-year coach Matt Campbell has a team that can score like other Big 12 teams.
“We are learning and growing as well as coaches and our players are learning and growing,” Campbell said. “You’ve got to remember, this is, for some of these guys, a third offensive system in so many years.
“Scaling back, making sure we don’t go too fast, not trying to be too complex early, I felt like if we gave them everything early, there would have been no growth at all this entire season.”
Iowa State apparently had settled on a two-quarterback system as both Joel Lanning and Jacob Park had split time and played well in a 44-10 victory over San Jose State. In Saturday’s 45-42 loss to Baylor Saturday, the plan was for Park to come in after Lanning played the first two series. But Lanning was playing so well, the offense was rolling and Park never got in the game.
“It’s never perfect and it’s never right,” said Campbell, whose team plays at Oklahoma State Saturday.
“You try to do what’s right by the football team at the end of the day when you’re the head coach and you’re the offensive coordinator. We believe in both of those guys. I think you’re still going to see plenty of Jacob Park. I think Joel and Jacob both know that. Joel played at a really high rate, was playing good football almost the entire day.”
Texas defensive end/linebacker Breckyn Hager, whose father Britt was an All-American linebacker at Texas in 1988, left the field in Stillwater Saturday while his teammates stayed on the field for traditional postgame singing of “The Eyes of Texas.” He apologized Monday.
After Saturday’s 49-31 loss at Oklahoma State, Hager ran up the ramp, went by reporters standing on the stadium concourse and headed straight into the locker room.
“I’m sorry to all the fans for leaving the game early,” he said. “It wasn’t a conscious decision by any means. It was more so just frustration and emotions got too high. I know what Texas Fight means. I know it all. My dad was actually mad at me after the game. I just wanted to clear that up. I’m really sorry about that and it’s not going to happen again. I promise.”
- Texas fans should be nervous if the Red River Rivalry comes down to kicker Trey Domingue making a field goal … or even an extra point (he’s had four PATs blocked this season). His last nine attempts: field goal miss, field goal miss, PAT, FG, PAT, PAT block, PAT block, PAT block, field goal miss.
- According to ESPN Stats & Info: Three blocked extra points suffered by Texas ties the most blocked extra points in a game for any FBS team going back to at least 2004.
- Oklahoma State defensive tackle Vincent Taylor, who blocked two extra points against Texas last week and is a major force on the Cowboys’ defensive line, is this week’s nominee for the 2016 Capital One Orange Bowl-FWAA Courage Award. Taylor, a junior, was 10 years old and living with his family in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina devastated the city. He witnessed a number of gruesome scenes in the week before his family left and relocated to San Antonio.
- Since 1989, in the eight games when Texas was unranked and Oklahoma was ranked, the Longhorns have won six.
- A definite clash in styles will unfold when Texas Tech plays at Kansas State Saturday. The Red Raiders are the only FBS team to score 50 or more points in each game this season. The Wildcats are seventh in FBS allowing 12.5 points per game.
- Kansas coach David Beaty said this week that sophomore Ryan Willis will start at quarterback against TCU Saturday. Montell Cozart has started the Jayhawks’ first four games. “(Ryan) has shown some real progress for us from fall camp moving along, in terms of how he’s studying and the way he’s starting to understand,” Beaty said of Willis on his radio show. “I think his efficiency has been a little better for us.”
- Baylor has gone for it on fourth down 14 times in five games; that’s the sixth-most in the FBS. That’s twice as much as Jim Grobe went for it on fourth down in 2013, his final season as coach at Wake Forest.
Kansas State running back Charles Jones on the idea that losing the Big 12 opener at West Virginia will trigger a slide like last year’s six-game losing streak after losing the 2015 conference opener:
“I don’t understand how you can say that, with our defense playing the way they are. We had the No. 1 defense in the country coming in here and I feel like they played like it. For those people who say that, I just feel like they are out of their minds.”
Oklahoma State coach on Mike Gundy on receiver Chris Lacy threw a key block that enabled teammate James Washington to score on a 54-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter against Texas:
“Offensive football is 10 unselfish players and one guy that gets to touch the ball and make a play. That was as impressive as any wide out (block) I’ve seen in a long time.”