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Tramel's ScissorTales: Big 12 efficiency ratings have OSU defense, Texas offense No. 1

Berry Tramel
Oklahoman

In September, defense was all the rage in college football. Big 12 included. 

All the OSU games. OU 23-16 over Nebraska and 16-13 over West Virginia. Kansas State 24-7 over Stanford. Iowa 27-17 over Iowa State. 

But conference play has returned the Big 12 to the norm. OU 55, Texas 48. Texas 70, Texas Tech 35. Texas Christian 52, Texas Tech 31. Baylor 45, West Virginia 20. OU 37, Kansas State 31. 

How to make sense of it all? My best way is my annual efficiency ratings

Starting with the 2013 season, I’ve charted Big 12 offenses and defenses based not on yards (silly) or even points per game (misleading), but on efficiency. An offense’s job is to score. A defense’s job is to prevent scoring. 

So I judge efficiency on how frequently an offense scores, based on how many possessions it gets. And the same with defense. How many stops does it get, based on opportunities. I count touchdowns full credit and field goals half credit. 

I don’t figure the ratings until most teams have played at least three conference games, but that time is now. 

The Tuesday ScissorTales include my weekly college football rankings and a take on Jon Gruden, but we begin with the Big 12 efficiency ratings, which show an interesting result. 

The Oklahoma State-Texas game Saturday will be a matchup of the Big 12’s best defense and best offense. 

That’s right. The best offense in the Big 12 does not reside in Norman, at least not yet.  

The Longhorns have scored 143 points on 37 offensive possessions. That’s an efficiency rating of .568. A touchdown on every possession would be a rating of 1.000. 

The Cowboys have allowed 27 points in 26 defensive series. That’s an opponents’ rating of .154.  

A few notes about my efficiency rankings. 

More:'It'll be a real challenge': Defending Texas is Oklahoma State's toughest task of the year so far

► I include only conference games. The Big 12’s round-robin schedule makes for a virtually-equal playing field. Sure, games against the likes of Iowa and Arkansas are quite relevant, but most non-conference games are not, and schedules are so disparate, I find them worthless for comparison sake. Conference games provide a more equitable picture, especially in a league in which teams play each of the other nine squads. 

► The efficiency ratings are more for fun this early in the season. One game can skew the ratings. Iowa State has played only two Big 12 games. One of those games was against Kansas, a 59-7 Cyclone victory. So of course the Iowa State ratings are going to glow at this point. 

► There will be some outrageous results early, but they come back to the mean. I don’t know what was going on when OU played West Virginia, but that clearly was not a great indicator of the Sooners’ offensive firepower or the Mountaineers’ defensive prowess. 

Anyway, let’s get to the rankings:  

OFFENSE 

1. Texas .568: The UT offense seems for real. The Longhorns have lit up Texas Tech and OU, plus UT was quite efficient against Texas Christian. 

2. Iowa State .565: Doesn’t mean much at all. In 12 possessions against Kansas, the Cyclones scored eight touchdowns and kicked a field goal. They’ve played just one other Big 12 opponent, Baylor. So Iowa State’s number will start falling fast.   

3. TCU .525: Surprise. But the Horned Frogs have played Texas and Texas Tech so far. Can the Frogs sustain this number against OU? 

4. Oklahoma .485: For historical purposes, know that this is an excellent number. OU has led the Big 12 in offensive efficiency since Lincoln Riley’s arrival as offensive coordinator. That’s six full seasons. This number is akin to the Spencer Rattler offense of 2020 (.475) and the Baker Mayfield offense of 2015 (.496). And since you asked, the OU offensive efficiency with backup quarterback Caleb Williams is either .611 or .650, depending on whether you count Williams’ 66-yard run against Texas, a drive that began with Rattler. I’d give that credit to Williams, but that’s not a debate for this space. Rattler’s efficiency is either .413 or .438. 

5. Texas Tech .419: Not a bad number at all, considering two factors. The Tech schedule to date includes Texas, West Virginia and TCU, which isn’t bad. And the Red Raiders had to switch from the injured Tyler Shough to Henry Colombi at quarterback. 

6. Baylor .411: The Bears have played Kansas, so consider that. But Baylor carved up West Virginia and scored 24 offensive points in nine possessions against Iowa State. 

7. Kansas State .325: Not winning offense. KSU has played only OSU and OU, and the Wildcats played without starting quarterback Skylar Thompson against OSU, so give the Wildcats some grace. 

8. Oklahoma State .292: Uh, not good offense. The Cowboys have played only Baylor and Kansas State, which appear to be two of the better defenses in the Big 12, but this number needs to go up and quick for the Cowboys to stay unbeaten. 

9. West Virginia .276: Dreadful offense. Against the woebegone Tech defense, the Mountaineers managed three touchdowns in eight possessions. 

