Tramel: Defense now trumps offense, as Big 12 efficiency ratings show
Big 12 offenses seem to be undergoing a transformation. They’re not scoring as much. This season or last season.
A year ago, in my final Big 12 efficiency rankings, only one offense, OU’s, was above .400. The Sooners, continuing their historic run of fabulous offenses, had a percentage of .536.
This season, OU’s offense has finally come back to Earth, and no offense has replaced the Sooners with explosive status.
OU’s .396 offensive efficiency leads the Big 12. As recently as 2018, three Big 12 offenses finished above .400. Heck, in 2015, OSU placed fourth in offensive efficiency at .393.
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Remember, I rank offenses and defenses on scoring efficiency, not yardage or points. How many times did you take the field and how many points did you produce or keep the opponent from producing?
I count touchdowns as full credit and field goals as half credit. So a team that gets 10 possessions, scores three touchdowns and kicks one field goal, has an efficiency of .350 -- 35 percent. And I rate defenses by their opponents’ offensive efficiency.
Scoring clearly is down in the Big 12. Will the Sooners (or Iowa State, second in offense at .385) climb above .400? Maybe. After all, OU (and Iowa State) gets to play Kansas.
And defensive efficiency is excellent in the Big 12, with four teams with a rating of .235 or better, led by OSU’s .154.
Each of the last two seasons, only one Big 12 defense had a rating better than .300; Iowa State led the league in 2018 with a .279 rating.
So defense is up, offense is down. Here are the ratings:
1. Oklahoma .396: This is a solid number, but the Lincoln Riley-era offensive ratings, starting with 2015, have been .496, .531, .542, .624 and .536.
2. Iowa State .385: A clear example of the changing face of the Big 12. Last week in Stillwater, the Big 12’s top-rated offense (the Cyclones) met the Big 12’s top-rated defense (OSU). And in 14 possessions, Iowa State scored three touchdowns. Defense won.
3. Kansas State .370: The Wildcats have stayed afloat with backup quarterback Will Howard. Will that continue?
4. Texas .368: Needs to be better. The Longhorns were second (2019) and third (2018) in Big 12 offense in recent seasons.
5. Oklahoma State .365: OSU wasn’t particularly productive in its first conference game with quarterback Spencer Sanders, back from injury. Three touchdowns and one field goal in 13 possessions. Not terrible, but needs to be better.
6. Texas Tech .359: Truthfully, the Red Raiders’ offense has been so-so since Patrick Mahomes’ departure.
7. West Virginia .284: The Mountaineers miss Will Grier.
8. TCU .260: The Frogs have to get better on offense, but the schedule has been tough.
9. Baylor .243: The Bears are a far cry from the Art Briles era.
10. Kansas .120: This would be a disastrous number in 1930s football.
1. Oklahoma State .154: Superb defense so far. I’ve been doing these ratings for eight years, and the best defensive efficiency, any school, was posted by the 2013 Cowboys, .174.
2. West Virginia .179: Excellent defense by the Mountaineers, but they’ve been a little bit lucky. WVU has played Kansas, plus twice has played against quarterbacks making their starting debuts (OSU’s Shane Illingworth, Tech’s Henry Colombi).
3. Baylor .235: Good defense, but the competition is going to get a lot better.
4. Kansas State .235: The Wildcats already have played OU, so this number could hold steady.
5. Iowa State .277: This is a better (slightly) number than the Cyclones’ league-best .279 in 2018.
6. TCU .344: Gary Patterson can’t be happy. He expects better defense. But again, the schedule lightens. It will go down.
7. Texas .365: This number is worse than each of UT’s previous two seasons, .333 and .350, which were the worst Longhorn defenses of the eight years.
8. Oklahoma .372: Not good, but getting better.
9. Texas Tech .378: The Red Raiders host OU on Saturday night. The Sooner offense might be back above .400.
10. Kansas .423: I don’t see a victory.
These numbers can be used to give us a ballpark estimate on what the weekend games could hold, averaging offensive efficiency with the opposing defensive efficiency and dividing by the average number of possessions.
Texas at Oklahoma State: Cowboys 32-24. Sounds about right.
Oklahoma at Texas Tech: Sooners 33-30. Ooh. I expected things to go easier for OU in Lubbock, but you never know.
Iowa State at Kansas: Cyclones 35-18. This method is good when teams are relatively close, but it’s not good at extrapolating blowouts.
TCU at Baylor: Bears 25-21. Interesting. I would have picked the Horned Frogs to win.
Kansas State at West Virginia: Mountaineers 23-22. Whew. I didn’t see this one coming, either.