OSU Had The Best Defense In The Big 12?

Written by OKC Dave
Nov 24 2012 Norman OK USA Oklahoma Sooners wide receiver Justin Brown 19 is tackled by Oklahoma State Cowboys safety Daytawion Lowe 8 during the fourth quarter at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit Richard Rowe US PRESSWIRE

Photo Attribution: US Presswire

The round robin schedule of the Big 12 makes it easy to compare teams to each other at the end of the season. With the still-raging debate on how good our defense is (and let’s not forget about the offense), I thought it would be interesting to see how our units compared to the other teams in our conference. This is a new approach, though.

Let’s start with yards per play. Read from the top down. The offenses are listed at the top and the defenses are listed on the left. Let’s look at OSU…see the 4 right under our column? That means OSU’s offense was the 4th toughest the Bears encountered this year in yards/play. Following the column downward, we were the 2nd-toughest offense Iowa State and K-State faced this season. And yes, we had the worst offensive performance against in yards/play against Kansas this year (we managed 5.1 yards/play against KU while the average among all other teams against KU was 7.6).

I highlighted the cells so that green = good and red = bad from the offense’s point of view. You want green in your column. The number at the bottom of each column is the average for that offensive unit. On average, were the 3rd-best offense each defense faced this year. This was the 2nd-best number in the league, slightly behind Baylor.


So what does this tell us? Well, aside from the weird rain-delay game in Lawrence, our offense was better than average against all teams aside from West Virginia. We were best or second best against 6 of the 9 teams we played this year, including our losses to OU, Texas, and KSU.

Take a look at Baylor. We know their offense was really good, but they were in the top 4 of every defense they played aside from OU.

It’s funny to look at the ones that don’t make any sense. K-State had a very solid offense this year, but in their loss to Baylor they were the worst offense the Bears faced this year (only 4.4 yards/play). TCU was below average against everyone aside from the best defense in the league, OU.

Yards are great and all, but points are what really matters so let’s switch over to points per play. I only used offensive points here, stripping out special teams and defensive scoring. You can read this chart the same way as the last one.


Here’s where things fell apart a bit for our offense this year. We were still pretty good — average or better against 7 out of 9 opponents — but not as good as we were at generating yards. You could almost say we had a bend but don’t break offense…great at marching down the field, not so great at punching it in. Still, we were tied for OU for 2nd in the this category behind West Virginia.

Here’s where KU just looks terrible. 6th or worst against every defense they faced.

Okay, the real reason I put this together was to check on the defense. How good was our defense this year? I think this is a pretty good measure.

Again, let’s start with yards/play. Now, the defenses are listed at the top so you should read from the top down.


No one really wants to hear this, but our defense was tied with KSU as the 2nd-toughest defense teams faced this year. That terrible Baylor game we just experienced? It was Baylor’s 2nd-worst offensive performance of the conference season. We were average or better in every game aside from our road trip to Manhattan.

Now, no one really excelled on defense — OU was good, but they had a couple stinkers against TCU and WVU (although they didn’t lose because of it). I think this goes to show that no defense in the Big 12 is going to have success throughout the season unless they are truly elite.

Finally, defensive points per play. Again, this is only scoring from the offenses on the left – no special teams or defensive scoring.


This chart shows that we were the best defense in the conference in terms of points/play. We were average or better against every opponent’s offense. Now, I don’t really believe that we were the best defense in the conference this year. If you look at our column, you see a lot of 2s and 4s. I think that is the more accurate picture. We did not have a shut-down defense, but we did make teams work for it. Just so happens that our special teams really hurt us this year and our offense turned it over too many times.

A couple final notes: West Virginia was 7th or worse against 7 out of 9 opponents this year. That is not good, Joe DeForest.

How about UT’s vaunted defense coming in to this year? They were only above average against one team.

  • ChanceDM

    Well done

  • pistolsguy

    @derekbirdsong and points per drive…potentially even more important.

  • Glove

    Good Stuff. I still am having a hard time merging the stats with what I saw this season. We looked bad. But I guess it comes down to turnovers. I’d be curious to see how OSU did vs other Big 12 schools in turnovers this year.

    • @Glove We were 9th in the B12 in net turnovers per play this year. Only TT was worse.

      • Glove

        @okcdave haha that explains a lot. Thanks!

  • ScKing

    This is amazing! Look how great our defense is! I did find one small error. On your recap of the offensive points/play we tied for third, not second, with OU. KSU was first and WVU was second.

  • tayloryork

    Great stuff as usual okcdave. – But you many people have complained about our inability to get off the field. How does that look compared to every one else? (3rd/4th down conversion rate). Also, as many people have already pointed out, can show turnovers like this? Is it useful?

    • @tayloryork I’m not sure how useful it would be to show turnovers like this — but, it is worth pointing out that we were bad at generating turnovers and losing the ball this year.
      Inability to get of the field is best shown by Brian Fremeau’s methodical drive ranking, which ranks teams based on how many of their opponents’ drives last 10 or more plays. We are 105th in this category…this is the area I would LOVE to see an improvement in as an OSU fan.

  • One final thing. I don’t think our defense is really good. The true answer is, it’s complicated. No defense in the Big 12 is really good — or has been for the last few years. But we are nowhere near as bad as our fans think we are.

