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Tramel: Big 12 efficiency ratings impacted by low-scoring games

The final scores of the Big 12’s two marquee games last weekend were 20-18 and 17-13. OSU beat Kansas State in the former; Texas beat West Virginia in the latter.

The other three games were a little more Big 12-like. OU 62-9 over Kansas, TCU 34-18 over Texas Tech, Iowa State 38-31 over Baylor.

But two games of great conference import looked a lot like 1973.

I say that. I pulled 1973 out of a hat. What were the scores like in 1973? Let’s go back and look.

I checked a few Saturdays from 1973 and focused on the days when some of the better teams played each other.

I stumbled upon October 20. Third-ranked OU beat 16th-ranked Colorado 34-7. No. 11 Nebraska edged No. 18 Kansas 10-9. No. 7 Missouri held off OSU 13-9. And Kansas State beat Iowa State 21-19.

So yeah, the Big 12’s marquee games Saturday indeed were like 1973. The rest of the league, not so much. But still. That’s an indication that the Big 12 has fallen from its offensive orbit of the last several years.

Don’t those scores from 1973 seem quaint and almost fun? A 13-9 OSU-Missouri game? A 10-9 Nebraska-Kansas game? Nail-biters, by definition. Every possession mattered. Any eight-yard gain was found money. Scoring territory was like reaching the beach on summer vacation.

And that’s how Texas-West Virginia and OSU-KSU felt Saturday. Old-fashioned football. I sort of enjoyed it. I probably would get tired of it, but I enjoyed it.

The weekly Big 12 efficiency rankings reflect such a change. OU and Iowa State still are scoring at a high clip. No other team is. Texas Tech and Kansas still are playing porous defense. No other team is.

The numbers are fascinating. Remember, I gauge offenses on how often they score. Touchdowns are full credit, field goals are half credit, and they are divided by number of possessions. Same with defenses’ opposition.

Here are the rankings:


1. Oklahoma .489: That didn’t take long. OU had an offensive efficiency rating of .396 two weeks ago. But then the Sooners got to play against the two worst defenses in the league, Texas Tech and Kansas. 

2. Iowa State .438: The second-best offense by a mile. The Cyclones are Big 12 championship contenders because of the Brock Purdy Gang.

3. Texas .333: Many years in the last decade, a .333 rating would mean the seventh-best offense in the Big 12. This year, so far, it means third-best.

4. Oklahoma State .325: The Cowboys are going to be hard-pressed to win Bedlam unless the offense kicks into higher gear. 

5. Kansas State .307: The Wildcats have sort of held serve with backup quarterback Will Howard. Give Chris Klieman’s team credit.

6. Texas Tech .303: Forget Patrick Mahomes. Where have you gone, Taylor Potts?

7. West Virginia .292: Twice in the second half Saturday, Mountaineer coach Neal Brown decided against a field goal on 4th-and-1 deep in Texas territory. Both times, quarterback Jarret Doege passed. Both times, incomplete. A couple of field goals would have come in handy, since the Longhorns won 17-13. The Big 12 has changed. In most games, field goals matter.

8. TCU .286: The Horned Frogs seem like they’ve got a better offense than this. Oh well, Kansas’ defense is on the horizon.

9. Baylor .254: The Bears scored 31 points in Ames, but one touchdown came on an interception return, another came on a 36-yard drive after an interception and a field goal resulted after a fumbled punt deep in ISU territory.

10. Kansas .123: In a 62-9 loss at OU, the Jayhawks kicked a field goal on the final play of the first half and scored a touchdown on the final play of the second half. Sort of reminded me of the 1964 OU-KU game, when Gale Sayers ran back the opening kickoff for a touchdown, then scored a touchdown on the game’s final play, to give the Jayhawks a 15-14 lead. 


1. West Virginia .180: The Mountaineers have the best defensive rating, but don’t expect that to continue. West Virginia still must play Iowa State and OU. OSU has the Cyclones in the rearview mirror.

2. Oklahoma State .197: My metric does not measure defensive touchdowns. I probably ought to figure out something on that. When your offense is going to score anyway, defensive TDs don’t mean as much. But when your offense otherwise scores 13 points, a defensive touchdown is a pot of gold. My metric also doesn’t take into account overtimes or two-point conversions. OSU got out of Manhattan alive in part because K-State went 0-for-2 on two-point conversions, in a game that finished 20-18.

3. Kansas State .257: K-State has a solid defense, but the Wildcats still face Iowa State and Texas. 

4. Iowa State .264: The Cyclones have a better offense than defense, and their defense isn’t half bad. That has not been the Matt Campbell blueprint.

5. TCU .288: The Horned Frogs will end up with one of the Big 12’s best defenses. They still get to play West Virginia, Kansas and OSU.

6. Baylor .302: The Bears’ defense hasn’t been the problem.

7. Oklahoma .303: The number keeps getting better, but so does most of the conference’s defensive ratings.

8. Texas .333: Not a terrible number, but a close-to-terrible placing. The Longhorns (and Sooners, for that matter) should not be in such defensive depths.

9. Texas Tech .422: Maybe the Red Raiders can hold down Baylor.

10. Kansas .494: Still on track for the worst defense in the eight years I’ve been tracking efficiency and maybe on track for the worst in Big 12 history.

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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,... Read more ›