Berry’s Big 12 efficiency ratings: How is OSU even in the Big 12 title race?

Berry’s Big 12 efficiency ratings: How is OSU even in the Big 12 title race?

Fighting hard is the only way this OSU team is in contention for Arlington. In my Big 12 efficiency ratings this week, the Cowboys rank seventh in both offense and defense.

Berry Tramel

By Berry Tramel

| Nov 20, 2023, 6:00am CST

Berry Tramel

By Berry Tramel

Nov 20, 2023, 6:00am CST

OSU football does not have a great offense. At times, the Cowboys don’t even have a good offense.

OSU football does not have a great defense. At times, the Cowboys don’t even have a good defense.

Yet OSU likely is a home win over Brigham Young on Saturday from reaching the Big 12 Championship Game.

Mike Gundy credits OSU’s culture, which has been a common theme for Gundy over the years. Gundy didn’t talk about OSU’s chemistry much in the last 13 months, when the Cowboys have had a series of bewildering defeats. Including 45-3 a week earlier at Central Florida.

But culture is back in fashion at OSU, which didn’t let go of the rope when South Alabama administered a 33-7 licking in September, or when UCF roughed up the Cowboys in Orlando.

OSU beat Houston 43-30 Saturday, a road win that keeps the Cowboys in a (three-way) tie for second place in the Big 12, and with OSU having wins over OU and Kansas State, the teams also tied at 6-2, the Cowboys likely are headed for Arlington, provided they take care of BYU.

OSU trailed Houston 23-9 late in the second quarter. The Cowboys seemed bound for an Orlando repeat.

“Playing on the road, when you have that many things go south, if you don’t have a strong culture, a strong chemistry, a lot of times teams can’t fight back, recover from that,” Gundy said. “But in all three phases, they did. They stuck together, their attitude was good, their body language was good.

“And that was a culture win for ’em, being on the road, coming back, particularly at the end of the first half, when we rallied. For a quarter and a half, if it would have started raining heavy, it felt just like last week. And they kept playing.”

Fighting hard is the only way this OSU team is in contention for Arlington. In my Big 12 efficiency ratings this week, the Cowboys rank seventh in both offense and defense. Teams that rank seventh and seventh in a 14-team league typically are 4-4 in the conference, not 6-2.

“Defense played good at times, then didn’t play good at times,” Gundy said. “Offensively didn’t play good at times, then played good at times.”

Houston coach Dana Holgorsen credited the Cowboys’ physicality and desire.

“They’re my odds-on favorite to probably go to the Big 12 Championship Game,” Holgorsen said. “They’re a good team. Regardless of what they did last week, we knew they’d keep fighting, keep playing.

“Third quarter, we got wore out. We had people dropping like flies. They wore us out. That’s what a Big 12, big boy, physical team’s going to do. We knew that’s who they were.”

The Cowboys barely are above mediocrity on both offense and defense. But they’ve got a chance at Arlington because they keep playing through their mediocrity.

Let’s get to the efficiency ratings. And remember the 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.


  1. Kansas State .500: Amazingly productive offense. This is offense on the level of Baker Mayfield’s Sooners.
  2. Oklahoma .415: The Sooner offense keeps getting better. But how effective will OU be if Dillon Gabriel isn’t ready to go Friday vs. Texas Christian?
  3. West Virginia .407: Surprised? I am, that the Mountaineers are this high. Good on Neal Brown.
  4. Kansas .403: Lance Leopold’s incredible coaching job continues, as his third-team quarterback, Cole Ballard, scared the dickens out of K-State.
  5. Central Florida .400: The Knights are charging hard, offensively.
  6. Texas .400: The Longhorns continue to fall. Does that give an underdog hope in Arlington?
  7. Oklahoma State .362: Not bad. Not great. Just OK. 
  8. TCU .347: Horned Frogs seem to be getting a little more spicy offensively, just in time for OU.
  9. Iowa State .325: Cyclones needed more than 16 points in 10 possessions against Texas. 
  10. Texas Tech .324: The return of Behren Morton from injury hasn’t impacted the Red Raiders much.
  11. Cincinnati .277: UC needs an offensive overhaul.
  12. Baylor .256: I wonder if Bears offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes will survive?
  13. Houston .235: The Cougars had some success early vs. OSU but that quickly waned.
  14. BYU .225: Against OU, didn’t look like the Big 12’s worst offense.


  1. Iowa State .234: Championship-level defense, no doubt about it.
  2. Texas .255: Longhorns are hard to run against, just in case Gundy needs some near-future gameplanning for UT.
  3. Oklahoma .284: Good defense, despite some BYU gashing on the ground.
  4. Texas Tech .303: Red Raiders’ defense just keeps getting better.
  5. Kansas State .308: Defense like this, coupled with the K-State offensive power, should produce a conference title game.
  6. TCU .311: The Big 12’s development towards more of a defensive league continues.
  7. Oklahoma State .320: This is a good defensive number. Fifth straight year OSU has been at .321 or better.
  8. West Virginia .382: The Mountaineers were much better than this for a long time.
  9. Kansas .394: Scratching their way below .400 is a good sign for the Jayhawks.
  10. Cincinnati .400: UC was going to need a way better defense than this if the Bearcats were going to have any first-year Big 12 success.
  11. Central Florida .413: Getting better, but not fast enough.
  12. BYU .416: Showed pretty good vs. OU, though half the game was played against Jackson Arnold, not Dillon Gabriel.
  13. Houston .447: Must get a lot better if the Cougars are going to compete in the Big 12.
  14. Baylor .448: The worst defense in the Big 12 belongs to Dave Aranda. Who would have believed it?


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. 

TCU at Oklahoma: Sooners 29-26. I don’t think it will be this close.

BYU at Oklahoma State: Cowboys 32-24. It could be this close. BYU showed vs. OU that the Cougars are capable.

Texas Tech at Texas: Longhorns 28-23. Red Raiders are getting better. It could stay tight.

Iowa State at Kansas State: Wildcats 28-25.  Seems like a lot of points vs. Iowa State.

West Virginia at Baylor: Mountaineers 33-29. WVU’s defense hasn’t been stout, giving Baylor hope.

Kansas at Cincinnati: Jayhawks 28-25. KU has put up quite a fight in adversity.

Houston at Central Florida: Knights 33-26. UCF is capable of a big number here.


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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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