Tramel: Big 12 efficiency ratings show that offense rules
Remember a few weeks ago when Alabama beat Ole Miss 63-48, and Bama coach Nick Saban had a revelation that offense now is more important than defense in college football?
It’s been proving out in Big 12 football for years -- OU has won five straight conference championships, and only in 2015 did the Sooners have one of the best three defenses in the league and often have had mediocre-to-poor defenses.
And it’s proving out so far in Big 12 2020.
Using my Big 12 efficiency rankings, the best offenses are OU and Iowa State, with a large gulf down to the next-best offenses, OSU and Texas. The best defenses are West Virginia and OSU, with a large gulf down to the next-best defenses, Iowa State and Baylor.
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The teams with the best chances of qualifying for the Big 12 Championship Game are, in no particular order, OSU, Iowa State, OU and Texas. The four best offenses. Not West Virginia. Certainly not Baylor.
Offense rules college football. We’ve known it for a long time in the Big 12.
Here are the efficiency rankings for this week. Remember the formula. How often does an offense score, based on chances (possessions). How often does a defense get off the field without allowing a touchdown or field goal? I put those numbers into an efficiency rating. Some basic guides -- an offense above .400 is outstanding; a defense below .300 is excellent (defensive rating is basically the opponent’s offensive efficiency).
1. Oklahoma .444: The Sooners are rounding into form, and Kansas is next on the schedule. Spencer Rattler and Co. could move into Baker Mayfield/Jalen Hurts territory by next week (but not Kyler Murray).
2. Iowa State .426: Underrated offense in Ames. But one caveat -- the Cyclones already have played Kansas.
3. Oklahoma State .356: Good offense. Nothing special. In 15 possessions against Texas, the Cowboys scored four touchdowns and kicked two field goals. That’s not efficient offense in modern football.
4. Texas .351: Surprised Texas is this low? Me, too. And some good defenses await.
5. Texas Tech .336: The Red Raiders weren’t all that successful when their offensive rating hovered around .400. So .336 isn’t good enough in Lubbock.
6. Kansas State .325: The Wildcat offense is fading fast.
7. West Virginia .311: Jarret Doege hasn’t been great at quarterback for the Mountaineers. Looks about like Austin Kendall.
8. TCU .270: Man, I would have figured the Horned Frogs would be much better than this. Max Duggan is a versatile quarterback.
9. Baylor .240: Same with the Bears, who have struggled in Charlie Brewer’s season year.
10. Kansas .129: Still on pace for the worst Big 12 offense in years and years.
1. West Virginia .172: The Mountaineers haven’t played OU or Iowa State, so this number is a little skewed. Can WVU keep up the great defense in Austin on Saturday?
2. Oklahoma State .189: The Cowboys will be kicking themselves if they don’t ride this defense to the Big 12 Championship Game.
3. Iowa State .254: Rock solid defense. As usual. The Cyclones already have played OU.
4. Baylor .255: This number figures to rise. The Bears haven’t played OU, Iowa State or OSU.
5. Kansas State .270: A little bit of a mirage. The Wildcats played OU and did relatively well (a 38-35 victory) defensively. But OSU, Iowa State and Texas await.
6. TCU .317: Don’t expect the Horned Frogs to stay in the second division defensively.
7. Oklahoma .352: This number will improve. The Sooners already have played Iowa State, Texas and Texas Tech. How much will it improve? Depends on Bedlam.
8. Texas .358: Ouch. Texas with the eighth-best defense in the Big 12? Are the Longhorns on the Sooner Plan?
9. Texas Tech .437: The Red Raiders are challenging KU for the Big 12’s worst defense.
10. Kansas .454: The Big 12’s worst defense plays the Big 12’s best offense. Avert your eyes.
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. Here are the games Saturday:
Oklahoma State at Kansas State: Cowboys 28-22. Certainly seems like a plausible score.
Kansas at Oklahoma: Sooners 37-19. This metric has a fundamental flaw. It naturally condenses margin of victory, so it becomes a really good indicator of close games but never forecasts blowouts. Which is fine. You don’t need Big 12 efficiency ratings to know that OU will blow out Kansas.
West Virginia at Texas: Mountaineers 31-23. Wait? What? But the numbers show that the best unit on the field at Royal-Memorial Stadium will be the West Virginia defense. We’ll see.
Texas Tech at TCU: Horned Frogs 31-28. Could be a fun one in Fort Worth.
Baylor at Iowa State: Cyclones 30-22. Not to besmirch my own formula, but I don’t see the Bears scoring 22 points.