And we’re back to Lincoln Riley… again.

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.



Filed under Big 12 Football, SEC Football, Strategery And Mechanics

23 responses to “And we’re back to Lincoln Riley… again.

  1. Bulldog Joe

    They don’t teach the first law of holes at Oklahoma.


  2. Go Dawgs!

    I mostly just enjoyed the anecdote in the source interview about Shane Beamer sitting in film study at OU silently and awkwardly celebrating every touchdown we scored on the Sooners in the Rose Bowl. That’s great stuff.


  3. Mayor

    Coaching matters. It’s that simple.


    • Comin' Down The Track

      That… plus this:


      • Uglydawg

        That play was a total Dawg effort…everyone hustling, getting their blocks and Sony to the endzone.


        • gastr1

          Often also takes a worn out defense to not be able to beat or get off blocks, too. But that’s old man football for ya.


      • Nauta made an incredible block to set the edge. Wynn got to the 2nd level to get the linebacker. Fromm just flat dominated the corner (that kid should be embarrassed to be blocked by a QB like that). Once Sony cleared the 1st wave, it was over.

        That was execution combined with athleticism, pure and simple. I think Smart and Chaney were likely playing for 3 there to run the Wild Dawg on 2nd and 12 to get it to 3rd and medium. The players took that and turned it into 6.


        • Comin' Down The Track

          Stoopnagle and I were sitting where Sony ran directly at us after he turned the corner. We already knew that once he cleared the first guy in the backfield he was gone. Stoop had sat down between plays claiming the intensity was getting to him. I snatched him up by his shoulders as soon as Sony got past the first guy saying, “Yeah, uh, but you’re gonna want to see this. We’re about to win the Rose Bowl.”


    • Uglydawg

      Yet we must admit that the Big 12 offenses score a lot of points. There has to be an explanation.
      The simplest explanation, IMHO, is that Big 12 defenses are bad.
      The clip of Sony’s winning TD run in the Rose (Shown by CDTT in a post just below this) exposes a tired and uninspired defense.Yes there was some attempt to pursue the play, but it looks half- hearted to me.
      “Balance”. It’s what made the Dawgs great in ’17.
      (BTW…I still love JF’s block on the corner, but that guy wasn’t tackling Sony anyway…that whole defense had had enough)


  4. Cojones

    Keeping up with the nuances provided for each excuse for what Riley spoke is giving me a headache and I don’t have many headaches. Crap, now the worry is a stroke. Asked the wife to keep up with the symptoms, but she recalls my revealing the “moquito” punch to the head and said she will dial 911 if it occurs before 7:00PM, that way she knows it’s not my drankin’ causing it. Otherwise, I’m on my own with the speed dial. Told her that no one here remembers her punch to my forehead for my last headache, but she thinks I’m setting her up for elderly abuse, although I’m saving that until she objects to the cute nurse at the rest home taking me fishing in the Gulf.


  5. Uglydawg

    Bless Shane Beamer’s li’l ol’ heart.
    He just thought his opinion was so wonderful that no one would ever bother to check the facts. Just make shit up, they’ll buy it.
    Maybe someone should tell these Big 12 apologists that the Senator is a lawyer and is kind of a stickler for facts He just plays being Blutarsky on GTP.


  6. Greg

    Football ain’t a hard game, more about the “Jimmies and Joes. Too many trying to make it hard….but the may have their reasons.


    • Mayor

      Plenty of teams with excellent Jimmies and Joes that don’t win shit. Coaching is where its at. UGA proved it last year IMHO.


      • Greg

        “More about” (jimmies & joes).


        • Greg

          Georgia had a more talented roster, especially at QB….huge difference from the prior year. That was one of the biggest differences…..also a more mature roster. Kirby did a great, great job in recruiting, adding talent & changing the culture. No doubt you need coaching, it does make a difference. But you can’t do it without talent, Kirby/ Saban would be the first to tell you.

          But more about the “Jimmies & Joes” imo. Pretty sure Kirby or Saban would not go to Vandy and win an SEC with their current talent…no matter what they changed (w/exception of talent). Check out Saban’s record at Michigan State & check out the importance he and Kirby put on recruiting. Got to have both, but more about the talent you put on the field.


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  8. HiAltDawg

    I honestly think Coach Riley probably said what he did more out of sour grapes losing the Grad Transfer than the Rose bowl


  9. I agree that the “80, 90 plays” thing is hyperbolic, but it seems to me that this is all still just arithmetic. In nine conference games last season, Big 12 teams on average defended 72 plays per game. In eight conference games, SEC teams on average defended 67 plays per game.

    A team ran at least 80 plays 21 times in 45 conference games in the Big 12 last season. That happened eight times in 56 conference games in the SEC.

    Again, I don’t think any of this ever has been an argument that defensive prowess in the Big 12 is widely unappreciated.


  10. ASEF

    If only we had pace and opponent adjusted metrics to provide a point of comparison…


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