Big 12: Land of Mystery and Mediocre Pass D

Chase Daniel is spitting mad over a Nebraska player hocking a loogie at him in pregame warmups, but heavens knows why: the Nebraska defense, ranked 97th in the nation, did little when given the chance to inflict more substantial damage on Daniel. They allowed him leisurely minutes in the pocket to file his nails, finish up an entertaining episode of Pushing Daisies he'd downloaded to his iPod, and then hit on 18 of 23 passes for 253 yards and three touchdowns. ↵

↵Daniel's not the only QB in the Big 12 giving himself a manicure and observing the clouds from the pocket. Sam Bradford (23/31, 372 yards, two TDs), Todd Reesing (18/26, 319 yards, three TDs), Zach Robinson (186 yards, three TDs on just 10/14 passing) and Colt McCoy (23/30, 262 yards, two TDs) all had large to extremely large days passing the ball. Including Texas Tech is almost unfair, but let's do it just for fun: Harrell went 38 for 51 with 454 yards and six TDs, and just made your puny four TD day online playing NCAA 2008 look limply anemic in comparison. ↵

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↵The Big 12's passing mania shows up on the other side of the ball, too. The conference features seven teams ranked in the bottom half of the national pass defense, including 114th ranked Missouri. Overall, the conference averaged 68th nationally in passing defense after week six; in comparison, the SEC's defensive secondaries averaged 36th overall, while the famously offense friendly Pac-10's passing defenses averaged 58th nationally. (Tops in the nation? Arizona. Don't look so shocked.) ↵

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↵You can read the numbers in a variety of self-serving manners. For instance, if you believe Missouri is overrated by furlongs at this point, you may point to the triple-digit national rankings and project two losses in shootout fashion in the pass-friendly Big 12. However, if you've got money or -- worse yet -- actual emotion riding on Mizzou being as good as you think they are, you may explain it away by suggesting that Chase Daniel and Jeremy Maclin have been piling up points so quickly that there's little point in playing tight defense, since being up by 30 points in almost every game you play tends to relax the defense a bit. ↵

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↵The correct, objective read would be to say this: if the difference in Missouri's passing defense were marginal, there would be no concerns whatsoever since the Tigers order economy packs of 24 points each by the quarter, and are one of the few teams genuinely capable of scoring triple digits in a game. However, this team is in the bottom 20 in terms of stopping the pass, and statistically as flammable as the SMUs and Florida Internationals of the world. If beating Missouri is a matter of holding serve, and you're inclined to pick an upset remaining on the schedule, you'd pick the team with the best remaining pass defense remaining on the schedule, an offense capable of hanging with Mizzou's, and let them bones roll. ↵

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↵That would be Oklahoma State this Saturday, by the way, the second Big 12 game which could help determine the course of the national title picture this weekend. No pressure, y'all. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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