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Big 12 football: Going back to the WAC-ky future

The up-temp offenses in today's Big 12 are a reminder of the old WAC days.
by John Helsley Modified: July 24, 2013 at 2:00 pm •  Published: July 23, 2013

One after another, Big 12 coaches took their turn at the microphones Monday and Tuesday, spewing superlatives about the league's offenses.

And dodging questions about their lacking defenses.

What has this modern Big 12 become, the old WAC?

In a sense, yes.

“When you're happy to win a game 56-50,” said Texas coach Mack Brown, “things have changed.”

That's the way it was in the Wild, Wild WAC of the 1970s, '80s and '90s. Offense rolled and ruled, with a surplus of passing and points at a time when the power conferences were generally still grinding out games on the ground.

Maybe the WAC was just ahead of its time. Spread offenses have made passing — and scoring — the priority at so many schools across the country. And nowhere, it seems, is the theme more embraced than the Big 12.

A year ago, nine of the conference's 10 squads scored at least 51 points in a game, and several did it multiple times. Six league schools finished among the top 20 nationally in scoring offense, with five ranking among the top 10 in passing offense. Contributing to the firepower are offensive schemes that take advantage of no huddling and fast-tempo, limiting what defenses can do in terms of substitution and down-to-down adjustments.

“I do think the offenses in the Big 12 are the most difficult to defend in the country,” Brown said.

They are certainly difficult for Big 12 teams to defend. Because all those points have to come at somebody's expense. And nine league defenses surrendered at least 49 in a game.

And that's the rub. The proliferation of spread offenses has proved to be an equalizer in the Big 12, with more shootouts resulting in more upsets, if they can even be called that. Parity has clearly arrived, making it harder and harder to venture unscathed through the conference schedule, thus making it difficult to factor in the national title chase.

It's possible that the offensive explosion has raised the Big 12's floor, but lowered its ceiling.

Oklahoma State and Kansas State have claimed conference titles the past two seasons, ending a Texas and Oklahoma stronghold. Baylor has become a dangerous offense and team. Same for West Virginia and expect it again with Texas Tech, now that Kliff Kingsbury has returned to reinstitute the spread in Lubbock.

This year's preseason Big 12 media poll shows six teams receiving first-place votes.

And it's all because of the offenses.

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by John Helsley
OSU Reporter Sr.
John Helsley grew up in Del City, reading all the newspapers and sports magazines he could get his hands on. And Saturday afternoons, when the Major League Game of the Week was on, he'd keep a scorecard for the game. So the sports appeal was was...
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