Berry’s Big 12 efficiency ratings: Jeff Lebby delivered OU the No. 1 offense

Berry’s Big 12 efficiency ratings: Jeff Lebby delivered OU the No. 1 offense

The Sooners leave the league — joining Jeff Lebby in the Southeastern Conference next season — back in their traditional spot atop the Big 12’s offenses.

Berry Tramel

By Berry Tramel

| Nov 27, 2023, 1:00pm CST

Berry Tramel

By Berry Tramel

Nov 27, 2023, 1:00pm CST

Mississippi State hired Jeff Lebby as head football coach Sunday, and Lebby leaves OU with his head held high. The Sooners had the best offense in the Big 12.

The regular season has ended, and OU has the Big 12’s best offensive efficiency. The Sooners’ rating of .453 barely bests Kansas State’s .448 and Kansas’ .437. But that’s OK. The Sooners leave the league — joining Lebby in the Southeastern Conference next season — back in their traditional spot atop the Big 12’s offenses.

I began my efficiency ratings in 2013; OU’s offense ranked No. 1 every year from 2015 through 2021. Last year, the Sooners were toppled by Kansas State (and six other Big 12 members; OU fell to eighth in the 10-team conference). But Lebby’s 2023 offense performed at a high level in almost every game.

OU’s .453 rating matches the OU rating of 2021, when Lincoln Riley transitioned from Spencer Rattler to Caleb Williams at quarterback in mid-year.

Before 2022, the last Big 12 team to finish above OU in offensive efficiency was Baylor in 2014. Lebby was an assistant coach for those 2014 Bears.

Who will succeed Lebby? Staff members Seth Littrell or Matt Wells? An outsider? Dana Holgorsen is on the market. Kliff Kingsbury might like the job.

Whoever takes the position will be stepping into a high-pressure job. Lebby found that to be true and eventually succeeded. Riley, Josh Heupel, Kevin Wilson, Chuck Long, Mark Mangino, Mike Leach. The 21st-century OU coordinators have made quite a splash across college football.

Heck, except for two exceptions, every OU offensive coordinator since the job came into vogue in the mid-1960s has gone on to become a major college head coach, and most have made quite the impact.

Roll call: Homer Rice (Cincinnati), Barry Switzer (OU), Galen Hall (Florida), Mack Brown (Tulane, North Carolina, Texas), Jim Donnan (Marshall, Georgia), Larry Coker (Miami), Watson Brown (Alabama-Birmingham), Gary Nord (Texas-El Paso), Leach (Texas Tech), Mangino (Kansas), Long (San Diego State), Wilson (Indiana, Tulsa), Heupel (Central Florida, Tennessee), Riley (OU, Southern Cal) and now Lebby.

The exceptions? John Blake’s coordinators, Dick Winder and Joe Dickinson.

How will Lebby fare in Starkville? It’s a tough job. It’s been the seventh-most prestigious job in the seven-team SEC West for a decade. In the new 16-team SEC, the Bulldogs will rank 15th in tradition and resources.

Mississippi State trumps Indiana and San Diego State, but not Texas Tech and certainly not USC.

But that’s OK. Lebby leaves OU having stabilized the offense and filled the quarterback cupboard, with the likes of Dillon Gabriel and Jackson Arnold and incoming recruit Michael Hawkins. Who knows who will be around in 2024? College football rosters are not exactly stable these days.

But Lebby did a good job and was rewarded with a big-paying head coaching job in the SEC. And he’s leaving behind the Big 12’s best offense.

Here are the final efficiency ratings of 2023, and remember the metric: offenses are judged by what they do with possessions. Touchdowns get 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. Oklahoma .453: One caveat to OU finishing No. 1. The Sooners had Gabriel for 8½ conference games. That puts OU well ahead of the curve.
  2. Kansas State .448: The Wildcats had an excellent offense this season. Two straight quality offensive seasons for coordinator Collin Klein.
  3. Kansas .437: Considering star quarterback Jalon Daniels played in only one Big 12 game, this was quite a feat.
  4. West Virginia .418: Garrett Greene turned into a dang fine quarterback this season. His 29-yard touchdown pass to Jahiem White with 23 seconds left in the game beat Baylor 34-31 on Saturday.
  5. Texas .409: Quarterback Quinn Ewers missed two games —  Kansas State and Brigham Young.
  6. Central Florida .409: Another exceptional performance, considering star quarterback John Rhys Plumlee missed 2½ games. 
  7. Texas Christian .363: The Frogs’ efficiency rating was .440 last season. Big drop.
  8. Oklahoma State .353: I know, it seems like OSU’s offense hasn’t been all that consistent. And it hasn’t been. But the Cowboys ranked ninth in offensive efficiency last season, among the 10 Big 12 teams, and OSU’s 2022 rating was .258 So this was a major bump.
  9. Iowa State .324: The Cyclones ran just 35 plays in a 42-35  victory over Kansas State. The Wildcats ran 102 plays. But ISU’s TDs came on runs of 77, 71 and 60 yards, plus pass plays of 82, 79 and 33 yards. Iowa State never ran a play inside K-State’s 30-yard line. So where were those fireworks the rest of the season?
  10. Texas Tech .289: The Red Raiders need an offensive infusion — they haven’t finished above .375 since 2016.
  11. Cincinnati .277: The Bearcats were a decent .351 in their final four games.
  12. Baylor .260: The Bears fired offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes on Sunday. This number explains why.
  13. Houston .236: The Cougars fired head coach Dana Holgorsen on Sunday. This number explains why.
  14. BYU .225: The Cougars’ three-game span against Texas, West Virginia and Iowa State was as bad as offense can get in the 21st century — 33 possessions, three touchdowns, two field goals.

Defense

  1. Texas .231: The Longhorns also finished first a year ago. That’s a good trend for the ‘Horns, heading to the SEC.
  2. Iowa State .255: By now, we should all count on the Cyclones playing good defense.
  3. Kansas State .294: The Wildcats were third a year ago, too. Looks like Chris Klieman is building something on that side of the ball.
  4. Oklahoma .306: This isn’t a bad number, and it’s an OK ranking, but you know Brent Venables wants to be much better. And the Sooners would have been much better, had TCU not lit them up like a Griswold Christmas.
  5. Oklahoma State .310: OSU’s fifth straight season with a .321-or-better defensive rating. The Cowboys are quite consistent on defense.
  6. Texas Tech .325: The Red Raiders literally have become more of a defensive school.
  7. TCU .363: The exact same rating for offense and defense, which you would think would equate to a virtual .500 record. But the Frogs finished 3-6 in the Big 12.
  8. West Virginia .376: The Mountaineers played good defense against Texas Tech and TCU to open conference play. Then Houston and OSU — two mediocre offenses — took apart WVU.
  9. Kansas .383: The Jayhawks’ best defensive rating since posting a .380 in 2014.
  10. BYU .397: The best of the Big 12 newcomers’ defensive rating. Which is not saying much.
  11. Central Florida .399: Throw out that 45-3 rout of OSU, and UCF would have a defensive rating of .457, which would be the Big 12’s worst.
  12. Cincinnati .432: Somehow, the Bearcat held OU to 20 points back in September.
  13. Baylor .448: The Bears kept defensive coordinator Matt Powledge, but head coach Dave Aranda will start running the defense. 
  14. Houston .451: Cougar defensive coordinator Doug Belk was a hot commodity not long ago. But now his head coach is out of a job and the Houston D is a mess. 

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 State vs. Texas in Arlington: Longhorns 31-26. I’m leery that OSU can keep it close, but that’s what the numbers say.

 

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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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