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Can A Defensive Team Win The Big 12?

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Head coach Gary Patterson knows how to motivate his defense. Photo by Eric Draper/Getty Images.
Head coach Gary Patterson knows how to motivate his defense. Photo by Eric Draper/Getty Images.

The Big 12 is known for its wide-open offenses and sporadic defenses, but could this be the season a defensive-minded team wins the conference? 

A thriving quarterback typically dictates offensive success in this league. There are a lot of new faces on offense in 2013, particularly under center. Only four starting quarterbacks return, including TCU’s Casey Pachall and Iowa State’s Sam Richardson. Pachall left school early last year to seek drug and alcohol treatment following a DUI arrest, and Richardson didn’t become the starter until late in 2012.

This could be the year defense finally prevails in the up-tempo, high-octane offensive world of the Big 12. TCU didn’t exactly blaze a trail through the league last year, but that was due in large part to the sudden departure of Pachall. The Horned Frogs finished at 7-6 and 4-5 in conference play. Going back to the 2005 season, TCU had won at least 11 games every year except in 2007, when they still finished with a better record (8-5) than they had last year.

So the Horned Frogs didn’t set the Big 12 on fire in their first year, but they did lead the conference in total defense and rushing defense while finishing second in scoring defense. Now the Horned Frogs return nine starters on that side of the ball, including super sophomore defensive end Devonte Fields, who was the unanimous Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year as a freshman. The media has selected him as the 2013 Preseason Defensive Player of the Year. TCU also is fortunate to get back senior cornerback Jason Verrett, who considered jumping to the NFL. Verrett led the conference in interceptions and passes defensed during the 2012 season.

In addition to great talent, head coach Gary Patterson is supremely confident in his schemes and formations to stop the well-known offenses of the Big 12.

During the Big 12 media days, Patterson had this to say about his defensive philosophy: “Even though everybody throws the ball, you have to be able to stop the run. There's not any doubt about how you do that. Whether it's by when you catch it, you don't let them run with it, or when they're handing it off. You've got to get it to where you have an advantage as far as you know it's a passing down.”

Patterson is entering his 14th season at TCU and he knows how to coach defense. Defensive coordinator Dick Bumpas is heading into his 10th season with the Horned Frogs.

For years, Patterson has been known for his 4-2-5 defensive scheme which enabled the Horned Frogs to compete with the pass-happy teams of the old WAC, Mountain West, and now the Big 12. Patterson and Bumpas have also learned to adapt and play more multiple fronts and formations to adjust to what they’re seeing on the field. Their formula works, as TCU is almost always near the top in every defensive statistical category in the nation.

Could TCU's defense help them seize the conferene title? Texas still is trying to find its identity; Oklahoma and Kansas State are breaking in new quarterbacks and lost some explosive playmakers; Oklahoma State’s quarterback situation is unclear following the transfer of West Lunt. Who knows?This could be the year of the Horned Frogs.