As fun as it was to watch West Virginia and Baylor score at will last month, neither team has much to show for their offensive firepower today.
The Mountaineers have been stymied by strong defenses in back-to-back weeks and are barely hanging on in the national polls after two lopsided losses.
The Bears have allowed more than 40 points in four straight games and join Kansas as the Big 12’s only team without a conference victory.
Meanwhile, the three teams at the top of the league standings have all proven they can play defense.
“Over the span of 2000-2008 you had a lot of teams in this league that played offense, but you’re seeing more and more defenses,” Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville said. “It gives you an opportunity to win games when your offense is not playing that well.”
The Red Raiders might be the best example of the difference an improved defense can make. In Tuberville’s first two years, Texas Tech couldn’t stop anyone and its record hovered around .500. But now that it ranks seventh nationally in yardage allowed (282.0) and 34th nationally in points allowed (21.6) , it is eligible for a bowl after seven games and in the mix for a Big 12 championship.
Consider that undefeated K-State hasn’t allowed more than 21 points this season, and that No. 8 Oklahoma hasn’t allowed more than 24 points and it’s obvious that the Big 12 isn’t all about offense right now.
“Since I’ve gotten into this league, more teams have gotten back to fundamentals on defense by playing a lot of base defenses,” Tuberville said. “Not blitzing a lot just playing on technique, not giving up big plays and teaching tackling.”
Two of the league’s best defenses will meet on Saturday with Texas Tech traveling to K-State. Both teams have brilliant offenses, too, so don’t expect a SEC-style slugfest that comes down to who kicks more field goals. But don’t expect the final score to be 70-63, either.
The best teams in the Big 12 don’t have to score that often to win.
Is Notre Dame for real? Is Oklahoma back? Many have labeled Saturday night’s showdown in Norman as the game of the week, and ESPN’s “College Gameday” will be there to preview it.
OU coach Bob Stoops deserves kudos for making it happen. While most coaches stay away from challenging nonconference games, Stoops tries to schedule at least one every season. In this situation, it helps his team. Some left Oklahoma for dead when it lost at home to K-State, but it has responded with impressive victories over Texas Tech, Texas and Kansas. Everyone will be talking about the Sooners again if they beat Notre Dame.
The other must-see game
No. 15 Texas Tech at No. 4 K-State wasn’t deemed interesting enough to land a primetime slot on Saturday, but that doesn’t mean it can’t beat one of the day’s best. The Wildcats can improve their national-title resume, while the Red Raiders could create a three- or four-way tie atop the Big 12.
It’s a fascinating battle of quarterbacks. Both Collin Klein and Seth Doege scored seven touchdowns last week.
Texas didn’t earn any style points by beating Baylor 56-50 on Saturday, but Mack Brown wasn’t complaining. The Longhorns coach was under fire from fans. Many wondered if he was still the right man for the job following another blowout loss to Oklahoma. But they rebounded with a much-needed victory.
“It was really important,” Brown said to reporters after the game. “Coach (Darrell) Royal told me once the only important games at Texas are the ones you lose. We are making some progress.”
Collin Klein and Arthur Brown received weekly honors from the Big 12 for their performances against West Virginia. Klein, the offensive player of the week, was named to the semifinal list for the Davey O’Brien Award (quarterback). Brown, defensive player of the week, was named semifinalist for the Butkus Award (linebacker).
What to watch