You Were Saying About That Defense…

Written by Kyle Porter

Photo Attribution: Corie Brianne

When we, as fans, look at offenses do we care that Georgia Tech has as many passing attempts all year as Texas Tech has on a conservative night?

No, we only care that they both put up 40+ and make every team they play outscore them to beat them. An offense’s only goal is to get the ball in the endzone. Whether that’s by hitting Sammy Watkins on gorgeous 75-yard ticking time bombs or having Jared Lorenzen do cartwheels down the sideline I guarantee you people couldn’t care less as long as the scoreboard keeps lighting up.

So why, as fans (and as the national media), do we care so much about how a defense looks when it performs? That is, if a defense’s job is to get the ball back to its offense without letting the other team kick a field goal or score a touchdown, why do we care if they do that by forcing three and outs or getting tons of fumbles and interceptions?

OSU’s defense is tied for second in the country with 24 forced turnovers. If they were in the SEC they would be lauded for being “opportunistic” and “invasive” but because they’re OSU and because the Big 12 has a reputation for being an “all play and no work” kind of conference they’re labeled as “shoddy” and “have a ton of holes on the defensive side of the ball.”

Let’s forget for a moment the advanced metrics I threw out last week that showed where, in actuality, Oklahoma State might in fact have a top ten defense and look at the only thing that matters: how many points do they allow compared to other teams in their conference.

First, your points per game given up (conference games only) in reverse order:

10. Kansas (55.3)
9. Iowa State (42.8)
8. Texas Tech (39.5)
7. Baylor (39)
6. Texas (35.7)
5. Missouri (31)
4. Texas A&M (28.8)
2. Kansas State (26.8)
2. Oklahoma State (26.8)
1. Oklahoma (25.8)

A few comments: Kansas, my goodness, and they haven’t even played Baylor or A&M yet. That Texas defense the media would want you to believe is world-class isn’t looking so hot right now (in their defense (pun!), they already have games against OU and OSU under their belt). Kansas State is legit.

Now consider the following three things:

1. OSU is the only team in the Big 12 to hold every conference opponent it has played under 30.

2. (I know I said I wouldn’t go Billy Beane on you so I’m sorry in advance) OSU has the lowest standard deviation in points allowed per game* (2 ppg) and it’s not even close (Iowa State is next closest at 9 ppg). In other words: you know what you’re getting with OSU’s defense and you know it’s going to be outstanding.

3. OSU has held three of the four teams it has played under their conference average for points scored. Kansas put up more than their average, but OSU also had student-managers playing the 4th quarter.

Don’t be fooled by talking heads and monolithic print organizations, Oklahoma State’s defense is good. They’re relentless and devastatingly consistent. And if they keep giving Brandon Weeden a 26.8 ppg bar to clear, well, that’s just the statistical way of spelling n-e-w-o-r-l-e-a-n-s.

*Standard deviation in points allowed per game is simply how much variance there is in each game from the mean. So OSU averages giving up 27 points a game and it has only varied 2 points fewer or 2 points more than that. I suppose you can have a low standard deviation if you give up exactly 80 each game and have it be a bad thing but because OSU allows so few points it has to be considered a good thing in this instance.

  • I know you would have to go back and do this for everyone, but the defense as a unit has only surrendered 24 pts/game when you take out the two safeties (A&M, UT) and the KO return (UT).

    A&M – 27
    KU – 28 (21 of which were garbage time)
    UT – 17
    MU – 24

    • Obviously that applied to conference games only but it holds up when you look at all 7 games as well. The D itself is allowing 23.4 pts/game for the entire season when you take out all the funny business (pick 6, KO return, safeties).

  • James Phillips

    There is a similar analysis of this at Cowboys Ride For Free on SB Nation. It’s got a little more meat IMO.

    • Kyle Porter

      You’re right…I should have included the graphs. I knew I should have included the graphs!

  • Al

    Any chance you have email or twitter account info for Robert Smith of ESPN. He needs to see some information so he can be educated out the D.

  • Money

    Every post you write has a quote-worthy line, and this one was no exception. Thank you.
    “And if they keep giving Brandon Weeden a 26.8 ppg bar to clear, well, that’s just the statistical way of spelling n-e-w-o-r-l-e-a-n-s.”

  • G-Block

    Honestly, it’s the defensive depth that has me so cranked about this year’s team. I’ve been around since the Thomas/ Sanders teams, and the last “good” defensive team at OSU (with few exceptions) was 1985, I believe.

    Last year’s team was “nice,” but I wouldn’t qualify it at as “good” for the same reasons you listed above. I think this is the first good, consistent, and – dependable – defense OSU has had in 25 years.

    C’mon, Mizzou driving the length of the field? No worries. I was EXPECTING a forced turnover to change momentum. These guys are money. Are they on par with those outstanding Alabama or LSU teams? No, no way. But then again, those defenses don’t have to play 65+ snaps a game, either. Coaches Gundy, Young, Spencer, and Glass have turned these guys into collective studs that will win the marathon for the BCS.

    Coach Gundy said it best: For what we do, the offense, defense, and special teams have to work together; he likes our team. And so do I.