10. Kansas .091: The only drama each year for the Jayhawks is whether their offense or their defense will be worse. 

More:Carlson: 15 moments from OU-Texas classic you might not remember that shouldn't be forgotten

DEFENSE 

1. Oklahoma State .154: Part of the fun of looking at these ratings weekly is to decide why some teams struggle. Did OSU’s defensive dominance of Baylor and K-State come because the Cowboys are great on defense, or because the Bears and Wildcats are so-so on offense? We don’t know yet. But the non-conference performance for OSU was promising.  

2. Iowa State .225: In the Cyclones’ only real test, they gave up 24 offensive points in nine possessions to Baylor. So we don’t know yet. 

3. Baylor .261: Yes, the Bears got to play Kansas already. But they’ve also played three other teams – OSU, West Virginia, Iowa State. So there’s reason to think the Baylor defense is for real. 

4. Oklahoma .403: Not a particularly good number. Texas’ offense appears first-class, but West Virginia’s does not, and we’ll see about Kansas State’s. 

5. West Virginia .417: The skewed early-season numbers come to light here. A .417 usually puts you near the bottom of the Big 12. In the previous two years, only Kansas has had a defensive rating above .400. 

6. TCU .432: Texas and Texas Tech both ripped apart the Horned Frog defense. The Sooners should do the same. 

7. Kansas State .450: The Wildcats were largely helpless against the Spencer Rattler offense on October 2. OU had eight possessions and scored 37 offensive points.  

8. Texas .459: Against Tech, TCU and OU, the Longhorns have allowed 117 points in 37 possessions. That’s almost a touchdown every other possession. 

9. Texas Tech .638: This is an insane number. Kyler Murray’s OU offense had an efficiency rating of .624, so the Tech defense so far has been acting like it’s playing against Kyler Murray. 

10. Kansas .652: The KU defense historically has been better than the KU offense during the Jayhawks’ hopeless last dozen years. 

One fun sidekick to the efficiency ratings is a tool by which we can predict the score matchups. They don’t mean much this early in the season, but they’re fun to look at. 

TCU at OU: Sooners 35-33. OU has been winning by single digits all season, why stop now? 

OSU at Texas: tied 32-32. Overtime. The model predicts overtime in Austin. 

Iowa State at Kansas State: Cyclones 38-19. The model sees a rout. The model doesn’t know that ISU has played Baylor and Kansas, while K-State has played OU and OSU. 

Texas Tech at Kansas: Red Raiders 41-29. I don’t know if KU can get to 29 points, but it wouldn’t surprise me. 

Big Ten riding high 

Welcome to the glory days of Big Ten football. 

Oh, that’s hyperbole. The glory days might have been the old days of Hurryup Fielding Yost or Bernie Bierman or Biggie Munn. Northwestern once was coached by Ara Parseghian; those probably were good times. 

But these definitely are good times, too. 

Iowa, Michigan and Michigan State undefeated. Ohio State back on track after an early loss to Oregon. Penn State with only a loss to Iowa. 

The Associated Press ranks Big Ten teams No. 2 (Iowa), No. 6 (Ohio State), No. 7 (Penn State), No. 8 (Michigan) and No. 10 (Michigan State). The coaches poll is similar, with Penn State and Michigan flipped, and Michigan State at No. 9. 

My rankings – based on who you played, where you played and how you did – have Big Ten teams ranked No. 2 (Iowa), No. 3 (Penn State) and No. 5 (Michigan). I stop at 10, but if I extended, Michigan State and Ohio State probably would be 11-12. 

And here’s the best part. None of the Big Ten East Division powers have played each other. Which means we’re headed for some showdown games. 

On October 30 alone, Penn State plays at Ohio State in a College Football Playoff elimination game and Michigan State hosts Michigan. Penn State hosts Michigan on November 13. Michigan State plays at Ohio State on November 20. And on November 27, Penn State plays at Michigan State and Ohio State plays at Michigan. 

Wow. What a 29 days?

If you’re counting, that’s two home games for Ohio State and Michigan State, two road games for Penn State and Michigan. 

Penn State is at the biggest disadvantage, since is the only one of the four that was scheduled to play Iowa, and the Nittany Lions lost to the Hawkeyes. So Penn State already has a Big Ten loss. 

But the Big Ten is going to provide all kinds of playoff fireworks starting on Halloween Eve. 

Let’s get to the rankings: 

More:Tramel's ScissorTales: OU & OSU 1-2 in Big 12 rankings, and College Football Playoff hopes rise

1. Georgia 6-0: The Bulldogs’ victory over Clemson has lost its luster, but Georgia keeps adding quality Southeastern Conference wins, including Arkansas and Auburn the last two weeks. 

2. Iowa 6-0: The Hawkeyes will be big favorites the rest of the regular season, but that won’t necessarily help them in these rankings. They don’t have a ton of marquee competition. 

3. Penn State 5-1: From here on down, there’s not a dime’s worth of difference in the teams. I don’t give Penn State extra credit for hanging tough in Iowa City after the injury to quarterback Sean Clifford, but Penn State hung tough in Iowa City after the injury to quarterback Sean Clifford. 

4. Oklahoma 6-0: Winning in the Cotton Bowl never is easy and always should be rewarded. 

5. Michigan 6-0: The Wolverines don’t really have a marquee win, but they’ve won at Wisconsin and Nebraska, when both teams were wounded and angry, and that’s impressive. 

