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A New Way To Look At Defense



Oct 27 2012 Stillwater OK USA Oklahoma State Cowboys team takes the field before the game against the TCU Horned Frogs at Boone Pickens Stadium. Mandatory Credit Richard Rowe US PRESSWIRE

Photo Attribution: US Presswire

I’ve realized my role as a sports blogger on the internetz: to defend to the death the quality and vitality of an OSU defense the national media often treats with as much regard as Miguel Cabrera treats a salad[1. That is to say, none.].

John Helsley wrote a good piece in the Oklahoman today about how stout the oft-misremembered OSU defense[2. Or as some people call them: “the thing that happens when we’re not scoring touchdowns.”] has been so far in conference play this season.

The numbers are richer than they’ve been in a long time:

-First time to hold three straight conference opponents under 20 points since ’86
-Ranked 22 in the country in third down conversion percentage
-Third best team in the Big 12 in scoring defense

But as I wrote about a few weeks ago, they don’t even come close to telling the whole story.

Measuring teams like Oregon (134 drives against them in 2012) and Kansas State (91 drives against them in 2012) by the same points per game metric is not only statistically skewed, it’s basically a lie.

So how does OSU stack up when you take pace of game out of the equation; how does our defense (and for that matter our offense) do on the average drive[2. There are two issues with this method of looking at teams, both of which I ignored because I didn’t have time. The first is garbage time (Oregon fans and 2011 Oklahoma State fans nodding) and the second is Savannah St. type games. Because we’re comparing teams and a lot of teams have played Savannah St. type games I didn’t take any of those games out of the equation…].

Points per drive given up

1. Alabama – .68
2. Notre Dame – .85
3. Florida St. – .88
4. Utah St. – 1.04
5. Florida – 1.04
36. Oklahoma St. – 1.64

Not bad, right? We rank 5th in the Big 12, behind OU, Iowa State, Kansas State, and TCU, teams we would all agree have good to potentially elite defenses.

What if you take the net and subtract points per drive allowed from points per drive scored[3. This really gives a better picture of how good the faster paced teams are compared to the slower teams.]?

Net points per drive

1. Alabama – 2.67
2. Florida St. – 2.59
3. Kansas St. – 2.57
4. Oregon – 2.43
5. Oklahoma – 1.87
9. Oklahoma St. – 1.43

This is where OSU shines. The official numbers are 3.07 points scored per drive minus 1.64 points per drive given up.

The Cowboys have one of the best offensive/defensive relationships in the country (and have for a while now) which (combined with a great turnover rate) is why we nearly won it all last year despite giving ESPN analysts the shakes over how many points we give up a game.

Now the problem for Kansas State is that they’re even better at this than OSU is. They don’t turn it over, they don’t punt, they don’t do anything but score points and stop teams.

For this reason, OSU basically has to win the turnover battle on Saturday night if it has a shot at setting off chaos in the Big 12 and BCS.

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