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Oklahoma and Oklahoma State's bowl hopes might center on defense

The perception was once that the SEC had strong defenses and the Big 12 didn't. But a scoring trend hit the SEC this season, bringing more hope that Big 12 teams can compete.
by John Helsley Published: December 21, 2013

Touchdowns flowed and constantly flipping numbers gave scoreboards a look of pinball machines.

And across the country, critics cried out a defining theme on the 2011 Big 12 football season: Where's the defense?

When the scoring trend hit the SEC this season, even delivering a 59-42 conference championship clash, those same critics sounded off again:

What a game!

In a highly partisan college football universe, the spin always shines favor on the SEC. So even if their defenses took a statistical dive in 2013, the SEC offenses sure were divine.

Yet here in the Homeland, Sooners and Cowboys dig past the spin and the SEC adoration seeking optimism for their underdog tasks taking on Alabama and Missouri in January bowl games.

And maybe, just maybe, that hope is defense — both their own, and their foes.

“I've had the chance to watch some of those SEC defenses,” said OSU linebacker Shaun Lewis, “I mean, they're good, but I think we can compete over there, too.”

We're about to find out.

“It's going to be a good challenge,” said OU defensive back Gabe Lynn, “but yeah, we're kind of sick of being overlooked.”

Recalling 2011, the tipping point turned on defense. Perception was, the SEC had it; the Big 12 did not.

So instead of an OSU inclusion in the BCS championship game, LSU and Alabama played an all-SEC rematch, avoiding altogether any intrigue into how they might handle a conference that delivered NFL quarterbacks in Robert Griffin III, Ryan Tannehill, Brandon Weeden and Landry Jones, not to mention current SEC sensation James Franklin of Missouri, whom the Cowboys will now have to contend with in the Cotton Bowl.

The result, of course, was a yawner, 21-0 Bama.

Meanwhile, OSU did its thing in the Fiesta Bowl, winning 41-38 in an overtime thriller against Stanford. And the question of what the Cowboys might have done against LSU — the Tigers were No. 1 entering the postseason — was left to wonder.

Alas, the Big 12 and SEC can finally address that old argument, although the storyline has flipped.

The 2011 national commentary centered around the SEC defenses, which featured six teams in the top 25 of the national rankings in scoring defense.

The Big 12 offered no defenses for the top 25 that year, with the Sooners representing the best at No. 31 — OSU was down the list at 61 — yet featured five top 25 scoring offenses and four in the first 11, with the Cowboys No. 2 and the Sooners No. 10.

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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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