OSU’s offense surpasses OU’s in Big 12 efficiency ratings

OSU’s offense surpasses OU’s in Big 12 efficiency ratings

Berry Tramel: Here’s where the Cowboys have arrived: fourth in Big 12 offensive efficiency. OSU has caught, and even surpassed by percentage points, OU’s offense.

Berry Tramel

By Berry Tramel

| Oct 24, 2023, 9:00am CDT

Berry Tramel

By Berry Tramel

Oct 24, 2023, 9:00am CDT

STILLWATER — Mike Gundy sat down in the jet for the plane ride home from West Virginia on Saturday and did what he often does. Peruse the statistical package from the game.

Except for one difference. This time, the number that caught Gundy’s eye was the final score. OSU 48, West Virginia 34.

A score out of yesteryear. “Except it was 49-47 at the end of those games,” Gundy said.

It’s a stunning reversal, though, from a few weeks ago. OSU’s offense was virtually dormant in non-conference: wins over Central Arkansas (27-13) and Arizona State (27-15), plus a 33-7 loss to South Alabama.

Then Gundy and staff decided to scrap the three-man quarterback rotation, which was interesting, and make tailback Ollie Gordon the focal point of the offense, which was transformative. The results have been season-changing: a 34-27 loss at Iowa State, home wins over Kansas State (29-21) and Kansas (39-32), and the win at West Virginia.

“I’m going to be honest with you,” Gundy said Monday. “Standing here today, I didn’t think we’d be talking about this five weeks ago. I knew we were better. I knew we could improve. But some of the things we’ve done offensively over a four-week period have surprised me in total numbers and points, based on where we’ve came from.”

Here’s where the Cowboys have arrived: fourth in Big 12 offensive efficiency. OSU has caught, and even surpassed by percentage points, OU’s offense. The Sooners are down to No. 5 in Big 12 efficiency.

Who saw that coming? Who thought that before the Big 12 season was halfway home, the Cowboys could restore their offense to respectability?

The victory at West Virginia, with tailback Ollie Gordon rushing for 282 yards on 29 carries and quarterback Alan Bowman making clutch throws behind a revived offensive line, has OSU looking like the not-so-long-ago days of the late ‘10s, when the Cowboys were high-flying and high-scoring.

“Funny you mention that, because when I was on the plane, it kind of hit me,” Gundy said. “Same thing you said. That used to be normal. Other team used to be 47 when we were 48.

“Haven’t seen that lately. You’re not seeing as much of it, in college football. When you get to the middle of the pack, so-called, six or eight (ranked) through 40, those numbers have been down considerably. But it felt a little more like normal.”

If it keeps feeling like normal, this OSU season is going to continue to be fascinating.

Here are the latest Big 12 efficiency ratings, and remember my metric. Offenses are judged by what they do with possessions. Touchdowns get a full credit, field goals get a half credit, and those totals are divided by possessions. For defense, it’s the same — your opponents’ offensive efficiency.

Offense

  1. Kansas State .467: The Wildcats have an underrated offensive culture, going back well into the Bill Snyder years. Think about it. This time last week, there was talk that KSU might bench quarterback Will Howard, after freshman Avery Johnson came on and engineered a big win in Lubbock. But Howard was sensational as the Wildcats thrashed Texas Christian 41-3.
  2. Texas .464: Don’t think that Houston kept its thumb on the Longhorns, in UT’s 31-24 win in H-Town. Texas had just 10 possessions, yet produced 31 offensive points. That’s winning football.
  3. Kansas .447: The Sooners will have to score to win in Lawrence. The Jayhawks put up points, and they’ve played a relatively tough conference schedule.
  4. Oklahoma State .394: When October arrived, the Cowboy offensive coaches were bums. When October departs, they are heroes. October is quite a month.
  5. Oklahoma .394: The Sooners have been good but not spectacular offensively.
  6. Central Florida .364: I haven’t thought this through more than 10 seconds, but I’d rank Gus Malzahn the No. 1 offensive mind in the Big 12 and predict that the Knights consistently will hover in the .400 range of offensive efficiency going forward.
  7. Iowa State .351: Matt Campbell’s offense has found its footing. Nothing great. But solid. Heck of a coaching job in Ames, similar to what Gundy has done in Stillwater.
  8. West Virginia .344: Here’s the defensive philosophy vs. the Mountaineers. Garrett Greene isn’t a good passer. So load up against the run. But for two straight games, Greene has completed long passes to wide-open receivers.
  9. Texas Tech .307: I can’t come down too hard on the Red Raiders. Quarterback injuries can cripple an offense.
  10. Houston .307: It’s early in the Cougars’ Big 12 sojourn, but my long-term prognosis is that Houston will have to be a lot better than .307 to win in the conference.
  11. TCU .295: New quarterback Josh Hoover lit up Brigham Young, then the Horned Frogs scored three points in Manhattan.
  12. BYU .272: We’re still coming to grips with the Cougars as a defensive-oriented program. Give us time. We’ll get there.
  13. Cincinnati .250: The Bearcat offense wasn’t half-bad against Baylor – 10 possessions, four touchdowns.
  14. Baylor .244: Offense was better vs. Cincinnati, but still just two touchdowns.

