Big 12 efficiency ratings: Sooner offense middle of the pack

Big 12 efficiency ratings: Sooner offense middle of the pack

Berry Tramel: With the Big 12 season two thirds complete, OU ranks seventh in the 14-team Big 12 for offensive efficiency. Seventh. And that’s on the heels of 2022, when OU ranked eighth in the 10-team Big 12.

Berry Tramel

By Berry Tramel

| Nov 7, 2023, 2:59pm CST

Berry Tramel

By Berry Tramel

Nov 7, 2023, 2:59pm CST

NORMAN – Brent Venables either has transformed or is transforming the OU defense. Venables’ work has been remarkable. In 23 months on the job, the Sooners’ previous ramshackle defense has left the building — and apparently hit Route 66 to take residence at Southern California, where Alex Grinch already has lost his job under Lincoln Riley for the same malfeasance we saw in Norman.

But when Riley absconded to USC, he took not only Grinch, but the OU offense, too.

And Venables now faces a bigger rebuilding job on offense than defense.

With the Big 12 season two thirds complete, OU ranks seventh in the 14-team Big 12 for offensive efficiency. Seventh.

And that’s on the heels of 2022, when OU ranked eighth in the 10-team Big 12. The 2022 malaise was forgiven, on two fronts:

  1. Quarterback Dillon Gabriel missed 1⅔ games with a concussion, including a 49-0 loss to Texas, so that matters.
  2. Venables and offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby were honeymooners. Lebby bringing in Gabriel (and soon enough, recruit Jackson Arnold) had given Sooner Nation hope that OU didn’t have to shut down the Sooner quarterback factory. 

But the honeymoon is over. Gas has been passed at the breakfast table. And OU’s offense is a troubling thing. 

The mission for Venables was to fix the defense not at the expense of the offense, but to keep the offense humming, too. Maybe not at Lincoln levels, but certainly not middle-of-the-pack-Big-12 levels, or below.

In six Big 12 games, OU’s offense has produced at a high level twice – in wins of 52-20 over Iowa State and 34-30 over Texas. Both of those opponents sport high-quality defenses, so the Sooners clearly are capable.

But in the other four Big 12 games – against Cincinnati, Central Florida, Kansas and OSU, of which only the Cowboys sport an upper-division defense – OU has scored 14 touchdowns and kicked four field goals, in a combined 50 possessions. That’s a success rate of about 30 percent. 

Losing football in the Big 12. 

“You know, it’s been something with every single position group,” Lebby said of the offensive troubles. “It’s all of us, and again, starting with me.”

After the 27-24 Bedlam in Stillwater last Saturday, Lebby said, “we worked, we got drives going and then found ways to mess ‘em up.

“Again, it’s all about the ball. You squandered three drives. There’s three drives there where you turn the ball over on first down — again, one time at midfield, one time to plus 39 and one time on our end, where the defense does an unbelievable job getting the stop but it cost us three points. So that’s the reality of it. Right now, the margin is really, really small, and to be on the right side of things you gotta take care of the ball.”

Lebby was right about the margin. It is small and getting smaller for most teams in college football. The days of OU’s offense running at close to or better than 50 percent efficiency are over, and they aren’t existing much of anywhere. Defenses have caught up to the hurryup spreads. 

But to win big in the Big 12 (and I assume the SEC), offenses need to run at more than 40 percent efficiency, and the Sooners are a little lower than that (.392). Hence the two losses, at Kansas and OSU the last two weeks.

“I don’t think it’s losing focus,” Gabriel said. “You know, things don’t go our way. You don’t execute. And we just didn’t make enough plays. That’s the end of the story. I think all these guys want it. All these guys care and are focused, it’s just college football, you know? And you’ve got to be very detailed. It’s all the little things. And if you don’t take advantage of those, it’ll cost you.

“I think that’s what happened those past two (games). We’ve got to get back to be really good at the details and execute at a high level because I think that’s what got us to before then.”

In other words, Gabriel can’t pinpoint what’s happening or why it’s happening. It’s hard enough for Lebby to, and he’s working 60 hours a week trying to figure it out.

But college football is an outcomes based business. May not know how, may not know why, but we absolutely know what. OU’s offense is not getting the job done, by Big 12 standards, much less Southeastern Conference standards.

