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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Big 12 takes offensive: Five of top 18 offenses in country play in league

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Rod Aydelotte/AP Photo

Baylor’s Gary Mason, left, and Bryan Swindoll (27) celebrate their win over Kansas State last Saturday in Waco, Texas. The Bears’ offense is ranked No. 5 in the nation.

Offense remains the name of the game in the Big 12.

Last weekend, nine teams amassed more than 400 yards total offense and nine put up 27 points or more, with five scoring in the 40s or 50s.

Big 12 teams are averaging 417 yards and 31 points, compared with 390 yards and 28 points in 2009, and five of the nation’s top 18 offenses are in the conference.

Tommy Tuberville, the former Auburn coach, said dealing with high-scoring spread offenses has been one of his biggest adjustments since taking over this season at Texas Tech.

“In the Southeastern Conference, it’s a bull in a china closet. You have to stop the run first and the game is always going to be a one- or two-touchdown difference,” Tuberville said Monday. “In this league, no matter who you play, you might have a great offense, but if your defense doesn’t step up and cause some turnovers, it can get away quick.”

The hottest offense is at Baylor, which twice this month has set school total-offense records. The Bears piled up 683 yards in Saturday’s 47-42 win over Kansas State.

Nebraska, meanwhile, generated 540 yards in a 51-41 win at Oklahoma State behind Taylor Martinez’s 435 yards of total offense, and Texas A&M had 521 yards in a 45-10 victory at Kansas. The Aggies have piled up 500 yards in 11 of their last 20 games.

“There are more skilled guys who can make plays,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said. “What I’ve said the last three or four years is that there is more parity now than ever in college football and offensive coaches are taking more chances than they ever had.

“The ball has been thrown and caught more in space, which is making defenses work from sideline to sideline, which makes more running lanes inside for skilled tailbacks.”

Gundy’s Cowboys are a case in point. They’re third nationally in total offense (530 ypg) and passing (350 ypg), have the nation’s leading receiver and scorer in Justin Blackmon, and the third-leading rusher in Kendall Hunter. Their quarterback, Brandon Weeden, is sixth in total offense.

Baylor is just as explosive. Quarterback Robert Griffin is getting mention as a Heisman Trophy candidate after throwing for 404 yards and four touchdowns, both career highs, against Kansas State.

“I’ve seen him all season as a very consistent, steady and prolific performer, and nothing I saw Saturday in person changed my mind about that,” Wildcats coach Bill Snyder said.

Kansas coach Turner Gill said defenses aren’t the only ones stressed by all the scoring contests.

“It may be more pressure on all the offenses. You have to make sure you score a lot of points,” Gill said. “From a defensive side, it is really tough to contain guys, to hold them under a certain amount of points.”

The tempo of the spread generally allows offenses to run more plays and establish a rhythm.

“It makes it very difficult on the defenses,” Gill said. “You wear down a lot quicker. If you don’t have much depth, it’s really tough on you as you get into the fourth quarter.”

As much as Nebraska coach Bo Pelini likes to nitpick his defense’s performances, even he said he has to be happy just winning in the super-charged Big 12.

“I don’t care how many yards they get,” he said.

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