Defense

  1. Oklahoma .255: And there you are. The Sooners have the best defense in the Big 12, with Texas and Central Florida in the rearview mirror. Can OU keep it up? 
  2. Texas .256: Remember when high-powered offense was required for Big 12 success? Now the league’s top two teams are best on defense.
  3. TCU .276: Defense isn’t the Horned Frogs’ problem.
  4. Kansas State .280: Best offense, really good defense. Watch out for K-State going down the stretch.
  5. Iowa State .281: The Cyclones never get too far from the top defensively.
  6. Texas Tech .302: The Red Raiders have been solid defensively in three of their five Big 12 games.
  7. Oklahoma State .346: The Cowboys have been mediocre except against K-State, when they held the Wildcats to three offensive touchdowns in 13 possessions.
  8. West Virginia .365: The Mountaineers were ranked fifth in the Big 12 – until their date with Gordon.
  9. BYU .366: Give the Cougars credit. Their offense isn’t good, their defense is so-so, yet BYU is 5-2. 
  10. Cincinnati .369: The Bearcats ride defense. But the defense hasn’t been great, though the UC d-line is excellent.
  11. Baylor .422: Dave Aranda’s team is 2-2 in the Big 12; remarkable, considering this defensive number is awful.
  12. Kansas .452: The Sooner offense should feast on Saturday.
  13. Houston .466: The best defense the Cougars have played in the Big 12 was against TCU, when Houston allowed four touchdowns and three field goals.
  14. Central Florida .489: Against OU, UCF actually looked a lot better than this. The Knights have a future.

Predictions

Another feature of the efficiency ratings is the ability to predict a score, based on the percentages. It’s not a great metric for picking a winner, but it’s not bad at showing you what kind of game it might be. 

Oklahoma at Kansas: Sooners 34-28. Seems in the ballpark.

Cincinnati at Oklahoma State: Cowboys 31-24. OSU’s revived offense against UC’s stiff defense, but the model still calls for a healthy score.

BYU at Texas: Longhorns 31-21. UT appears to have a comfortable edge.

West Virginia at Central Florida: Mountaineers 34-29. Should be a wild one in Orlando.

Iowa State at Baylor: Cyclones 31-21. Homefield advantage is about all the Bears having going for themselves.

Houston at Kansas State: Wildcats 36-22. Cougars will be hard-pressed to keep it this close.

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Berry Tramel is a 45-year veteran of Oklahoma journalism, having spent 13 years at the Norman Transcript and 32 years at The Oklahoman. He has been named Oklahoma Sportswriter of the Year by the National Sports Media Association. Born and raised in Norman, Tramel grew up reading four newspapers a day and began his career at age 17. His first assignment was the Lexington-Elmore City high school football game, and he’s enjoyed the journey ever since, having covered NBA Finals and Rose Bowls and everything in between. Tramel and his wife, Tricia, were married in 1980 and live in Norman near their daughter, son-in-law and three granddaughters. Tramel can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at [email protected].

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