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OSU Can’t Afford Continued Red Zone Struggles Against Boise St. and Beyond

How Oklahoma State and Boise State stack up in the score zone.



Oklahoma State cruised through its first two weeks of football unscathed, but the competition level hits a hard incline starting this week and the Cowboys aren’t without a few troubling blemishes.

There have been issues with both turnovers and penalties, and the running game has been feast or famine. But one other bugaboo has leaped off of the screen while I’ve watched OSU this year — its head-scratching struggles in the red zone.

So with one eye on Boise State and another on the Big 12, let’s catch up with a stat we’ve been tracking for a couple of years that we call PPR® or “points per red zone attempt.” It’s pretty self-explanatory, but it’s basically just the average points scored per trip inside the 20-yard line.

PPR paints a much clearer picture of a team’s effectiveness on that part of the field than simple red zone conversion rate because it gives credit for touchdowns over field goals. (We don’t get into extra points versus 2-point conversions. A TD is just 7 for our purposes.)

So, here’s an early view of Big 12 offenses through Week 2.

Oklahoma 7/7 100.0% 7 0 7.0
TCU 8/8 100.0% 6 2 6.5
Baylor 9/9 100.0% 7 2 6.1
Kansas 4/4 100.0% 3 1 6.0
West Virginia 9/9 100.0% 6 3 5.7
Texas Tech 12/14 85.7% 10 2 5.4
Oklahoma State 11/13 84.6% 8 3 5.0
Texas 4/6 66.7% 4 0 4.7
Kansas State 4/5 80.0% 1 3 3.6
Iowa State 1/1 100.0% 0 1 3.0

Oklahoma has a perfect score of 7.0 so far after easy wins over Florida Atlantic and UCLA. On the opposite end of the spectrum we have Iowa State, who the Sooners visit this Saturday. The Cyclones kicked a field goal on their only trip to the red zone against Iowa. ISU’s weather-cancelled game against South Dakota State was ruled a no contest and its stats are not recorded, but they didn’t stop inside the 20 in their four-plus minutes of play.

Toward the bottom of the league, the Cowboys’ 5 points per trip is about avruj. But being once held to a field goal and then coming out empty-handed on another trip — against a bad FCS team — is not ideal. Even less ideal are turnovers in the score zone, something Taylor Cornelius has shown a propensity for early in his tenure. He’s averaging an end-zone arm punt per game.

The season is young and we are working with a small sample size. These numbers will fluctuate. As the level of competition improves, the offensive numbers should trend slightly down and the defensive numbers should come up a bit. The 2017 Cowboy offense, for instance, finished at No. 4 in the Big 12 with a 5.3 PPR.

Through two weeks, Boise State’s defense has allowed 4.7 points per red zone attempt with two touchdowns and no FGs in three trips. Oklahoma State will need to drive their average up by taking advantage when deep in Bronco territory if it wants a good chance at victory on Saturday.

Let’s take a look at how well teams have protected their own red zones.

TCU 0/1 0% 0 0 0.0
Texas Tech 4/4 100% 0 4 3.0
Iowa State 2/3 66.70% 1 1 3.3
Texas 6/9 66.70% 4 2 3.8
Oklahoma State 2/3 66.70% 2 0 4.7
Baylor 4/5 80% 3 1 4.8
Kansas State 7/8 87.50% 5 2 5.1
West Virginia 5/6 83.30% 4 1 5.2
Kansas 3/3 100% 2 1 5.7
Oklahoma 5/5 100% 5 0 7.0

On defense, the Cowboys have fared just marginally better, allowing just under 5 points per red zone trip. Again, this wasn’t the 2013 Baylor offense that OSU was trying to keep off of pay dirt. Hell, they weren’t even the 2018 Baylor offense.

Last season, Glenn Spencer’s squad also finished fourth in the Big 12, allowing 4.6 points per trip.

As far as the Broncos offense is concerned, through two weeks they boast a 5.6 PPR on offense, scoring on seven of eight red zone trips and with six of those scores being touchdowns. That makes for an above average team based (again) on their early-season opponents.

Teams can figure things out and improve. We know that Boise State isn’t afraid to throw out a crazy look or two in the score zone, so they could be dangerous in Cowboy country. As for OSU, just learn from a couple mistakes moving forward and Taylor Cornelius can boost his squad’s PPR numbers.

It will be interesting to see if the Cowboys can round into a more efficient and effective red zone team. They’d better, because against the likes of Oklahoma or TCU, or Boise State, I doubt they can’t afford to waste many opportunities.