Big 12 efficiency ratings: OSU is making a habit of big-time improvement

Big 12 efficiency ratings: OSU is making a habit of big-time improvement

Berry Tramel: From the embers of one of the worst losses in modern OSU history, the 2023 Cowboys have resurrected into a Big 12 championship contender.

Berry Tramel

By Berry Tramel

| Oct 31, 2023, 9:00am CDT

Berry Tramel

By Berry Tramel

Oct 31, 2023, 9:00am CDT

STILLWATER – Mike Gundy walked into the OSU football team meeting room the Monday after South Alabama. He termed amateur psychologist.

“I just said, ‘Look guys, I need somebody in the room in here to raise their hand if they can help me change the score of the South Alabama game,’” Gundy said he told his Cowboys.

Couldn’t blame Gundy for that desire. Everyone in orange was mortified by the events of September 16. South Alabama whacked OSU 33-7 and there was nothing flukish about it. The Jaguars looked like the better team, with better players and better coaches and better everything.

There were no volunteers to help Gundy with his score-changing mission.

“Everybody kind of looked at me,” Gundy said. “I said, ‘can anybody in here help me? I’d like for that to go away from my memory.’ They said no. I said, ‘OK, then we need to move forward, it’s over with, let’s do something about it instead of worrying about what happened.’”

Seems sort of trite. The kind of thing coaches say and players dismiss. And who knows if the Cowboys stopped worrying about the horrid start to their season?

But this we know. The Cowboys did do something about it.

From the embers of one of the worst losses in modern OSU history, the 2023 Cowboys have resurrected into a Big 12 championship contender. They are part of a five-way tie for first place, with Bedlam arriving at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Boone Pickens Stadium. The Sooners are part of that five-way tie.

OSU in September looked like a Big 12 bottom-dweller. Now it looks like one of the league’s best teams.

Kansas just beat shocked the previously-unbeaten Sooners. OSU beat KU 39-32. Kansas State is running roughshod over the conference in its last three games, having beaten Texas Tech, Texas Christian and Houston by a combined 120-27. But the week before that spree, OSU beat K-State 29-21.

In my Big 12 efficiency ratings, the Cowboys are fourth in offense and seventh in defense. In defense, OSU is closer to third than to eighth. The Cowboys are getting better and better.

That’s the culture that Gundy is always talking about. OSU has a history of shaking off exasperating defeats and salvaging a season.

Six times in the 21st century, OSU has lost to a mid-major, only to rebound and get something accomplished. Not a Big 12 title, not yet anyway, but something constructive.

* 2001: Lost 17-9 at Southern Mississippi to open the season and struggled most of the year, but finished with an epic, 16-13 upset of fourth-ranked OU, likely keeping the Sooners out of the national championship game and giving the Les Miles era the jumpstart it needed.

* 2002: Lost 39-36 to Louisiana Tech in Shreveport, after leading by 19 points midway through the fourth quarter. But OSU rebounded to beat Nebraska (for the first time in 41 years), Texas A&M and OU. The Cowboys finished 8-5 and were a heck of a team by season’s end.

* 2006: Lost 34-25 at Houston, but OSU scratched its way to a 7-6 season that included wins over Nebraska and Alabama.

* 2007: Lost 41-23 at Troy, but again OSU rallied to a 7-6 season that included wins over Texas Tech, Nebraska and Kansas State.

* 2009: Lost at home 45-35 to Houston but rallied to a 6-2 conference record and made the Cotton Bowl.

* 2016: Didn’t really lose 30-27 at home to Central Michigan, but that was the recorded result after the Chippewas scored a touchdown when the officiating crew mistakenly gave Central an untimed down, when the game should have been declared over. OSU rallied to finish 7-2 in the Big 12 and 10-3 overall.

Now the Cowboys are working on a seventh rally from a loss to a mid-major. The only difference is, those others were competitive games or flukes. South Alabama was not.

“We just try to continue to work,” Gundy said. “It’s like this week. We can feel good about ourselves, and this is coaches’ talk, but it’s the truth. It’s the challenge we have with young people now. It’s always been this way, but it’s more now than ever.

