Finding ways to get better is always on the minds of college football coaches, so taking note of areas that need improvement is constantly a priority. By looking at some of the numbers from last year’s shortened season, we can see where different Big 12 teams had shortcomings. Below is a list of one area that was a major weakness for each team in the conference last season, and the implications for these squads come fall.
Baylor: Running Game
The Bears fielded the worst rushing offense in the Big 12 last season, and their 90.3 yards per game on the ground ranked 123rd nationally. There are talented athletes at running back, so that shouldn’t be a major worry for new offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes. A good chunk of the blame has to fall on the underperformance of Baylor’s offensive line in 2020. New OL coach Eric Mateos from BYU will be charged with developing a unit that was almost inexplicably bad at times last season.
Iowa State: Field Goal Kicking
If they want to take another step forward in 2021, one of the most critical areas for the Cyclones to make progress in is their special teams, and field goal kicking specifically. After nailing 78.9 percent of his kicks as a junior, kicker Connor Assalley’s percentage dipped to 68.4 last season. Making more field goals would be a boon for Iowa State, especially after a season in which they played six single score games.
Kansas: Pass Protection
There’s almost no way but up for Kansas in all statistical categories, but pass protection is definitely a pressing issue. The Jayhawks gave up 5.22 sacks per game in 2020, a number that the new offensive coordinator – whoever he ends up being – will look to bring down this upcoming season. The Kansas offense definitely took a step back last season, and going forward it will be a challenge to develop a passer – whether that’s Miles Kendrick, Jalen Daniels, or someone else – if they can’t keep him upright.
Kansas State: First Downs
The Wildcats were nearly unstoppable in the red zone last season, finding points on 31 out of 33 trips. Unfortunately, where Kansas State really struggled was in between the 20s: the Wildcats picked up 15.5 first downs per game in 2020, second-to-last in the Big 12. That’s in line with the offensive struggles the Wildcats experienced, especially after the loss of Skylar Thompson. Next season, Kansas State will definitely need to move the ball more consistently if they hope to take advantage of Thompson’s skills as a sixth year player.
There aren’t many areas of the game that need pressing attention for the Sooners, but their net average per punt could be better. Their net averaged per punt was 35.9 yards in Big 12 contests last season, a number that was ninth in the conference. That sounds like nit-picking, and it is – the Sooners are not at the top of the conference in every aspect of the game, but they’re at least average or better across the board.
Oklahoma State: Red Zone Offense
Oklahoma State was less than stellar on offense last season in several aspects, but perhaps the biggest problem area for the Pokes was their inability to get points in the red zone. In 49 trips inside the 20 yard line, the Cowboys were able to find points on 40 times. The main culprit there was the inability for the Pokes to make field goals, as they were 16-for-21 on red zone tries. Getting more consistent with those easier attempts can give Oklahoma State a leg up in closer contests.
The Horned Frogs committed 70 total penalties in Big 12 play last year, more than any other team. That seems a little uncharacteristic of a team coached by Gary Patterson, but it cost TCU 63.3 yards per game in conference play. Those penalties were no doubt part of the reason for some of the Horned Frogs’ struggles on offense last season, and being able to avoid those flags in 2021 would benefit TCU on both sides of the ball.
Texas: Pass Defense
In Big 12 play, the Longhorns gave up more yards through the air than any team last season. Texas also allowed conference opponents to complete 66.4 percent of their passes, so improvements on the back end will be high on the priority list for new the coaching staff in Austin. With a couple of new faces in that secondary, that project will definitely be a challenge.
Texas Tech: Turnovers
Only five teams in FBS had more turnovers than the Red Raiders in 2020, a season in which Texas Tech gave the ball away 19 times. They also only accumulated 10 turnovers, giving them the worst turnover margin in the conference. If the Red Raiders are going to move out of the bottom of the Big 12 this season, they’ll need to take care of the ball better next season.
West Virginia: Third Down Defense
Despite having one of the top defenses in the conference last season, the Mountaineers struggled to stop teams on third down. West Virginia allowed Big 12 opponents to convert on third down on 42.2 percent of their tries last season. That’s a statistic that’s at odds with the fact that the Mountaineers were at the top of the conference in so many other categories, and its definitely something that Neal Brown staff will want to take a look at this spring.