I really, truly, honestly thought I was done with the Lincoln Riley kerfluffle, but people keep talking about it.
Like Shane Beamer’s coachsplaining, per Seth Emerson ($$):
“I know what he was saying. And he came right back and said that it wasn’t a shot at Georgia, it was a testament to the offenses in that league,” Beamer said. “It’s all about the plays you run, and the more plays that offenses run against you, the worse your stats from a defensive standpoint are going to be. And out there in that league, everybody’s running 80, 90 plays a game. So your defenses are out there for a lot more if they can’t get themselves off the field.
So, now it’s the number of plays that sets Big 12 defenses apart. Let’s look at the tape, shall we?
- 7. Auburn
- 10. Oklahoma State
- 11. Texas
- 13. Texas Tech
- 17. Mississippi State
- 23. Oklahoma
- 25. Georgia
- 30. TCU
- 34. Texas A&M
- 39. Alabama
- 40. West Virginia
- 51. Missouri
- 62. Iowa State
- 71. Baylor
- 77. LSU
- 84. Kansas
- 103. Kentucky
- 109. Ole Miss
- 110. Arkansas
- 110. South Carolina
- 113. Kansas State
- 121. Vanderbilt
- 125. Tennessee
- 128. Florida
You won’t find a single team on that list that averaged 80+ plays a game last season. Oklahoma State was tops in the Big 12, with about 77.5 plays per game. Yeah, the bottom of the list is populated by more SEC teams, but most of those didn’t enjoy a postseason experience. (Florida, by the way, averaged about four more plays a game than did Kansas State. It’s just that the Gators played two fewer games than KSU did.) Beamer’s exaggerating, in other words, which makes it hard to accept his rationale.
I await the next explanation eagerly. (Actually, I don’t, but I expect somebody else is gonna try.)
What I’ll share with you in the meantime is an Ian Boyd post that explores the factors involved in the better defenses in the Big 12. See if you can catch a difference in approach to how the SEC operates.
Originally I tried to look at this by examining the average star ranking of DL recruits for every team over three years but quickly found that there was little to no correlation there either between good defense and star ranking. The consistent problem has been that Texas and OU always recruit the highest ranked players and don’t always play even good defense while TCU rarely recruits competitively ranked players but consistently rank amongst the league’s better units.
Obviously most of the league is clustered around the “we recruit mostly 3-stars and we give up around 30 points (adjusted) a game.”
Iowa State, TCU, and Texas all broke out of the pack and the former two did it with pretty standard talent levels (per rankings) while Texas did it with their usual blue-chip laden roster.
Here’s a look at how these things shook out by experience level.
There’s a few interesting things here to note. The first is that things are still mostly clustered this time around the “we play mostly third and fourth year players and give up around 30 points (adjusted) per game.”
There’s a few things on here that both dispel and prove the “talent matters!” perspective. One is that you can see how K-State jumped up above most of the league on the Y-axis by virtue of playing a lot of fifth year seniors so the argument could be made that their higher level of experience negates the recruiting ranking disadvantage. Especially since the 2017 K-State roster included a large number of former 0-stars that were walk-ons.
On the other hand, you can see that Texas was in some sense less experienced than Iowa State or TCU but “made up for it” with talent. However, Texas’ “inexperienced talent” included a ton of third-year players who’d been starting for multiple seasons so the idea that talent overcame a lack of experience isn’t that strong an argument for explaining Texas’ rankings relative to TCU and Iowa State.
The common thread is this, the three teams that played base dime defense (if you count Travin Howard at 210 pounds as a LB/S hybrid) are the teams that broke out of the pack from the rest of the league. [Emphasis added.]
Hmmm… so let me see if I’ve got this straight: experience trumps talent and the most successful base defense has been the dime package. No wonder the rest of the world fails to appreciate something special about the Big 12’s defensive prowess.