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Bowlsby defends Big 12 against no-defense rap

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby defended his league's reputation in his opening remarks at Big 12 media days on Monday. In a long, winding opening address, Bowlsby emphasized that the league -- which has often been associated with fast-paced, high-scoring offenses at the expense of its defensive play -- takes exception to the characterization that it is poor on defense.

"Last year of our seven bowl games ... six of seven offenses were held below their season average by Big 12 defenses," Bowlsby said. "Contrary to popular belief, there are kids that tackle in the Big 12."

Alabama, Cal, Georgia, Missouri, Syracuse and Washington State were the teams held below their season scoring averages in the bowl season by Big 12 opponents. Vanderbilt, which Baylor beat 45-38 in the Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl, was the only team to score above its season average against a Big 12 team in a bowl.

Only two of the Big 12's 10 teams ranked in the top 40 in the FBS in points allowed per game: Iowa State (37th, 22.9 points) and TCU (40th, 23 points). Half of the league's teams (Kansas, Texas Tech, Baylor, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma) all ranked worse than 80th nationally in points allowed.

The Big 12 went 4-3 in bowl games last season.

The league lived up to its offensive reputation, however, with Oklahoma leading the country in points per game (48.3) and four teams placing in the top 16 in the FBS (West Virginia, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech being the others).

Bowlsby said he's not worried about how the reputation plays with the College Football Playoff selection committee when evaluating teams.

"I think they're very mindful of it," Bowlsby said. "I don't worry much about the selection committee. They're meticulous in the way they go about their work. The way it gets characterized in the media sometimes and by analysts that are doing the games, that is probably more where the public mindset comes from.

"Then the other thing is we score a lot of points. We have some very high-powered offenses and I think that equates to, 'Well, they don't play any defense,' and that's why I was pointed in making the comment that I made. We do play defense. We pay attention to it, but we have some very talented offenses that contribute to that."

Bowlsby also pointed out the conference's quality of competition, noting that the Big 12's champion will play 11 games against Power 5 conference opponents, because the league plays nine conference games, one non-conference against a Power 5 opponent, and the league championship game. Considering the inconsistency of scheduling across conferences (the ACC and SEC play eight league games; the Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12 each play nine), Bowlsby said if it were up to him, he would advocate for a policy to standardize the number of Power 5 opponents.

"I wouldn't make any stipulations about how many games you have to play to decide your conference championship. I would advocate for a policy that says everybody plays 10 [Power 5] games and you can play eight conference games or seven or nine, whatever you want to do," Bowlsby said. "But everybody has to play 10 [Power 5] games and that way the portfolio looks relatively the same."