The offseason is a good time to step back and take a look at the bigger picture.
Which Big 12 teams are efficient on offense and defense, excel on third down and consistently create turnovers? Those are just a few of the questions we’ll aim to answer during this weekly offseason series. In this series we’re looking to identify programs that build based on certain long-term traits as opposed to riding one or two elite players to short-term excellence.
Today, we continue the series by looking at yards per carry allowed to get a glimpse at the Big 12’s top run defenses. (All stats are in Big 12 games only since 2012, when TCU and West Virginia joined the conference, via ESPN Stats & Information.)
1. TCU Horned Frogs, 3.62: Gary Patterson’s team focuses on stopping the run and has been supremely successful since joining the Big 12. The 2015 season was the first time TCU allowed more than four yards per carry during a season. Opponents’ 1.9 yards before contact per carry is a clear sign that TCU tries to set the tone with a stout run defense at the line of scrimmage.
2. Baylor Bears, 3.88: The Bears run defense has been an underrated unit, holding teams ranked in the top 12 nationally under three yards per carry on four different occasions during this span, including allowing 0.35 yards per carry to No. 6 Oklahoma State in 2015. Baylor was also opportunistic, forcing 33 fumbles and recovering 17 of those to rank first in the Big 12.
3. Oklahoma Sooners, 3.98: Limiting long runs was Oklahoma’s forte. The Sooners allowed 158 carries of 10 yards or more during the 2012-15 period, the fewest in the Big 12 during that span. After allowing 4.81 yards per carry in 2012, Oklahoma’s run defense has been much better the past three seasons, allowing 3.69 yards per carry during that span.
4. Oklahoma State Cowboys, 4.11: The Cowboys field a disruptive run defense with 24.6 percent of opponent rushes resulting in negative or zero yards. Yet Oklahoma State has seen its run defense take a step backward during the past two seasons as the Pokes allowed 4.38 yards per carry in 2014 and 4.51 yards per carry in 2015.
5. Kansas State Wildcats, 4.17: Last season was the Wildcats’ worst against the run, by far, allowing 4.79 yards per carry. In fact, last season included four of the seven games during the past four years in which the Wildcats allowed more than five yards per carry. Texas (5.17), Iowa State (5.41), TCU (10.52) and Texas Tech (6.85) had plenty of success running the ball against K-State.
6. West Virginia Mountaineers, 4.2: The Mountaineers have shown improvement under Tony Gibson. West Virginia allowed 4.08 yards per carry during the past two seasons including a 2014 meeting with Kansas State that featured one rushing yard on 29 carries in a Wildcats 26-20 victory. West Virginia has held opponents under three yards per carry on six different occasions under Gibson.
7. Texas Longhorns, 4.29: Charlie Strong’s arrival hasn’t changed much. The Longhorns have allowed 4.24 yards per carry during the past two seasons under Strong. Texas’ 1.58 yards after contact per rush was the Big 12’s best but the Longhorns didn’t finish in the top half of the conference in any other category.
8. Iowa State Cyclones, 5.17: The Cyclones defense wasn't particularly disruptive when opponents tried to run the ball, managing just 280 opponent rushes resulting in negative or zero yardage during the 2012-15 period. Opponents averaged 3.29 yards before contact per rush, which was last in the Big 12 in both categories.
9. Texas Tech Red Raiders, 5.24: The Red Raiders faced a Big 12-high 1,643 opponent rushes during this span and Tech allowed 273 of those carries to gain 10 yards or more. The past two years have been particularly troubling as Tech allowed opponents to average more than 250 rushing yards per game during both seasons.
10. Kansas Jayhawks, 5.32: The Jayhawks finished in the bottom two in nearly every category and allowed nearly 42.2 percent of opponents' carries to go for 5 or more yards, which was ninth in the Big 12. Kansas held opponents to less than 4 yards per carry just eight times in 36 games.