The Big Twelve's passing offenses are overrated

Note: This isn't directly related to FSU at this point, but I'll weave us (and the ACC) in during the coming days.

Sam Bradford.  Graham Harrell.  Colt McCoy.  Zac Robinson.  Chase Daniel.  The Big 12 put up ridiculous numbers all season long and those five QB's finished in the top 10 Nationally in passer rating.  I've long been skeptical of the Big 12's passing prowess, however, and I decided to finally investigate what was behind this gut feeling.

I really wish I could compare these team's performances against decent teams from other conferences.  Unfortunately, OU, UT, OSU, TTech, and MIZZOU all scheduled garbage in the non-conference. 

Oklahoma had the best non-conference slate, playing Cincinnati and TCU (a pretty decent mid-major), paired with hapless (and winless) Washington and D1-AA UTC.  Bradford threw 17 TD's and 3 interceptions in these 4 warm up contests.  In the rest of OU's games, Bradford threw 32 TD's and 4 interceptions.  Does it concern you that Bradford's numbers were actually better against his Big12 competition than they were against his relatively weak non-conference slate?

Texas played only one BCS team in their non-conference slate: a terrible, rebuilding Arkansas team.  They did play Rice and Florida Atlantic.  Predictably, McCoy shredded these scrubs for 15 TD'S and 1 Interception. Against Big12 foes, he tossed 17 TD's and 5 INT's.  Against Ohio State, probably the best defense the Horns played this year (by almost any measure), McCoy posted his lowest Passer rating of the year, at 138.3, as the Horns were held to their lowest point total of the year, winning 24-21.

Zac Robinson of Oklahoma State throws the ball far less than the other four quarterbacks on this list, but his numbers are gaudy nonetheless. OSU played a cake non-conference schedule as well.  Once again, a Big 12 team did not face a BCS conference bowl team.  Instead, OSU faced hapless Washington State, Houston, Missouri State (D1-AA), and Troy.  Toy and Houston were bowl teams, but they weren't very good and I'll show you why that matters in a moment.  Against the cupcake circuit, Robinson threw 7 TD's and 3 Interceptions.  Luckily for the 'Pokes, they had 8 games against Big12 defenses to straighten out their slow starting offense.  Robinson had better numbers against the Big12 than he did against a pretty poor non-conference slate, throwing 17 TD's and 5 Ints!  In the first challenging non-conference game of the season, Robinson posted a QB rating of 107.87, his worst performance of the year for his only game against a BCS conference team with a winning record, just as McCoy did.  Oregon had a slightly above average defense nationally, but nowhere close to dominant.  It was probably the 5th or 6th best in the Pac10

Graham Harrell of Texas Tech continually puts up gaudy numbers.  But if Bill Snyder invented the cupcake string at Kansas State, Mike Leach perfected it.  Stop me if you've heard this before, but... Texas Tech did not face a BCS conference team with a winning record.  For their non-conference slate, TTech faced Eastern Washington (D-1AA), Nevada, Southern Methodist, and UMass (D-1AA)!  That's laughably bad.  What's funny, however, is that TTech actually threw the ball better against Big12 competition than they did against their pathetic non-conference slate.  TTech chucked it for 12 TD's and 3 INT's against their non-conference slate.  Against Big12 competition, TTech chucked 31 TD's and 5 INT's!  In what seems to be a developing pattern, TTech finally had to face a team with a decent defense away from home.  Results predictable, as Harrell threw 58 times, had 4 TD's, 2 INT's.  Once again, a "prolific" Big12 offense had to travel away from home and face a decent team from a big conference.  Once again, they were exposed. 

This brings us to the biggest fraud of them all... Chase Daniel.  A friend of mine has a connection with some NFL scouts.  He told me that the scouts came to watch Daniel's backup instead of Chase.  Daniel appears to be out of shape and is the only QB in this group who is close to wearing a size 40 pant.  I'll skip the descriptions here.  Missouri did not face a team from a major conference with a winning record.  They destroyed the weak slate of Illinois, Missou State, Nevada, and Buffalo, throwing 13 TDs and 1 INT.  Against the "not that bad" Big12 defenses, Daniel tossed 26 TD's and 14 INT's.  As was the case with the other QBs on this list, Daniel finally had to face a team from a major conference with a winning record.  The results were pathetic, as Northwestern held Daniel to his worst performance of the year!  27 of 44 for 200 yards 2 TD and 3 INT!

I am going to withhold judgment on Bradford.  Why?



I often caution Tomahawk Nation readers from using the NFL as a measure of college football performance.  That said, it does have its place in this discussion.  The NFL is the great talent filter.  The NFL doesn't care what conference a player plays in; only that they will be able to play in the league.

Why were Oregon, Ole Miss, Northwestern, and Ohio State successful in holding these "prolific" offenses to their worst passing performances of the year?  I'll go with defensive backfield talent, or the lack thereof. 

To be frank, the Big12 has the worst cornerback and safety play of the BCS conferences.  Don't believe me?  Let's ask the NFL.

Do Big12 defensive backs have success in the NFL? 

A quick scan of the Pro Bowl roster doesn't reveal any Big 12 defensive backs.  Who is included among the 6 corners and 6 safeties?  4 from the ACC, 2 from the Big 10, 2 from the Pac 10, 1 from the Big east, and 3 from Division 2 schools (wild, huh?)

