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

Meanwhile, no SEC offenses made the top 10, with Arkansas tops at No. 15.

Two years later, the Big 12 has more teams in the scoring defense top 25, although Bama still holds strong at No. 2. And the SEC boasts six of the top 21 scoring offenses, with only Baylor and OSU among the group.

What has changed?

“The scores are increased by two things, in my opinion,” OSU coach Mike Gundy said of the SEC. “The teams don't huddle up and they have NFL-type quarterbacks.

“When I did have time to watch SEC games, their scores were higher than what I ever remember them being.”

Among immediate NFL draft prospects at quarterback, LSU's Zach Mettenberger, Alabama's A.J. McCarron, Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel and Georgia's Aaron Murray are all highly rated. From the Big 12, only Baylor's Bryce Petty is considered a next-level signal caller.

The new SEC now resembles the 2011 Big 12, having moved away from power offenses to more spread, no-huddle attacks that feature playmakers in space.

“They understand schemes very well and how to attack coverage and how to attack weaknesses of certain coverages,” OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said of the Crimson Tide. “You have to be aware of what's going on.

“There's a lot of movement in their offense. And understanding where we need to be and why we need to be there, I think, is critical.”

At least it's a look the Sooners and Cowboys are used to seeing.

“The coincidence is,” said Lewis, “those are the same offenses that are run over here for the most part.”

Within that lies the bad news for the Sooners and Cowboys, considering the SEC now has the NFL-style quarterbacks, while the Big 12 does not.

So what do the numbers really mean? Are the SEC defenses still stout, yet now reflective of what happens when you face elite quarterbacks at the controls of spread offenses? And likewise, are the Big 12's improved defensive statistics simply a result of a drop-off behind center?

The updated storyline, it seems, has yet to fully play out.

Alabama surrendered 42 points in a win over Texas A&M and 34 in their lone loss to Auburn. And because of SEC scheduling, the Tide avoided the strong offenses of Missouri, South Carolina and Georgia.

Missouri thrived in outscoring foes, although it was on the losing end of that 59-42 SEC championship shootout with Auburn.

So maybe, just maybe, the hope for the Cowboys and Sooners is defense — both their own, and their foes.

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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