We're diving deep into defense this week for the Big 12 roundtable. Here it goes:
What's happened to Oklahoma?
Max Olson: The thing that was kind of baffling about Oklahoma's defensive performance against Texas Tech was everybody knew the Red Raiders would not run the ball. That game was entirely up to the Sooners' play in coverage and their ability to pressure the passer, and they've been deficient in those two areas too often this season. The priority right now should probably be fixing the play in the secondary, which has too much talent to be this porous.
Jake Trotter: This is not easy to pinpoint. The Sooners opened the season with a couple of major holes, namely at cornerback, and from there the problems have ballooned. Maybe this group has lost its confidence? Its cohesion? Whatever the case, they are not tackling well, they have no one getting to the quarterback outside Ogbonnia Okoronkwo and, most glaringly, they are not sticking with receivers. Even All-Big 12 cornerback Jordan Thomas is giving up touchdowns on a weekly basis. Without an All-American up front, this was never going to be a dominant Oklahoma defense. But it’s been stunning to see the bottom fall out the way it has.
Mitch Sherman: What if they just weren't that good to begin with? Early in the season, it looked like the Sooners' struggles could be explained, in large part, by the strength of its opposition. But Ohio State has looked average offensively the past two weeks, gaining less than 4.2 yards per carry against Wisconsin and Penn State. And what to say about Houston, which has lost two of its past three games? The Cougars put up 303 yards last week against SMU.
Are you more concerned with TCU's defense or its offense?
Sherman: The defense. At least the Horned Frogs haven't allowed an opponent to reach 40 points since Oct. 1. Sure, they played Kansas (a one-point TCU win) and had a bye before a 34-10 loss to West Virginia. But this is a program built on defense, and it allowed 40 points or more to three of its first five foes, matching the number of TCU opponents to reach 40 from 2006 to 2014.
Trotter: I’m actually a little more concerned with the offense. To win in this conference, you have to outscore the opposition. And so far, TCU’s offense has been way too inconsistent to do that. Maybe getting KaVonate Turpin back will give the offense a jolt. But the Horned Frogs are not going to finish in the top four of the conference if they don’t crank it up offensively.
Olson: Yeah, I'd have to agree with Jake and say I expected more from TCU's offense this year. Kenny Hill ought to bounce back this weekend against Texas Tech. Kyle Hicks has been awesome as a rushing/receiving threat and brings it every week. The somewhat unpredictable play of their receivers interests me, and as Gary Patterson pointed out this week, the fact a walk-on (Daniel Walsh) is currently a starter sends a clear message that they need several guys to step up.
Where does Kansas' defense rank in the Big 12?
Trotter: Right now, the Jayhawks rank fifth in the league in total defense. They’re not a top-five defense in the conference. But the way they’ve battled, they’re not that far off, either. They get after the passer and have done a relatively decent job at limiting the big passing plays, which is more than several Big 12 defenses can say. Sure, Kansas’ defensive improvement hasn’t translated into wins yet. But David Beaty and his staff continue to make impressive strides.
Olson: I'm judging Big 12 defenses this season by their ability to get stops, and Kansas has done an OK job at that. They've been getting stops on 57 percent of their drives, a rate that's tied for seventh-best in the conference with Iowa State. No defense has been on the field for more drives than Kansas' at 107. They're giving up 2.5 points per drive, which is plenty. But only three teams have forced more turnovers on defense. All in all, I think we're seeing improvement.
Sherman: By any measure, the Kansas offense ranks among the worst in the nation. The Jayhawks sit 104th in yards per game and 127th in offensive efficiency. That's really saying something in the wide-open Big 12. So what does it have to do with the KU defense? A lot. Just look at West Virginia, which has used the synergy between its offense and defense to better both units. At Kansas, the offense is doing the defense no such favors. And based on that logic, I'll say, defensively, the Jayhawks rank fourth in the Big 12 behind Kansas State, Baylor and West Virginia.