Big 12 defensive power rankings: Dawson takes top spot in defensive power rankings

TCU linebacker Paul Dawson pushes past Minnesota defense during the game between TCU and Minnesota on Sept. 13, 2014 at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, TX. (Photo courtesy of Kaitlyn Beckert | TCU 360)

No. 1: TCU LB Paul Dawson

(Last week: 2)

Dawson put in another great performance in his team’s contest against West Virginia. He had 12 tackles, along with a 12-yard sack and an interception. His performance was just enough for his team to escape with a one-point victory in Morgantown, West Virginia.

Dawson’s performance moves him closer to the conference lead in tackles per game, but he still sits in second. He has accumulated the ninth-most tackles per game in the entire country. Dawson is also third in tackles for loss per game in the Big 12.

TCU will face K-State on Saturday in a conference-shifting clash. The Wildcats offense is 16th in the nation in points per game and will provide a formidable challenge for Dawson’s squad. If Dawson must be disruptive in this game – like he has been for most of the season.

No. 2: Kansas LB Ben Heeney

(Last week: 1)

Heeney’s 10-tackle performance against Baylor last week almost seems pedestrian compared to his production in other games this season. The unusual thing for him in this game was playing on the other side of the ball. Heeney had one rush as Kansas’ running back, but it was stuffed for no gain.

Heeney still leads the Big 12 in tackles per game, but has fallen back to fifth in the nation in the category. He is fifth in tackles for loss in the conference.

The Jayhawks have the opportunity for a conference win on Saturday when they host Iowa State. The Cyclones have a dual-threat quarterback and talented running backs, but are still 110th in the nation in rushing yards per game. Heeney could help his team in a huge way by neutralizing the opponents ground attack.

No. 3: Baylor DE Shawn Oakman

(Last week: 3)

Oakman only had three tackles against Kansas, but he made his presence felt in the game. He had a sack, two tackles for loss, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a quarterback hurry.

The explosive pass rusher is also making noise on the Big 12 defensive leaderboard. He is second in tackles for loss and third in sacks in the conference. He was a great player last season, but has taken his game up a notch in 2014.

This weekend, Oakman’s team will try and stop an Oklahoma offense that puts up the ninth most points per game in the nation. Oakman will need to pursue quarterback Trevor Knight tirelessly in this game.

No. 4: K-State LB Jonathan Truman

(Last week: 5)

Truman’s game was not especially great last week against Oklahoma State, but he did have five tackles and a fumble recovery. He moved up in the power rankings this week because of the unit he represents.

K-State’s front seven is already the best run stopping defense in the conference, but against Oklahoma State they began to add a pass rush into the mix with four sacks.

Truman and his teammates will have to put up a great performance against TCU

No. 5: Oklahoma CB Zack Sanchez

(Last week: 4)

Oklahoma finally won a game that was not aided by a Sanchez interception when they faced Iowa State last week. He had two tackles in the game, but no pass breakups or interceptions.

Sanchez still remains the Big 12 leader in interceptions for the season, with five. He is fourth in the conference in total pass breakups with 10.

The Sooners face the potent Baylor offense this weekend. The weight of the game falls on Oklahoma’s defense. If Sanchez can create havoc in the secondary, his team has a great chance of coming away with a victory.

Austin Earl is a sophomore in mass communications.