OSU & OU football: Cowboys lead in offensive efficiency
Last week I wrote about a different way to look at defenses. I called it defensive percentage. I’d researched it before, but it’s a way to look at defenses in something other than raw yards (which is an awful way to rank defenses) or raw points (which is not all that satisfactory). Basically, it ranks defenses on how often they get themselves off the field without allowing points.
But something I’ve never done is rank offenses the same way. What’s good for a defense is bad for an offense, and verse visa. And so I did, I ranked the Big 12 offenses on how often they get points out of a drive. You get a full point (100 percent) for a touchdown and a half point for a field goal. So what’s your percentage at scoring a full TD?
My intuition is that offensive efficiency is not as valuable as defensive percentage. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because a one-sided game — Texas Tech 52-17 over a truly awful New Mexico team; OSU’s 65-17 beatdown of hapless Washington State — can skew the numbers more than defensive dominance. You dominant a team offensively, and the sky’s the limit. Dominate a team defensively, and a shutout is as good as it gets. Absolute zero.
But it’s still interesting. And valuable, I think. A team that gets 14-15 possessions a game like Oklahoma State (14.3 per game) or Texas A&M (14.7) ought to score more than a team that gets 11-12 like Iowa State (11.4) or Baylor (11.8).
So, through six games (Baylor and Iowa State have played seven each), here is how the Big 12 offenses rank:
1. Oklahoma State: 45.9 percent.
2. Nebraska: 40.6.
3. Kansas State: 40.4.
4. Oklahoma: 40.4.
5. Missouri: 39.2.
6. Baylor: 38.6.
7. Texas Tech: 33.7.
8. Texas A&M: 28.4.
9. Texas: 27.7.
10. Iowa State: 24.4.
11. Colorado: 22.9.
12. Kansas: 21.5.
For the most part, the rankings are about what you would expect. OSU seems to have had the league’s most productive offense to this point, with Kansas, Colorado and Iowa State at the bottom.
Some things do stand out, like Oklahoma behind Nebraska and Kansas State. And that’s where using offensive efficiency (and defensive percentage) can be dicey. Taking it as a season-long stat has its pitfalls, especially early.
To me, this is a great stat for a particular game. How did OU’s defense do against Texas? How did OSU’s offense do against Nebraska?
When you factor in a half-season worth of games, the study can lose some value. In other words, while it’s extremely relative how OU’s defense did against Texas or how OSU’s offense did against Nebraska, it’s not at all relevant how OU’s offense did against Iowa State compared to how Kansas State’s offense did against Kansas. OU won 52-0, KSU won 59-7. Stats and percentages lose their meaning in such a game. Both were head-kickings.
So why is OU behind Nebraska and Kansas State? That seems counter-intuitive, doesn’t it? The Sooners have been solid in every game and great in some games. Meanwhile, Nebraska has laid a couple of eggs (South Dakota State and Texas), and KSU was awful against Nebraska and Central Florida.
Which is why you have to be careful with offensive efficiency and defensive percentage. Strength of schedule plays a huge role.
Compare OU and Nebraska, for instance. Both have played Texas, so that’s a wash. Nebraska played KSU, while OU played Iowa State, and that’s a near wash. Don’t believe it? The Wildcats and Cyclones played on a neutral field, and KSU won 27-24. OU played at Cincinnati, NU played at Washington. Call that a wash. OU hosted Utah State, NU hosted Idaho. Again, seem about even. So in those four games, slight, slight edge to the Huskers.
Which leaves OU with Air Force and Florida State, and Nebraska with Western Kentucky and South Dakota State.
Just for fun, I ran the numbers of offensive efficiency just on those four fairly-even games. And here’s what’s crazy. In those four games, Nebraska had the more efficient offense: 41.1 percent to 37.3 percent. Which means total kookiness — Nebraska’s offense was worse against rumdums Western Kentucky and South Dakota State (39.6 percent) than against the better teams on its schedule, while OU’s offense was better against Air Force and Florida State (47.8 percent) than against the other four teams on its schedule, which included overmatched Utah State and Iowa State.
So I don’t know. I told you I didn’t think offensive efficiency was as good a stat as defensive percentage.
But like I said, it’s a useful tool in particular games. Air Force, for example. The Sooners scored just 27 points and had just 367 total yards. That’s an off game by Oklahoma standards. Heck, that’s an off game by most anyone’s standards in the 21st century. But OU had just 10 possessions against Air Force; it scored three touchdowns and kicked two field goals. That’s a 40 percent offensive efficiency, which is absolutely winning football.
Here is OSU’s game-by-game offensive efficiency:
Washington State: 53.1 percent. You will lose no games ever with an offensive efficiency greater than 50 percent.
Troy: 33 percent. Sounds low for a 41-38 game, but it’s true. OSU had 15 possessions and scored four offensive touchdowns, with two field goals.
Tulsa: 73.1 percent. I can’t imagine too many games in college football this season with a higher efficiency. OSU had 13 possessions, scored eight TDs and kicked three field goals. The Cowboys had one punt and threw one interception. I wonder if the ’88 Cowboys ever had a game with an offensive efficiency of 73.1 percent?
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