This wasn't much of a debate in the preseason. Texas looked loaded. The Longhorns reeled in 61 percent of the fan vote as the Big 12's best defense.
They finished fifth in the Big 12 and ranked dead last in rushing defense after four consecutive seasons atop the Big 12 total defense ranking. They won't be in this poll. Neither will Texas Tech, who undid a solid start by giving up an average of 39 points a game in Big 12 play. So, who had the Big 12's best defense? Vote in our poll.
TCU joined the Big 12 and its defense was ready, despite tons of personnel losses and lots of youth all over the field. Credit Gary Patterson for proving his prowess as a defensive mastermind. Cornerback Jason Verrett was one of the Big 12's best, and the media crowned DE Devonte Fields the league's Defensive Player of the Year. The Frogs led the league in total defense and forced 32 turnovers, tied with K-State for the Big 12 lead.
K-State made its money with those 32 turnovers, finishing third in the league in total defense. Also, the Wildcats led the league by a full two points in scoring defense in the full season, and led the league by more than three points a game in scoring defense in conference play. Arthur Brown is an All-American and the coaches' Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. K-State was third in the league in yards per play.
Oklahoma forced just 15 turnovers, second-fewest in the Big 12, but still finished fourth in the league in total defense and behind only K-State and TCU in total defense in league play. In conference play, Oklahoma gave up fewer than 27 points a game, second in the Big 12. That's not easy to do, especially without turnovers. OU didn't have the defensive standouts up front they've had on other teams, but CB Aaron Colvin and S Tony Jefferson are two of the Big 12's best, boosted by the arrival of new DC Mike Stoops.
OSU only ranked sixth in the league in total defense, but was second in the league in yards per play, and only gave up 30 points a game in Big 12 play to rank fifth, despite forcing just 17 turnovers, third-fewest in the Big 12. The defense didn't make the big plays it did a year ago, but this unit might have still been better than last year's D.
The Cyclones lost Jake Knott late in the season, but gave up just 27 points a game in league play, good for third. Iowa State was just seventh in total defense, but teammate A.J. Klein led the team with 98 stops. Jeremiah George stepped in and helped in Knott's absense, but safety Durrell Givens was a breakout star for the Cyclones, forcing four fumbles and picking off three passes.