Let’s get to the efficiency ratings, and remember the formula. 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 .444: KSU’s kicking game, as much as anything, was the problem last week at Texas.
  2. Kansas .431: The Sunflower State teams are 1-2 in offense. Is this Kansas or is this Oz? 
  3. Texas .412: The Longhorn offense has been a little shaky the last two weeks with backup quarterback Maalik Murphy.
  4. West Virginia .412: Wow. What a coaching job by Mountaineer coach Neal Brown. WVU has a better offense than OU’s and just as good as Texas’.
  5. Oklahoma State .392: Not since 2017, Mason Rudolph’s senior year, have the Cowboys finished above .400 in offensive efficiency.
  6. Central Florida .381: Similar offenses meeting in Orlando on Saturday. OSU and UCF.
  7. Oklahoma .370: Middle-of-the-pack offense in a middle-of-the-pack league. Not what the Sooners have in mind.
  8. Texas Tech .331: Red Raiders are like the Sooners. The days of Patrick Mahomes and Graham Harrell seem far ago and long away.
  9. TCU .301: The Frogs still play OU and Texas, so this number might not rise much.
  10. Iowa State .287: Just two touchdowns against KU; that won’t cut it. 
  11. Cincinnati .254: Hard to believe there are three Big 21 offenses worse than the Bearcats’.
  12. Houston .250: Without the Hail Mary against West Virginia, the Cougars would be a notch below 12th.
  13. Baylor .250: Now you see why the Bears went overtime against Houston.
  14. BYU .216: This is one of the worst Big 12 offenses in a decade.

Defense

  1. Kansas State .239: Hmm. The Wildcats boast the Big 12’s best offense and best defense. Yet they no longer control their own destiny for getting to Arlington.
  2. Texas .239: The Longhorns’ defense is really solid. UT probably didn’t know that was going to happen with the Steve Sarkisian administration.
  3. Iowa State .243: OU is the only team that has lit up the Cyclones.
  4. Oklahoma .292: Good defense. The Sooners would like to be better, but this will do. 
  5. Oklahoma State .301: Again, good defense. And closing with Houston and BYU, among the league’s worst offenses, will help, too.
  6. TCU .304: The Frogs’ defensive number is not far from the defensive rating (.281) of TCU’s national runnerup team of last season.
  7. Texas Tech .307: The Red Raiders finish with three good offenses – Kansas, UCF and Texas.
  8. West Virginia .331: Who would have guessed that WVU’s offense would be better than its defense?
  9. BYU .395: The Cougar defense has some cracks that go unnoticed because the offense is so inefficient.
  10. Baylor .400: This number figures to rise – the Bears play K-State this week.
  11. Cincinnati .400: Everyone raves about UC’s defensive line, but someone in red and black is allowing points.
  12. Kansas .415: If the Jayhawks get this number under .400, maybe even this week after a game against Tech, there’s reason to celebrate.
  13. Houston .453: OSU gets its shot at Houston next week.
  14. Central Florida .492: UCF’s number is coming down little by little but still has a long way to go.

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. 

West Virginia at Oklahoma: Sooners 29-29. Whoa. The formula actually says OU 28.82, West Virginia 28.75. Overtime, anyone?

Oklahoma State at Central Florida: Cowboys 38-29. UCF has an offense. 

Texas at TCU: Longhorns 29-22. UT would take this right now and consider it a quality Saturday.

Baylor at Kansas State: 33-19. Rarely does this model predict a score under 20. Shows the futility of the Bears’ offense.

Texas Tech at Kansas: Red Raiders 29-27. Hey, upset alert. I didn’t see that coming, but that’s why we run the numbers. Sometimes you learn stuff.

Iowa State at BYU: Cyclones 23-21. Low-scoring affair projected.

Cincinnati at Houston: Bearcats 27-24. Again, the model doesn’t account for homefield advantage. Maybe it should.

 

Share with your crowd
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].

The latest from Sellout Crowd

  • May 9, 2024; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; The Oklahoma City Thunder bench watch the final minute of their game against the Dallas Mavericks during the second half of game two of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Paycom Center. Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

    Does OKC need more Aaron Wiggins?

  • May 9, 2024; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder fans cheer as their team scores against the Dallas Mavericks during the second quarter of game two of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Paycom Center. Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

    Thunder-Mavericks: Why these playoffs might spawn a new OKC rival

  • May 9, 2024; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) drives to the basket beside Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) during the second half of game two of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Paycom Center. Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

    OKC fans chanted ‘Luka sucks,’ but Doncic’s play said otherwise

  • Tailgating on The Grove on the Ole Miss campus in Oxford, Ms., on Saturday September 15, 2018.

Pre309

    OU’s move to the SEC: Listing the things to look foward to

  • Ireland travelblog: Farewell to the Emerald Isle, which keep Americans coming

The latest from Sellout Crowd

  • May 9, 2024; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; The Oklahoma City Thunder bench watch the final minute of their game against the Dallas Mavericks during the second half of game two of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Paycom Center. Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

    Does OKC need more Aaron Wiggins?

  • May 9, 2024; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder fans cheer as their team scores against the Dallas Mavericks during the second quarter of game two of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Paycom Center. Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

    Thunder-Mavericks: Why these playoffs might spawn a new OKC rival

  • May 9, 2024; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) drives to the basket beside Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) during the second half of game two of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Paycom Center. Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

    OKC fans chanted ‘Luka sucks,’ but Doncic’s play said otherwise

  • Tailgating on The Grove on the Ole Miss campus in Oxford, Ms., on Saturday September 15, 2018.

Pre309

    OU’s move to the SEC: Listing the things to look foward to

  • Ireland travelblog: Farewell to the Emerald Isle, which keep Americans coming