Still maybe they are just below pro-bowl level?  Not hardly. 

The NFL hated Big12 defensive backs.  This chart shows The NFL draft year, the total # of DB's drafted (overall), and the 


50 2005 1 3 1 1 2 0 0
43 2006 1 1 0 0 0 0 0
50 2007 2 0 0 0 1 0 1
45 2008 1 1 1 0 1 0 0


I decided to go deeper here.  My thoughts were that it's not so much defensive back play that has been horrible, but specifically cornerback play. 

Here are the Big12 corners drafted from 2005-2008 (the last 4 years).


1 20 Aqib Talib Kansas
1 20 Aaron Ross Texas
1 23 Fabian Washington Nebraska
2 62 Terrence Wheatley Colorado
2 48 Cedric Griffin Texas
2 56 Darrent Williams Oklahoma State
2 34 Brodney Pool Oklahoma
3 84 Ellis Hobbs Iowa State
3 75 Reggie Smith Oklahoma
4 103 Antonio Perkins Oklahoma
5 142 Zack Bowman Nebraska
5 147 Tarell Brown Texas
5 141 Donte Nicholson Oklahoma
5 167 Mike Hawkins Oklahoma
7 226 C.J. Wilson Baylor
7 229 Willie Andrews Baylor

For those of you who follow the NFL, you'll see a ton of busts on that list.  A few average starters, but nobody special.  Texas seems to be doing okay here.  The huge failure school is clearly Oklahoma.  Why can't Bob Stoops produce a decent defensive back?  Oklahoma State gets a pass as their lone entry was a decent player before he was shot to death.

The Big12 has done better job producing NFL safeties:


1 19 Michael Griffin Texas
1 7 Michael Huff Texas
2 40 Josh Bullocks Nebraska
2 40 Daniel Bullocks Nebraska

Again, Texas and Nebraska are producing the decent defensive backs, while the rest of the conference lags horribly behind.

The NFL is practically allergic to taking a late round flier on a Big12 defensive back.  There are literally zero diamond in the rough type players coming from Big12 secondaries.  Not one late drafted Big12 defensive back has amounted to anything over the latter part of this decade.

In watching these offenses get exposed against decent teams from the other conferences, it became obvious: Big 12 defenses don't have the defensive backs to play at the level needed to stop these passing games.  Ole Miss played aggressive man-free on Texas Tech.  While we've constantly heard that you can't blitz a spread team, the results on the field proved otherwise.  Oregon did much of the same. 

If I were these a Big12 defensive coordinator, I would gamble all the time.  I know that my defensive backs are horrible, but playing loose zone and dying in 5-yard chunks is no way to play football.

The Big12 isn't projected to produce much in the way of defensive back talent this year either.

The strategy of never challenging these Big12 QB's is even more ludicrous when you consider that the Big12 can't produce a decent quarterback!  I'm sure you're viewing this statement with some skepticism, but hear me out.

There are no starting QBs in the NFL from the BIG12.  Here's the chart:


B10 5
PAC10 3
BE 4
MM 10

Come on Big12!  You can't produce even ONE starting QB in the NFL?  Really?

Well... I guess the NFL would have to think enough of a BIG12 QB to actually draft one in the first place (though the undrafted route is always an option).

The Big12 has had ONE QB drafted in the last 4 years!  His name?  Vince Young.  With a motion reminiscent of someone flinging dog feces off his hand and the footwork of a Forest Gump as a child, Vince did nothing to encourage scouts that Big12 QB's could actually play.  One scout called a certain Texas QB (Phil Sims Son) the "worst coached talent I've ever seen." 

So, maybe these Defensive Coordinators don't play aggressively because they respect the opposition's receivers

This might have some merit this year, as Crabtree and Dez Bryant have been studs for the Big12, and Maclin is a nice all-purpose player.  Still, the Big12 has had only ONE first round receiver in the past 4 years.

Some final "Big 12 pass defenses are horrible and inflate the Big12 passing offense numbers" nuggets:

  • Missouri was the ONLY team to surrender 300 yards passing to Northwestern.
  • Ole Miss had its 2nd best passing day of the year against... Texas Tech.  

Is there a reason behind this madness?  Actually, yes.  For a long time, the Big12 was a power running, option football conference.  Passing in the harsh windy climates of the plains was seen as radical and unrealistic-- until someone tried it.  As generally happens, you have an attack and a counter.  These passing offenses are the attack.  We are still waiting on the counter.  The Big12 is just several years behind the rest of the Nation in terms of defending the pass.  If I were a defensive back, and I had any kind of confidence that I'd get good coaching, I would play in the Big 12, because their defensive back play is embarrassing.  Top recruits should be able to play early in Big12 country.

Sam Bradfor will likely take a lot of heat off of the conference.  While I think McCoy is a nice college player but a 6th round NFL pick without much physical ability, Bradford has the tools and the smarts to succeed at the next level.  Ditto Robinson.  Harrell doesn't have enough arm to make up for hit statuesque pocket style, and Chase Daniel looks to be about 5'8 240lbs. 

If Oklahoma is able to hang with UF come Thursday night, it'll be because they have a legit pro prospect at under center.  I still think the Sooner's defensive back play is pathetic though, as it has been for quite some time, and that will likely doom them. 

Here's to an exciting shootout-- one that has Bradford coming out on top while still allowing the Big 12's pass defense to be further exposed.




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