“They have to absorb information in meetings today (Monday), be productive in our walkthroughs tonight, and mentally prepare for Tuesday and Wednesday’s practice, to get ready for a walkthrough Thursday and a walkthrough Friday, And if they get out of their box and let their mind go different directions, they’re not going to play very well.”

Still, it’s been a remarkable turnaround. The Cowboys have played the meat of their schedule, other than Bedlam, so their efficiency ratings likely will continue to improve.

Here are the 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 .482: Beware the Wildcats. They are hitting their stride offensively. 
  2. Texas .443: The Longhorns did OK with backup quarterback Maalik Murphy against Brigham Young, but the injured Quinn Ewers is missed.
  3. Kansas .440: Backup quarterback Jason Bean isn’t Jaylon Daniels, but Bean still is getting the job done.
  4. Oklahoma State .409: Ollie Gordon has the Cowboy offense riding high.
  5. Oklahoma .392: Not a bad number for an offense that seems to be missing an identity.
  6. West Virginia .388: Virtually the same as OU’s. Who would have believed that?
  7. Central Florida .370: Not great, but not bad offense. Makes you wonder how the Knights are 0-5 in conference.
  8. Texas Tech .307: The Red Raider offense has to find its stride, else a bowl game is going to get out of reach.
  9. TCU .295: Hard to believe this is the program that scored 51 points in the Fiesta Bowl semifinal against Michigan.
  10. Iowa State .284: Amazing, the Cyclones are tied for the Big 12 lead with an offense this meager.
  11. Baylor .246: Hard to figure out which Bears have the worst offense: Baylor or Chicago.
  12. Houston .245: The Cougars scared Texas, then were shut out at Kansas State.
  13. Brighan Young .237: Seems fairly clear that BYU’s offense is not going to come around this season. 
  14. Cincinnati .227: Should the Bearcats go with backup QB Brady Lichtenberg? He looked better than starter Emory Jones, after relieving in the fourth quarter in Stillwater.

Defense

  1. Kansas State .221: Wow. KSU has the league’s best offense and defense? 
  2. Texas .223: Wow. Texas has the league’s second-best offense and defense?
  3. Iowa State .225: The Cyclones are perilously close to having the Big 12’s best defense, which explains why ISU is in that five-way tie for first place.
  4. TCU .276: Solid defense for the Horned Frogs. Too bad the offense hasn’t held up its end of the bargain.
  5. Oklahoma .288: Rough day in Lawrence. OU went from the Big 12’s best defense to No. 5.
  6. Texas Tech .302: Really solid defense for the Red Raiders. Now if Tech can just fix that offense.
  7. Oklahoma State .308: Excellent defense for a program that got gutted in the transfer portal.
  8. BYU .365: The Cougar defense seems to be ever so slightly letting go of the rope. You almost can’t blame BYU.
  9. West Virginia .371: Surprisingly, WVU has a better offense than defense. That’s abnormal in recent Morgantown seasons.
  10. Cincinnati .393: We know all about UC’s excellent d-line. But the Bearcats still have been victimized by Big 12 offenses.
  11. Baylor .420: Really a bad defense. The Bears were torched by Cincinnati and Iowa State.
  12. Kansas .436: Lance Leipold’s next project – fixing a Jayhawk defense that has been awful for more than a decade.
  13. Houston .481: Man, the Big 12 has some bad defenses.
  14. Central Florida .509: See what I mean?

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 Oklahoma State: Sooners 31-30. What a Bedlam finale a 31-30 game would be.

Kansas State at Texas: Wildcats 27-24. The metrics don’t take homefield advantage into the equation. 

Kansas at Iowa State: Cyclones 28-26. Opposite teams. ISU excels on defense, KU on offense.

BYU at West Virginia: Mountaineers 29-24. Few figured that WVU would have the better offense.

TCU at Texas Tech: Horned Frogs 25-24. Two disappointing offenses.

Houston at Baylor: Bears 28-26. Wow. What an evenly-matched series of games.

UCF at Cincinnati: Knights 29-28. Big edge at quarterback for Central Florida.

 

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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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