If the protection plans are fixed enough to allow Austin Allen time to make plays and get TCU's eighth and ninth guys out of the box.

FAYETTEVILLE – It's almost completely unclear what having a top defense in the Big 12 Conference means anymore. A league all about offense, running and gunning and maximizing offensive possessions, is going to have some skewed defensive numbers.

Whether that means those defenses are bad or simply relative to the competition may depend largely on the particular team in the league and that team's opponent. Take Texas Christian, for example. A program built on the defensive mind of head coach Gary Patterson, the practical inventor of the 4-2-5 attacking defense, Patterson's team has spent the last two seasons seventh and second in the nation in scoring. Last year, the Horned Frogs were 68th in total defense.

Other than the 2015 season and one game so far this season, that mediocre defense has been an outlier. TCU has been top 30 ever season but one since 2008 (and that one season, the team was 32nd). For three straight years – 2008, 2009 and 2010 – Patterson's teams were first in the nation in total defense.

Chicken or egg, though. Did his team's ability on defense lose some sheen because of the move to the Big 12 and the high-octane offenses there or have things changed all that drastically in Fort Worth? TCU spent Patterson's formative years in the WAC, Conference USA and Mountain West before making the move to a so-called Power 5 conference in 2012.

Rhetorical, ultimately. Dan Enos, Arkansas' offensive coordinator, holds Patterson defenses in the highest regard.

“It's like, might as well just add on another SEC game for us,” Enos said.

Josh Carraway and James McFarland are senior defensive ends, both 6-foot-3ish and 250 pounds. Their technique is speed, something with which Arkansas seemed to have trouble on Saturday against Louisiana Tech. Both are first-team All-Big 12. McFarland was the sack leader two years ago, but didn't play last year because of injury. Carraway, in his stead, made first-team at the end of last season thanks in large part to nine sacks.

TCU will mix its schemes if not its look. The 4-2-5 is standard, a lot like Arkansas'. The two defenses, other than four defensive ends, two linebackers and five defensive backs, couldn't be more different, though.

Arkansas rolls three cornerbacks and two safeties as its back five. The two linebackers never leave the field. Blitzing is limited if not outright rare. TCU plays three safeties, one of which is a de facto rover. Blitzes come at angles and from anywhere, although they're not as common as they once were in the MWC days. Still, the Horned Frogs take chances with idea that getting the ball back to the offense, at least the last couple years and through one game so far, provides the best opportunity to win. A high-scoring game doesn't lean Arkansas' way and TCU will try to limit Arkansas' clock-milking strategy by playing two of those safeties down in the box, seeking to take away a running game.

“They play quarters where they're flat-footed and reading two, so if the tight end blocks, they're down in run support. That's why the defense was created a lot,” Enos said. “I can't speak for coach, but it's created to get people involved in the run game, to have a great run defense and be structurally sound.”

Arkansas had some measure of difficulty dealing with an eight-man front against Louisiana Tech. On 40 carries, the team had just 106 yards. The average works out to just 2.7 yards per carry. Remove the four sacks the Bulldogs got against Austin Allen and the number looks better – 36 for 132 – but a 3.7 average isn't the stuff Bielema offenses have been made of. Two of those sacks, by the way, came on safety blitzes, something TCU will do more frequency after watching the Bulldogs' success.

Allen will have to release the ball quickly and with enough danger TCU moves a player out and the Razorbacks can return back to their ground game. That's what winning against a Gary Patterson defense will require.

“Their defense has the ability to create man-front and even get that ninth guy in there at times,” Enos said. “That's why over the years they've been so good at corner. They recruit very good corners that can take guys away from the outside and allow those safeties to roam and do the things they do.”

Follow Eric on Twitter: @ericwbolin

 

Whether that means those defenses are bad or simply relative to the competition may depend largely on the particular team in the league and that team's opponent. Take Texas Christian, for example. A program built on the defensive mind of head coach Gary Patterson, the practical inventor of the 4-2-5 attacking defense, Patterson's team has spent the last two seasons seventh and second in the nation in scoring. Last year, the Horned Frogs were 68th in total defense.

 

Other than the 2015 season and one game so far this season, that mediocre defense has been an outlier. TCU has been top 30 ever season but one since 2008 (and that one season, the team was 32nd). For three straight years – 2008, 2009 and 2010 – Patterson's teams were first in the nation in total defense.

 

Chicken or egg, though. Did his team's ability on defense lose some sheen because of the move to the Big 12 and the high-octane offenses there or have things changed all that drastically in Fort Worth? TCU spent Patterson's formative years in the WAC, Conference USA and Mountain West before making the move to a so-called Power 5 conference in 2012.

 

Rhetorical, ultimately. Dan Enos, Arkansas' offensive coordinator, holds Patterson defenses in the highest regard.

 

“It's like, might as well just add on another SEC game for us,” Enos said.

 

Josh Carraway and James McFarland are senior defensive ends, both 6-foot-3ish and 250 pounds. Their technique is speed, something with which Arkansas seemed to have trouble on Saturday against Louisiana Tech. Both are first-team All-Big 12. McFarland was the sack leader two years ago, but didn't play last year because of injury. Carraway, in his stead, made first-team at the end of last season thanks in large part to nine sacks.

 

TCU will mix its schemes if not its look. The 4-2-5 is standard, a lot like Arkansas'. The two defenses, other than four defensive ends, two linebackers and five defensive backs, couldn't be more different, though.

 

Arkansas rolls three cornerbacks and two safeties as its back five. The two linebackers never leave the field. Blitzing is limited if not outright rare. TCU plays three safeties, one of which is a de facto rover. Blitzes come at angles and from anywhere, although they're not as common as they once were in the MWC days. Still, the Horned Frogs take chances with idea that getting the ball back to the offense, at least the last couple years and through one game so far, provides the best opportunity to win. A high-scoring game doesn't lean Arkansas' way and TCU will try to limit Arkansas' clock-milking strategy by playing two of those safeties down in the box, seeking to take away a running game.

 

“They play quarters where they're flat-footed and reading two, so if the tight end blocks, they're down in run support. That's why the defense was created a lot,” Enos said. “I can't speak for coach, but it's created to get people involved in the run game, to have a great run defense and be structurally sound.”

 

Arkansas had some measure of difficulty dealing with an eight-man front against Louisiana Tech. On 40 carries, the team had just 106 yards. The average works out to just 2.7 yards per carry. Remove the four sacks the Bulldogs got against Austin Allen and the number looks better – 36 for 132 – but a 3.7 average isn't the stuff Bielema offenses have been made of. Two of those sacks, by the way, came on safety blitzes, something TCU will do more frequency after watching the Bulldogs' success.

 

Allen will have to release the ball quickly and with enough danger TCU moves a player out and the Razorbacks can return back to their ground game. That's what winning against a Gary Patterson defense will require.

 

“Their defense has the ability to create man-front and even get that ninth guy in there at times,” Enos said. “That's why over the years they've been so good at corner. They recruit very good corners that can take guys away from the outside and allow those safeties to roam and do the things they do.”

 

Follow Eric on Twitter: @ericwbolin