Big 12 coaches like to say their dubious defensive numbers are the result of playing against uptempo, high-caliber Big 12 offenses. But is that true?
“Some of the criticism is fair in that we haven't performed as well,” said OU coach Bob Stoops.
“Obviously, you look at the quarterbacks and the offenses, they have something to do with that. I watched Texas A&M take a Big 12 offense and go through the whole SEC schedule and end up third in the nation in total offense and scoring offense. I don't know how that happened when they played all those great defenses.”
Actually, A&M's offense wasn't always explosive in the SEC. The Aggies scored 17 on Florida, 19 on LSU and didn't play Georgia or South Carolina. A&M made its reputation by beating Alabama 29-24, made its statistical prowess against outmanned opponents and made its fans giddy with a 41-13 trouncing of OU in the Cotton Bowl.
* Certainly OU's Cotton Bowl defense was dismal. A&M had 633 yards and 41 points.
“We played poorly on defense,” Stoops said. “But the second half of the Cotton Bowl, we had four straight possessions, three and out (punt) and a turnover. We did nothing and handed them the football back in good field position.”
Handed it back? Yes. Good field position No. The Aggies' second-half TD drives covered 91, 89, 71 and 73 yards.
* Texas' defense was solid against Alabama in the 2009 national title game. Bama won 37-21, but the Crimson Tide had just 263 total yards.
Alabama scored one defensive touchdown and scored two late TDs after Texas turnovers, on drives of three and 27 yards.
* OU's defense against Florida in the 2008 national title game was solid, too. The Gators, with a bevy of talent led by Tim Tebow and Percy Harvin, averaged 45.2 points a game but scored just 24 on the Sooners. The Gators totaled 480 yards, but OU had two takeaways to keep the game close.
* In other Cotton Bowls, Big 12 defenses have played decently. Nebraska's 2006 team gave up just 17 points to Auburn, which had been averaging 25.4. Arkansas scored just seven points on Missouri a year later. OSU gave up just 14 offensive points to Ole Miss in the 2009 season Cotton Bowl. Kansas State hung tough with Arkansas in the 2011 season Cotton Bowl, giving up 29 points to a team that was averaging 37.4.
* In regular-season games, Georgia scored just 14 points at Colorado in 2006 and 10 points at OSU in 2009, and Arkansas scored just 10 points at Texas in 2008. But Arkansas did light up A&M in three neutral-site games in Arlington, scoring 47, 24 and 42 points.
Conclusion: Big 12 defenses haven't been the problem.