6. Oklahoma State 5-0: OSU’s win at Boise State looks better now that the Broncos took out Brigham Young.  

7. Kentucky 6-0: Mark Stoops’ Wildcats are unbeaten, but now comes Georgia. 

8. Alabama 5-1: The loss at Texas A&M was explicable only when you consider Bama-A&M history. The Aggies lost to Mississippi State the week before. 

9. Oregon 4-1: Strange. The Ducks have worse odds to win the Pac-12 than does Arizona State. Very strange. 

10. Cincinnati 6-0: The Bearcats will always have that win at Notre Dame, but their chances at building a resume’ are diminished by an apparent off-year for the American Conference. 

Coaches behaving badly 

When last week started, everyone figured Urban Meyer was the National Football League coach about to lose his job. For good reason. 

But Jon Gruden beat him to the punch. 

The Las Vegas Raiders’ Gruden resigned under pressure Monday after damaging emails, over a 10-year period, came to light. Gruden consistently emailed former Washington general manager Bruce Allen, using racist, misogynistic and anti-homosexual language. 

Gruden on Friday had apologized for an exposed email in which he referred to NFL players union director DeMaurice Smith as having lips “the size of michellin tires.” 

Gruden coached the Raiders on Sunday in a 20-9 loss to Chicago in which the Raiders looked lethargic. He apologized again after the game and said he was not a racist. 

One mistake, from 10 years ago, should not cost anyone their job. But Gruden clearly was not a one-hit-wonder. The emails to Allen show a longstanding repugnancy. 

When minorities sometimes claim under-the-radar discrimination, this is what they’re talking about. Comments and attitudes that don’t reach the public marketplace but still fester below the surface. 

Gruden took the spotlight away from Meyer, the Jaguars’ first-year coach who was captured on video Oct. 1 at his restaurant in Columbus, Ohio, engaged with a woman dancing sexually.  

Meyer’s Jags had played at Cincinnati the night before, and Meyer didn’t fly back to Jacksonville with the team, staying in Ohio instead, ostensibly to visit family. 

The dancing female was bad enough. But for my money, I didn’t understand how Meyer could justify not returning with his team. On Sunday Night Football, NBC’s Tony Dungy, a longtime NFL coach, said he never had heard of a coach who didn’t return with his squad after a road game. 

But Gruden swiped the spotlight from Meyer. For now. 

Oklahoma's Kennedy Brooks (26) runs for the game-winning touchdown the Red River Showdown college football game between the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) and the University of Texas (UT) Longhorns at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021.  Oklahoma won 55-48.

Mailbag: Kennedy Brooks’ winning touchdown 

Kennedy Brooks’ last-snap touchdown run against Texas raised some questions among at least one reader. 

Ross: “I am confused about the coaches’ decision on the final play Saturday in Dallas, and I can’t find anyone asking Lincoln about it after the game. Why did OU go with a running play with 10 seconds left? If any Texas player tackles Brooks before he gets to the end zone, time expires, and there is no game-winning field goal, but an overtime which Texas could win. Any explanation? Nobody knew Brooks was going to find an opening, but 33 yards is a long way to run.” 

Tramel: I would have questioned a pass play. OU was on the 33-yard line, which is well within Gabe Brkic’s range, but you always want to get a little closer.  

Ten seconds remained, OU had a timeout, so the clock shouldn’t have been a factor.  

A pass play would have exposed OU to much more risk. A sack, a tipped pass that could lead to disaster, even excessive time running off, if freshman quarterback Caleb Williams had gone into scramble mode and panicked. 

It’s much easier to control the clock with a running play. Ten seconds is a long time for a running play. As you saw, Brooks hesitated a little, looking for a hole, then turned on the jets and went to the house. The clock ticked to 0:01, but officials had the timekeeper restore the time to 0:03. 

Brooks is not a fumbler. He’s not a flashy runner who will start dancing. He’s north/south. I think it was a solid call. 

Good Eats: Midway Deli 

Midway Deli owner Bob Thompson likes to joke that “people are usually lost when they find us.” But patrons are most definitely found when they stumble into Midway Deli. 

Opened in 1955 as a neighborhood market, Midway Deli today stands as a throwback lunch spot, tucked two blocks south of Norman’s Main Street, at the corner of Eufaula and Chautauqua. 

Thompson calls Midway Deli “Norman’s Bermuda Triangle,” but Midway really is the best place in town for a sandwich. Fabulous soups and sandwiches. My favorite is the Arnie, an Italian concoction of ham, pepperoni, salami and provolone cheese with banana peppers, tomato, red onion, Italian dressing and mayo on grilled ciabatta. 

But the New York Deli Classic, piled high with pastrami, is great, too. The sandwiches are pricey, north of $10, but many are big enough to share. And the soups are legendary. 

Midway is a favorite hangout of OU coaches. Barry Switzer and Lon Kruger are regulars. You will be, too, once you go. 

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at btramel@oklahoman.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. Support his work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.