The Big 12 is best known for its offense, but a few of its teams are proving they can play defense, too.
Texas Tech ranks second nationally in total defense and is allowing 160 yards. TCU has surrendered six points in two games. Iowa State hasn’t given up a touchdown since its opener.
Throw in Oklahoma and Texas, which are allowing fewer than 17 points, and you’ve got a handful of teams that know how to tackle.
Not surprisingly, all five are undefeated.
“Great defense is what you’ve got to have if you’re going to finish in the top half of this league,” Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads said.
Iowa State has always leaned on strong defensive play under Rhoads. It has gotten them to two bowl games, and with A.J. Klein and Jake Knott leading the way at linebacker, the Cyclones could be headed back to the postseason this year.
The last time they went back-to-back games without allowing a touchdown? 1964.
“That should probably expand your confidence a little bit,” Rhoads said. “ It’s a defense worth talking about.”
After an off week, Iowa State will put its defense against the offense-oriented Red Raiders, who are also eager to see what their defense can do against Big 12 opposition. They have been dominant so far, but that only means so much against Northwestern State, Texas State and New Mexico.
“We are getting ready to start a nine-game brutal stretch,” Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville said.
The Red Raiders will see plenty of high-octane offenses along the way. Eight Big 12 teams have already scored 50 or more points in a game.
But they might also encounter a few better-than-advertised defenses.
In its first Big 12 game, TCU was extremely friendly to its opponent. The Horned Frogs defeated Kansas 20-6, but could have easily won by 40. TCU moved the ball at will between the 20s but lost four turnovers near the goal line.
Give Kansas credit since its defense has come up with 12 turnovers. But TCU committed too many errors on Saturday. That’s something that will need to change in coming weeks, but TCU coach Gary Patterson is confident red-zone turnovers won’t continue to be a problem.
“I’m not making a big deal out of it,” Patterson said. “It has not been a reoccurring thing. It didn’t happen last year. It happened in one game.”
Tyler Lockett returned a kickoff 96 yards for an important touchdown against North Texas last week. It was the third touchdown return of the Kansas State sophomore’s career, and he was named Big 12 special teams player of the week on Monday. K-State coach Bill Snyder expressed concerned last month about how new kickoff rules would negatively impact the Wildcats’ return game. But Lockett’s touchdown put some of those concerns to rest.
“It has made it a bit more difficult. It’s really hit and miss,” Snyder said. “We were fortunate and Tyler is a good young return guy.”
Not your usual underdog
When Baylor agreed to play a road game against the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks, they probably expected to be heavy favorites. Though the Bears are favored by a touchdown heading into Friday’s ESPN game, no one will be surprised if the Warhawks win. Louisiana-Monroe already has an upset at Arkansas and almost beat another Auburn last week before falling in overtime.
“What Louisiana-Monroe was able to do at Arkansas the first week and the national attention they received,” Baylor coach Art Briles said, “if you didn’t have a lot of respect for them already, that elevated it.”
The Big 12: The league is 22-2 in nonconference games.
David Ash: Completed all but four passes against Mississippi for 326 yards and four touchdowns while leading Texas to 66 points.
Tramaine Thompson: K-State receiver is on his way to a career season.
Seth Doege: Red Raiders QB leads the nation with 12 touchdown passes.
Dayne Crist: KU quarterback is barely completing 50 percent of his passes.
Baylor defense: Bears have allowed 459 yards per game against an easy schedule.
What to watch, what to avoid
Must-see games: Baylor at Louisiana-Monroe (Friday), Kansas State at Oklahoma
Worth watching: Virginia at TCU
If there’s nothing better to do: Kansas at Northern Illinois
Avert your eyes: Maryland at West Virginia
Big 12 power rankings
1. West Virginia (2-0): Mountaineers impressive after off week.
2. Oklahoma (2-0): Sooners hope to impress after off week.
3. Kansas State (3-0): Looking for first win over Oklahoma since 2003.
4. Texas (3-0): It was only Mississippi, but 66 points is 66 points.
5. TCU (2-0): One Big 12 game down, eight more to go.
6. Iowa State (3-0): Cyclones’ defense is nasty.
7. Texas Tech (3-0): Red Raiders receiving votes in Top 25 polls.
8. Baylor (2-0): Needed a big second half to beat Sam Houston State.
9. Oklahoma State (2-1): Averaging 75 points at home.
10. Kansas (1-2): Defense forcing plenty of turnovers.