Is it good offense or bad defense?
By Mitchell Light
There’s been some debate in the Athlon Sports offices — and on our web site — about the strength of the Big 12 as compared to the SEC. Most assume that the SEC, with its five straight national titles, is the nation’s premier conference.
There’s no debate, especially after Oklahoma’s loss on Saturday, that the SEC is stronger at the top with Alabama and LSU. But you can argue, which I did, that the Big 12 is better in the middle and has more overall depth than the SEC.
There is, however, one point that is not negotiable: The Big 12 is far more offensive-minded than the SEC. A look at the national stats is quite telling: The Big 12 is home to five of the top seven teams in the country in total offense — Baylor (No. 2), Oklahoma State (No. 3), Oklahoma (No. 4), Texas Tech (No. 5) and Texas A&M (No. 7). And Missouri, at No. 12, is not far behind.
Compare that with the SEC, which has only two of the top 40 teams in total offense, No. 22 Arkansas and No. 23 Alabama.
This begs the following question: Are the Big 12 teams really good on offense, or do they simply feast on bad defenses? It’s a question that is probably impossible to answer, but I embarked on a stats-driven study that, to no surprise, was inconclusive.
The 10 teams in the Big 12 have played a total of nine teams from other BCS leagues in non-conference action. I compared the point total scored by the Big 12 teams vs. those non-conference foes with the point totals those teams allowed vs. other BCS teams on their schedule to date. For example, Oklahoma State scored 37 points vs. Arizona, but Arizona has given up an average of 38 points to the other five BCS conference teams it has faced.
Of the nine teams, Big 12 schools scored higher than the average of the other opponents five times (A&M vs. Arkansas, Kansas State vs. Miami, Iowa State vs. Iowa, Missouri vs. Arizona State and Texas vs. UCLA) and lower than the average four times (Oklahoma State vs. Arizona, Oklahoma vs. Florida State, Iowa State vs. UConn and Kansas vs. Georgia Tech).
The sample size is too small to draw any conclusions, but I would have expected a higher number of the Big 12 schools — more than five — to have outscored the average of their opponents’ other BCS conference opponents.
I hope this all made sense.
Around the Big 12
• Iowa State is having a ton of trouble on the defensive end in recent weeks. The Cyclones have given up an average of 566.7 yards in the last three games after allowing a respectable 369.2 in their first three games vs. FBS opponents (Iowa, UConn and Texas).
• The losing team has scored at least 34 points in each of Texas Tech’s last five games.
• Collin Klein, the starter in each of Kansas State’s seven games (and seven wins), has yet to hit the 1,000-yard passing mark this season. With the exception of Texas, which has played three quarterbacks, every other team in the league has a quarterback who has thrown for at least 1,300 yards.
• Oklahoma State has forced 20 more turnovers (24 to 4) than Kansas.
• Of the top six players in the league in rushing attempts, two come from Kansas State (Collin Klein, 151, and John Hubert, 122) and two come from Texas A&M (Cyrus Gray, 134, and Christine Michael, 111).
• Kansas has allowed its opponents to enter the Red Zone 42 times in seven game, the most in the nation. The Jayhawks have allowed 32 touchdowns and seven field goals.
• Five Big 12 teams are averaging 40 points or more in league games — Oklahoma State (45.8 ppg), Oklahoma (44.5), Texas A&M (40.5), Kansas State (40.0) and Texas Tech (40.0).