  • seams78

    points per play doesn’t mean much when we don’t get off the field.  We give up a ton of first downs and the opposition runs a ton of plays as the defense can’t get off the field.
    The defense is “good” articles are just making excuses for a terrible defense taking 1 stat without giving the whole story.  Here’s a question.  If we needed a stop in the 4th quarter, can we our defense come up with it?  the simple answer is no, but there are more reasons to back up that OSU is bad than OSU is good.  Just keep grasping at straws

  • khuston

    Let’s stop selectively using statistics to prove a point I think we all know isn’t true.  There were four games where opponents scored more than 40 on us.  Why is it that points/game has never been mentioned in a post for the past year?  Why does yards/play keep being discussed?  Because its the only possible defensive stat that makes things look positive?
    Its ok to be critical.

    • JMiles

      @khuston Agreed! Can we get one of these matrices for third down conversions or fourth down conversion with less than two minutes left? How about turnovers? How about pass defense efficiency? An offense putting up 49 points is impressive. The defense that allows 50 points is not impressive.

      • @JMiles  @khuston OSU was 2nd in opponent 3rd down conversions in conference play. Don’t know about 2 min left. We were terrible in turnovers as I mentioned in the comments already. That is certainly a key part of a good defense that we were missing this year. OSU was 3rd in pass efficiency defense in conf play this year behind TCU and KSU. http://www.big12sports.com/ViewContent.dbml?&DB_OEM_ID=10410&CONTENT_ID=242244

    • @khuston Points/game: OSU was 5th in the B12. Yards/play is a superior stat to yards/game. It is more predictive of winning %. You will not believe this statement, but I am not a cheerleader for our defense. I find the best ways to evaluate a defense and report. The smartest guys in college football statistics currently report that our defense is 31st in the nation. http://www.footballoutsiders.com/stats/feiplus

  • snorman

    One thought on the points per play metric – mathematically, could a low points per play number just mean that the denominator (the number of plays on defensive) was higher than others in the league making the points per play look lower? Our offense scores quickly, but our opponents systematically move down the field and score. If our offense scored 7 points in 5 plays (1.4 pts/play) and our defense allowed 10 points in 20 plays (0.5 pts/play) it looks like we’re scoring a lot more than we’re allowing but that doesn’t reflect the total number of plays by each team.
    Either way, we’re 7-5 and 4th in the league. Our defense isn’t the worst in the league or we likely would have finished lower in the standings, but it’s not great or we wouldn’t have lost 5 games. What really annoys me though are the countless missed tackles we have every game. If you cut those in half, then our defense probably does look as good as these numbers say.

    • frustratedpoke

      This. I completely agree. Who cares if we give up less yards per play than other people if that amount is enough for them to get a first down and continue the drive. Who cares if points per play is low and if we can’t get them off the field. Who cares if we allow low points per play, but never get em off the field and allow 90 plays.Our defense is this stupid bend but dont break concept, which is why the fastest guy on the field, Justin Gilbert, has to back of receivers 10 yards before a play starts. HE shouldn’t get burned. We should trust them. But we worry about the big play, instead of the small out route, and allow the pebble in our shoe to kill us while we are worrying about the mountain. It’s not like we don’t give up the touchdown anyway, so why not have our guys play hard on the receivers and if they get burned, well, we are already losing. No where to go but up. Seriously, why is Baylor’s d rushing 6 on us on third down, and we are rushing 3 on them. All year Baylor was said to have one of the worst defenses, and they looked WAY better than our defense in that game. Bottom line is, we need a new defensive coordinator, Our team should be better, and we shouldn’t have to rely on turnovers to be good. We should just be able to stinking stop people. Last year we went on and on about how good our d was because of turnovers, despite the points and yards we gave up. That’s fine, but look at Notre Dame. Look at Alabama. They don’t have to go to the alternative d rankings to see how good they are. They don’t have to get 15 turnovers a game to win on defense. They don’t have to defend themselves using stats no one talks about. They get people off the field, and that wins them games. We shouldn’t just keep wishing our defense was better than it is. I completely believe we have the athletes to be better. This is coaching. This is philosophy. We aren’t using logic. Look, in the OU game, Blake Bell runs over two players on the last play of the game. One of those players was broderick brown. He is awesome, but we knew they werent throwing it. Why didn’t we sub when they subbed in Blake Bell?? We don’t need a 5’10” guy trying to tackle a 6’4″ guy. This is just one of the many many examples where I am screaming at the defensive coordinator through the tv. We basically run a prevent defense on third down, backing off people and rushing 3. Did you see the lsu bama game this year? lsu had em in the second half. they had totally shut bamas offense down. Then for some inexplicable reason, on the last drive of the game they switched to prevent defense. And bama through little out passes all the way down the field. STORY OF OSU’S SEASON. We need to put pressure on the quarterbacks on third down. We are in the big12. Overall, best qbs in the country. If we give em time, as rushing 3 does, they will beat us every time. They will find the open man, and they will put the ball there perfectly. It’s time for a change. If your offense is in the top 10 of every category, and you are playing in the big12, playing legitimate teams, you should not end the season unranked.

      • I do love that you’re comparing us to Bama and Notre Dame. Imagine your 1998 self doing that.

  • G-Block

    Nice post and a very interesting take and review of the season. If the offense/ defense/ special teams each made four or five additional plays this year, OSU would be looking at 11 – 1. Knowing how close they came to a nice season makes it harder to swallow. I know, I know…shoulda. woulda, coulda…