One small step for Oklahoma, one giant leap for the Big 12.
The Sooners are one win away from being the first team in the history of Big 12 football to be crowned the champ four times in a row, and they got here by being extremely good on one side of the ball.
And seriously, it is almost impossible to be hyperbolic when describing this offense.
Headed into the fall, there were questions about how the Sooners would replace Baker Mayfield, thought by many to be the best quarterback in Oklahoma football history. Lincoln Riley even helped maintain that narrative by scoffing at the idea that Kyler – hands down an elite quarterback – was assured of winning the starting gig.
Yet, a little over four months later, the Sooners are poised to four-peat. If they win on Saturday in Jerry World, they’ll hoist the trophy playing a style of offense that is phenomenal and a style of defense that is, well, in need of development.
If Oklahoma takes home the hardware, they’ll have far and away the best offense of any Big 12 champion. Consider how they stack up against some of the offenses of past conference winners:
|Big 12 Champion||Off. Points Per Play|
|2011 Oklahoma State||.634|
|2012 Kansas State||.578|
As the numbers show, the Sooners are heads and tails above previous Big 12 Champions when it comes to offensive points per play. The team that comes closest to them – the 2005 Texas Longhorns, a team that had a lot of NFL talent on offense – is still .74 points per play away.
That’s the widest margin on this list, by far beating out both the 2017 and 2016 teams that had Baker Mayfield at the helm. If you’ve seen the 2018 version of Oklahoma, you can’t help but notice what these numbers confirm – the Sooners seem incapable of making any kind of play that’s not a big play.
Murray is the star of the show, but when you’ve got wide receivers like Marquise Brown, one of the fastest players in the country, your offense is going to be a threat to pick up yards and points every time.
Something that might also surprise you is that Oklahoma actually doesn’t run that many plays per game. When most people think of spread offenses, they think of teams that want to get in as many snaps as possible.
That’s not the Sooners, though. Oklahoma has only run 785 plays this season, which is the least amount of plays of all the teams in the Big 12 who’ve played a full twelve game slate.
That is how dangerous Oklahoma is on offense. On the ground or through the air, they have the potential to score on every play, and they practically do.
As historically good as they are on offense, however, the Sooners are definitely at the bottom of the list of the worst defenses of Big 12 Champions:
|Big 12 Champion||Def. Points Per Play|
|2011 Oklahoma State||.311|
|2012 Kansas State||.326|
If you’re a traditionalist who thinks defense wins championships, Oklahoma has a good shot to prove that wrong in Arlington.
In fact, if you look at the points per play given up by past Big 12 title winners, then you notice that giving up more and more points has become the norm for the Sooners. Two of the bottom three – the 2008 and 2017 Sooners – came closer than any of these other teams to playing for a national championship.
Last year’s team was an overtime win away from playing Alabama, and the 2008 squad took on Florida for college football’s ultimate prize.
There’s another reason to think that this Oklahoma team will be the first to win a fourth consecutive Big 12 title. In terms of points per play, the Sooners are overall actually better than they were in 2017. Sure, they’re giving up .036 more points, but the offense is so much more improved that Oklahoma’s point differential actually went up .038 points per play.
It’s hard to believe that these trends will continue in years to come – with Kyler Murray off to play Major League Baseball, the offense would face a major challenge in trying to become even more historically elite. Likewise, Lincoln Riley will likely also spend a good deal of time in the offseason trying to get a new defensive coordinator, so the odds are that the defense begins trending up at some point.
Oklahoma might need to be improved on the defensive side of the ball to contend for the conference title next year, but in 2018, they may not need defense to win a championship.