OU football: Sooner defense No. 1 in Big 12 efficiency rankings
The sum of all fears has arrived in Big 12 football. Oklahoma has a defense to match its offense. Maybe not nationally, since the Sooner offense is America’s best or close to it. But in the conference, OU’s defense is in the same slot as the OU offense.
Less than a year after the Sooners finished dead last in defensive efficiency in the Big 12, OU ranks No. 1 after four conference games this season.
Sooner opponents have a .240 efficiency percentage, which puts OU fractions ahead of Baylor for the Big 12’s defense.
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Remember, I gauge offenses and defenses by how often they do their job. An offense’s job is to score. A defense’s job is to keep the opponent from scoring. So I measure offenses by how often they score, divided by how many possessions they get. Touchdowns are full credit. Field goals are half credit. Same with defenses. How many scores do you allow per possession? And I count only conference games, because that gives the best comparisons.
Here are the efficiency rankings as we approach the last Saturday in October:
1. Oklahoma .240: Enough talk about turnovers. The Sooners are getting stops. Whether it’s via takeaways or via punts, who cares? It’s not like field position matters to the OU offense.
2. Baylor .240: The Bears have played against some traditionally strong offenses, but those offenses don’t rank that high this year – Kansas State, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech.
3. Iowa State .289: The Cyclones have become an annual defensive force. No change this year.
4. Kansas State .314: The Wildcats are about to play OU, which is a killer for a team’s defensive percentage, but still, K-State is playing solid defense.
4. TCU .314: The Horned Frogs and Kansas State have the exact same percentages – 35 possessions defended, 11 touchdown-equivalents allowed.
6. Oklahoma State .373: If you’re like me, you eyeball this Cowboy season and figure that OSU’s defense is the biggest problem in the 1-3 conference start. But the defense ranks higher than the OSU offense.
7. Texas Tech .382: Tech still paying the price of being avalanched by Jalen Hurts and the OU offense. Tech didn’t play poorly against either Baylor or OSU.
8. Texas .389: This is not going in the right direction for the Longhorns. Not in the right direction at all.
9. West Virginia .457: The Mountaineers might get better in this category. They already have played the three highest-ranking offenses.
10. Kansas .533: Same old Kansas defense, but take a look at this defensive list. The bottom four teams are the teams that have played OU. So the worst is behind them.
1. Oklahoma .578: This is my seventh year to do the efficiency rankings, and this offensive rating is higher than any other offense, except for Kyler Murray’s a year ago. Yes. Higher than any Baker Mayfield offense.
2. Texas .431: Fabulous offense. If not compared to the kooky OU numbers, any number above .400 is outstanding, in any year. Baylor led the Big 12 in 2013 at .439.
3. Iowa State .400: With this kind of offense, the Cyclones are a threat against any team. OU included. Heck, we saw that in 2017 in Norman. Play some defense, score a few touchdowns, you’ve got a chance.
4. TCU .368: This number and ranking is quite surprisingly high and can only be attributed to that blowout of Kansas, which now looks inexplicable.
5. Baylor .344: Bet you didn’t figure that Baylor’s defense would rank well ahead of the Baylor offense. We usually expect more out of the Baylor offense.
6. Kansas .330: Can KU keep up the offensive explosion we saw in Austin? Seems possible.
7. Oklahoma State .302: Here’s what I love about these rankings. They tell us things we didn’t know. I was under the impression that defense was the biggest sore spot for OSU. And it probably was in that 45-27 loss to Baylor. But the Cowboy offense is not performing anywhere close to OSU standards, primarily because of turnovers. Eight in the last two games. Can’t win that way.
8. Texas Tech .298: Where have you gone, Mike Leach? Where have you gone, Kliff Kingsbury? Where have you gone, Alan Bowman?
9. West Virginia .235: Better days are ahead for coach Neal Brown. Here’s hoping better days are ahead for quarterback Austin Kendall.
10. Kansas State .300: Not a good number. Bill Snyder’s offenses finished with at least a .380 efficiency rating in 2013, 2014 and 2016. But the offensive slide began, and K-State hasn’t kept up.
A fun tool with these ratings is the score projections they provide. Not so much that they predict winners – football novices can predict the winners of most college football games – but they can give you a ballpark estimate on what kind of games will be played. How close, how high-scoring. Here are the games for Saturday:
Oklahoma at Kansas State: Sooners 36-19. Seems low on the OU end, high on the K-State end. But games in Manhattan often bring surprising results.
Oklahoma State at Iowa State: Cyclones 32-26. See what I mean? Doesn’t the game in Ames just feel like a 32-26 Iowa State victory, at least going in?
Texas at TCU: Horned Frogs 33-32. This is really going to be an interesting game. My impression is that Texas is better than TCU, but TCU is favored over Texas, so I have no idea what will happen, and the efficiency numbers say it’s down to the wire.
Texas Tech at Kansas: Red Raiders 36-32. This one surprises me. I would have thought KU would come out on top. We’ll see.