Part 1 of 2
If past winners of the BCS championship have had anything in common it is defense. In a post on this earlier this year we demonstrated that BCS title winners since 2000 have had a defense that had an average national ranking of 5.63, and surrendered an average of 14.03 points per game. In fact we demonstrated that a top defense is the most common connection between BCS winners.
By those measures, the Big 12 this year doesn’t look very good. The national rankings of the Big 12 BCS contenders and their points per game –
Texas – 37th, 20.7 ppg
Texas Tech – 48th, 22.2 ppg
Oklahoma – 56th, 23.6 ppg
None of them rank anywhere near what one would expect from a top title contending team.
But maybe, just maybe, the Big 12 is different this year. Maybe those offenses are so devastating that one cannot reasonably expect their defenses to rank well nationally.
To show that the Big 12 defenses are indeed as inept as their national rankings indicate, let’s start with the case of lowly Texas A&M. On a national basis the Aggies rank 50th in total offense, scoring 27.0 ppg, as about “middle-of-the-road” offensively as one could imagine.
Now let’s look at the two parts of A&M’s schedule, and the results –
Arkansas State – lost 14-18
New Mexico – won 28-22
Miami (FL) – lost 23-41
Army – won 21-17
Average points scored in NON CONFERENCE contests – 21.5
Now the conference schedule –
Oklahoma State – lost 28-56
Kansas State – lost 30-44
Texas Tech – lost 25-43
Iowa State – won 49-35
Colorado – won 24-17
Oklahoma – lost 28-66
Average points scored in CONFERENCE contests – 30.7
Against a pretty weak non-conference slate of teams with a current record of 17-22, the Aggies scored 21.5 ppg. Against their conference opponents they did 9.2 ppg better, including an average score of 27 ppg against Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Oklahoma.
In other words, had Texas A&M played only a conference slate, their scoring offense would, at 30.7 ppg, be good enough to elevate them to 38th nationally rather than the current 50th. It was easier for the Aggies to score against the Big 12 than against other teams.
While A&M might seem an extreme example, how exaclty did the “big boys” of the Big 12 defenses fare against non-conference foes? Remembering that, for the most part, the non-conference opponents were a pretty lousy lot (the only exception is Oklahoma against TCU), here are the results –
Non Conference Defense PPG – 16 (best team Nevada)
Conference Defense PPG – 26.3
Non Conference Defense PPG – 10.8 (best team Arkansas)
Conference Defense PPG – 27.5
Non Conference Defense PPG – 13 (best team TCU)
Conference Defense PPG – 30.6
Non Conference Defense PPG – 21.8 (best team Troy)
Conference Defense PPG – 26.3
Non Conference Defense PPG – 20.8 (best team Illinois)
Conference Defense PPG – 25.5
Big 12 Totals (Above teams)
Non Conference Defense PPG – 16.5
Conference Defense PPG – 27.2
Remember we would expect the non-conference scoring to be lower, and it is. Several of the teams played weren’t even FBS opponents.
How does this compare to, say the top 5 SEC teams?
Non Conference Defense PPG – 6.5 (best team Miami)
Conference Defense PPG – 13.4
Non Conference Defense PPG – 5.8 (best team Clemson)
Conference Defense PPG – 18
Non Conference Defense PPG – 16 (best team Arizona State)
Conference Defense PPG – 28.7
Non Conference Defense PPG – 8.7 (best team App State)
Conference Defense PPG – 32
Non Conference Defense PPG – 8.7 (best team NC State)
Conference Defense PPG – 18.6
SEC Totals (Above teams)
Non Conference Defense PPG – 9.1
Conference Defense PPG – 22.14
The SEC’s top teams, which have arguably played a harder group of non-conference opponents, have given up only 9.1 ppg to those teams, while the Big 12 gave up 16.5 ppg to it’s non-conference foes. When you look at the teams listed, every team but Georgia in the SEC has given up less points in out of conference games than every team in the Big 12.
Or, by percentages –
Big 12 to SEC percentage of points given to non-con opponents – 81.3% greater
Big 12 to SEC percentage of points given to conference opponents – 22.9% greater
It isn't just Big 12 offenses ruining Big 12 defenses - they give up a lot of points to EVERYBODY.
So if conventional wisdom holds the Big 12 has highly superior offenses while the SEC has highly superior defenses, only half of that wisdom is correct – the latter half. While the Big 12 teams score about 23% more against their conference opponents than top SEC teams, non-conference opponents score 81% more against Big 12 teams than SEC teams.
BCS history tells us teams that don’t have good defenses don’t fare well on the big stage, and the Big 12 doesn’t have good defenses, even when accounting for their high powered offenses. Will this year be different, and a big scoring offense be able to overcome a stout defense? I doubt it, but we will likely see.
Part 2 – If not the Big 12, then who?
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Part 1 of 2