Statistically, the Big 12 was clearly one of the worst conference in college football last season on the defensive side of the ball, allowing an average of 446.11 yards per game.
While most anyone would look at that number and immediately assume the conference had gaping holes on defense, Riley thinks the stats are far more telling about the offensive fire power in the Big 12 — and defense as a whole is much better than people give it credit for.
"Just look at the numbers from last year," Riley said Thursday on ESPN's Mike and Mike. "There are no outs offensively. There's not one game where you're not challenged by the other team's offense. Not one. You look at all of the season stats and see what they are, but then you look at the Bowl games. The number one conference for defense in the bowl games was the Big 12. Is it that the defenses are struggling? Or is it that the offenses are really good week and and week out. Those numbers would suggest the latter."
Riley raises an interesting point. Sure, the SEC is a conference best known for its defense, but it's also a conference lacking high-powered offensive systems. The Big 12 had 7 squads that averaged more than 450 yards per game in 2016-17. That's a ton of good offense, across the board.
It would be interesting to do a deep dive into how Big 12 teams fare against non-conference squads over a long period of time. Either way, I think a little from both sides is true. Sure, the Big 12 isn't going to blow anyone away on the defensive side of the ball, but those insane offenses also skew the numbers.
Everyone wins in the end.