Texas Tech coach (and former TAMU offensive coordinator) Kliff Kingsbury got some attention for his “I’ll change my approach if Saban will change his” interview earlier this week. It’s a fair point, but I thought this was the more interesting part of the discussion:
Kingsbury said the style of play, especially in the Big 12, where half the teams averaged at least 76 plays per game, has changed what it means to play good defense.
“There are some really good players in the Big 12 on defenses, but yards per game is through the roof. That’s just the nature of the game,” he said. “If Alabama or LSU or those guys faced these offenses all the time, each and every week, it would be different. That’s just a fact.
“We’re big on being great in the red zone, holding people to field goals and creating turnovers. I think the yards are going to be up there. It’s just the way the game is set up these days.”
That, of course, begs the question of how Texas A&M did in those categories in its maiden voyage through the SEC. The answer is not so great. Per cfbstats.com, the Aggies sported the 8th best red zone scoring defense, the 8th best red zone touchdown percentage defense and finished 11th in the conference in turnover margin.
Also worth checking out as an example is LSU’s total defense game log. In losing at home, the Aggies managed to run an insane 94 plays on offense, by far the most of any LSU regular season opponent. But their average yards per play number was mediocre. (Going minus-five in turnover margin also didn’t help.)
But here’s the thing – every offense that LSU faced after A&M managed a better yards per play number than the Aggies did. And it was considerably more for the rest of the regular season. So the question is did playing that non-stop attack take something physically out of the Tigers’ defense in the next few weeks or did it expose some weaknesses that other offensive coordinators took advantage of? Given that the next two schools LSU played ran very different and much slower paced offensive schemes, I tend towards the former, but in any event it’s a noteworthy pattern.
Now I don’t want to push this too far, because it’s a limited sample size I’m reviewing here. But maybe the way we should be looking at this is to realize that in his own way, Manziel was as much a beast last season as the ‘Bama offensive line was. There’s more than one way to skin a defensive cat, in other words.
All that being said, I still think Kingsbury is full of it if he really believes Big 12 defenses are as good as those in the SEC.