We looked at explosive plays on offense earlier this week, but today, we're taking a closer look at the defensive side of the ball. Which Big 12 teams were most adept at preventing big plays? Along with forcing turnovers, I think that's one of the most important things you can do as a defense. Let's get to the numbers. Here's the number of plays longer than 20 yards each Big 12 defense gave up:
Kansas State: 40
Oklahoma State: 46
Texas Tech: 49
Iowa State: 60
West Virginia: 78
No huge surprises, but here's a few thoughts:
Kansas State and TCU were the obvious picks for best defenses in the Big 12 this past season. You could make a case for either team as the best, but I generally lean toward TCU. This is further evidence that the difference between the two is razor-thin, and there's not much difference in strength of schedule, either. K-State's was 14th, and TCU was No. 16.
West Virginia's defense? Disastrous, just like you saw on the field.
I was a little surprised Iowa State wasn't higher on this list. The secondary had a strong year (Howdy, Jeremy Reeves and Durrell Givens) and you know all about the linebackers. You can measure the strength of a defense in a lot of different ways, but I would have picked ISU to be closer to the top three here.
I don't know how much you can take away from Texas Tech's low number here. The Red Raiders' nonconference schedule was embarrassingly bad, and the defense gave up just seven plays longer than 20 yards against Northwestern State, Texas State and New Mexico. In conference play, they gave up 42 plays longer than 20 yards, just fifth in the Big 12.
KU gave up just 10 plays longer than 20 yards in its three nonconference games, but surrendered 66 in its nine conference games, seven more than West Virginia. KU played South Dakota State, Rice and Northern Illinois.
Now, how about percentages? What percentage of each team's plays defended went for longer than 20 yards?
Kansas State: 4.42 percent
TCU: 4.91 percent
Oklahoma State: 4.45 percent
Texas Tech: 5.52 percent
Iowa State: 5.96 percent
Baylor: 6.39 percent
Oklahoma: 6.41 percent
Texas: 7.2 percent
West Virginia: 7.93 percent
Kansas: 8.91 percent
Baylor is the first team that stuck out to me. The Bears gave up just 16 of their 69 plays longer than 20 yards in November after they got hot. They moved up two spots when we broke it down by percentages, more than any other team.
TCU, however, only gave up five plays longer than 20 yards in the entire month of November. Texas gave up just 11 for the No. 2 spot in the league. All three of those defenses got pretty hot late in the season, but no one was scalding quite like the Frogs. That's amazing stuff. TCU went head-to-head with West Virginia, Kansas State, Oklahoma and Texas during the month of November and gave up five plays long than 20 yards. That's just absurd.
I'm taking TCU as the best defense against explosive plays, but K-State's not too far behind. That late-season charge was remarkable, and gives you a good idea of why so many folks are charged up about that Frogs D heading into 2013.