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Big 12 football: Efficiency ratings paint a dismal picture for OU

by Berry Tramel Modified: November 4, 2013 at 5:15 pm •  Published: November 4, 2013

Oklahoma's Lacoltan Bester (11) scores a touchdown past Texas Tech's Olaoluwa Falemi (29) during a college football game between the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) and the Texas Tech Red Raiders at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Okla., on Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013. Oklahoma won 38-30. Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman
Oklahoma's Lacoltan Bester (11) scores a touchdown past Texas Tech's Olaoluwa Falemi (29) during a college football game between the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) and the Texas Tech Red Raiders at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Okla., on Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013. Oklahoma won 38-30. Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman

My favorite statistic in football is offensive and defensive efficiency. It’s patterned after the NBA’s points per possession. For example, two NBA teams each give up 100 points. At first glance, you’d think their defensive effort about the same. But what if one team is playing the plodding Bulls, and the other team is playing the high-flying Warriors? There’s a big difference.

So I measure what each offense and defense does with its opportunity. An offense’s job is to score. A defense’s job is to keep the opposition from scoring. So make a team punt, then give up a touchdown, that’s 50 percent efficiency. Score two touchdowns, commit a turnover and punt three times in a half, that’s 40 percent offensive efficiency. I count field goals half. Kick two field goals in two possessions, that’s 50 percent efficiency.

Anyway, it’s not a terribly revealing stat, when comparing teams, early in the season. But this late in the year, it can tell you some things.

So I’ve ranked the Big 12 teams in offensive and defensive efficiency, using conference games only. What you do against Stephen F. Austin and Wofford is completely irrelevant. What you do against Texas and Kansas State is completely relevant.

So here are the offensive efficiency rankings at this point in the season:

1. Baylor .560

2. Texas Tech .351

3. Kansas State .339

4. Texas .309

5. OSU .306

6. OU .287

7. West Virginia .235

8. Iowa State .191

9. TCU .165

10. Kansas .140

Here’s what I see from these numbers:

* Wow. Did anyone see Kansas State coming? The Wildcats are getting good on offense. A .339 efficiency rating means a touchdown about every third possession. That’s excellent. Teams that drew KSU early in the season (Texas, OSU) should be grateful. Tech and OU, watch out.

* Baylor’s numbers are ridiculous, of course. There are two ways to look at them. First, the Bears haven’t played the Big 12′s best defenses in efficiency. On the other hand, one reason Iowa State, Kansas, West Virginia and Kansas State are at the bottom of the defensive efficiency list is they’ve had to play Baylor. I assume Baylor’s numbers will go down. But in the five or so years I’ve been doing this, I’ve never seen a number like .560 this late in the season.

* Texas, OSU and OU are all bunched closely, but the Sooners are at the bottom of that trio. Does OU really have the sixth-best offense in the league? If so, the Sooners are in trouble Thursday night in Waco. They need a lot of points against Baylor.

* But here’s where things get interesting for OU. The blueprint to beat Baylor is control the ball, limit possessions, shorten the game. And guess what? That’s what OU does. The Sooners are averaging fewer possessions in conference play — offense and defense — than everybody else. OU is average 12 possessions a game. On offense, OSU is averaging 16.0 possessions, Iowa State 15.2, Kansas 15.0, TCU 14.7, Baylor 14.5, Tech 14.5, West Virginia 14.2, Texas 13.6 and Kansas State 12.4. KSU came the closest to slowing Baylor, losing 35-25 but leading in the fourth quarter. The Sooners look capable of shortening the game.

OK, now the defensive numbers, listed by the opposition’s efficiency:

1. Texas .190

2. OSU .196

3. Baylor .203

4. TCU .216

5. OU .242

6. Texas Tech .281

7. Kansas State .282

8. West Virginia .366

9. Kansas .392

10. Iowa State .426.

Here’s what I see from these numbers:

* That’s right. The defense that was coached for six weeks by Manny Diaz leads the Big 12. But beware, Longhorns. You’ve still got Baylor, Tech and OSU to play. So we’ll see.

* Again, OU’s defense — which has not faced Baylor — ranks sixth. That means the Sooners are going to try to spring an upset Thursday night with a defense and an offense that are, so far, so-so in the Big 12. Doesn’t seem like a good recipe.

* TCU has a good defense. The Frogs haven’t played Baylor yet, but they’ve played Texas, OSU, OU and Tech. TCU’s stumble to a 1-5 conference record is completely the responsibility of the offense.

* Baylor’s defensive numbers are impressive. But here we are on Nov. 4, and the Bears haven’t even reached the halfway mark of their conference season. So far they’ve played West Virginia, Kansas, Kansas State and Iowa State. We’ve been rough on Tech, calling the Red Raiders overrated for reaching the top 10 with a cushy schedule. But Baylor has traveled the same road. Only difference: Baylor has been dominant.

* If you like to use these numbers as a predictor, you can. I don’t necessarily; I think they are a reflection of what we’ve seen so far, not necessarily what’s to come. But if you want to average a team’s offensive efficiency with a foe’s defensive efficiency, then project the number of possessions based on their season average, you get the following Big 12 scores for the weekend:

Baylor 35, OU 22. Seems a little low scoring on both ends, for a game in Waco.

OSU 38, Kansas 18. Seems a little low scoring on the OSU end, but you never know. It was just 20-14 last year.

Texas 33, West Virginia 21. This one strikes me as about right.

Tech 30, Kansas State 29. Sign me up for that game.

TCU 31, Iowa State 21. Seems a lot of points for the Frogs. But that Cyclone defense is terrible. And TCU scored 27 in regulation last week.

This numbers don’t reflect the home/road differential or the kicking game, but they’re fun to play around with. We’ll do the same next week.




by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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