Gary Pinkel’s Missouri offense seemed to be at the top of the class. With stars like quarterback Chase Daniel and receiver Jeremy Maclin, the Tigers appeared unstoppable.
So did many other Big 12 spread attacks.
But even then, Pinkel warned the day would come when the league’s defenses would have their revenge against the spread.
"Don’t think that defenses aren’t going to figure some things out to do,” Pinkel proclaimed during Big 12 media days last year. "Historically, there’s been no perfect offense or defense.
"Don’t count defenses out just yet.”
A year later, Pinkel looks like a prophet. One season after Big 12 offenses supplied the biggest scoring boom in college football history, Big 12 defenses are striking back.
Scoring is down 25 percent overall in conference games, and the output of 10 teams has dropped by 11 percent or more.
"I said last year that it would be difficult to maintain this for much longer,” Pinkel said this week. "And it has been.”
Changes in defensive recruiting philosophy is one reason why defenses are finally catching up.
But a precipitous drop in offensive talent in the Big 12 can’t be overlooked. Especially at quarterback.
Some, like Daniel and Texas Tech’s Graham Harrell, graduated. Others, like OU’s Sam Bradford and Baylor’s Robert Griffin, have been sidelined by injuries.
Last year, seven of the league’s quarterbacks ranked in the Top 20 nationally in passing efficiency. This year, only Texas’ Colt McCoy can make that claim.
"I always look at the quarterbacks,” said Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp. "Last year in our league, we had a bunch of experienced quarterbacks.
"If you’ve got a quarterback, you’ve got a chance. If you don’t have a quarterback...”
The quarterbacks still around also don’t have the same skill players to throw to they did last season.