By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian
Let us, for a moment, take a step back from our own self-pity in West Virginia over a pair of losses in which our state university allowed 104 points while scoring only 28, losses that effectively took the air out of what had been a simply wonderful season.
Let us, instead of bemoaning being in possession of the nation’s worst pass defense among 120 FBS schools and overall the 113th worst total defense, to say nothing of the 115th most scored upon defense, less than an extra point away from giving up 40 points per game, try to understand that we are not alone.
“Everyone (in the Big 12) wants to fire its defensive coordinator because everyone in the league has a great quarterback and can move the ball,” said Texas Coach Mack Brown, whose own defense has not lived anywhere near up to the high expectations everyone had for it.
As evidence of what is going on in the Big 12, Brown offered a statistic that had been brought to him not long before he went onto Monday’s Big 12 coaches conference call.
“I was told in this league this past weekend there were more touchdowns than punts, 48 to 47,” he said.
True, WVU was somewhat responsible for the high touchdown figure, having given up seven to Kansas State, the conference leader, but it somehow made up for it in part by punting the football an uncharacteristically high number of times — four.
Over the years, the Big 12 has evolved into a league where offense abounds ... almost unstoppable offense, the state of Texas having become the center of the offensive universe in the United States, helped along by a thriving 7-on-7 summer high school program that keeps the kids throwing year-round and by having an inordinate amount of high-profile colleges.
Charlie Weis has coached on a pretty high level, having in his possession a number of Super Bowl championship rings from his days as offensive coordinator with the New England Patriots, and he has also been head coach at Notre Dame.
Today he is beginning to rebuild the program in Kansas, which has fallen on hard times, but due to his background he was queried on the depth of talent in the Big 12.
“I’m new to the league,” he admitted. “I just know anyone outside the conference that doesn’t understand talent in this league is missing the boat.”
Think, if you will, of the quarterbacks in the Big 12 ... WVU’s own Geno Smith, Kansas State’s Collin Klein, who has replaced Smith as the Heisman Trophy front-runner, Texas Tech’s Seth Doege, Oklahoma’s Landry Jones, Baylor’s Nick Florence, Texas’ David Ash.
All five of them were named among the 16 semifinalists for the Davey O’Brien national quarterback of the year award. No other conference had more than three.
How many will be playing in the NFL next season?
You want to know how many now are starting NFL quarterbacks?
Listen to Tommy Tuberville, the Texas Tech coach and a former head coach at Auburn, which is in the SEC.
“We have three rookie quarterbacks from the league starting in the NFL this year and we’ll probably have three from this year’s class,” he said.
The three are Robert Griffin III, the Heisman Trophy winner from Baylor last year; Brandon Weeden from Oklahoma State and Ryan Tannehill, who played in the Big 12 at Texas A&M last season.
“You can lose ball games and lose them very badly if you let them get away from you. In the SEC there aren’t as many points scored because it’s a running league,” Tuberville said. “Pretty much any team in this league can score on you. Everybody has a quarterback and everybody has players who can score a lot of points.”
Even Bill Snyder, the grandfatherly head of the league’s best team, K-State, has seen the league’s growth over the years.
“I’ve seen it escalate (into a balanced, high-scoring league),” he said. “That’s part of the dynamics of the collegiate game all across the country. But what goes ’round, comes ’round and over a period of time it will evolve in another direction.”
In case you can’t tell, Snyder is not a proponent of the wide-open style that now dominates the Big 12.
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.