After my podcast last week with Dave Bartoo of CFBMatrix.com, I decided to dive deeper into Oklahoma’s offensive efficiency in recent years. Specifically, I wanted to know how the Sooners measured up to the rest of the Big 12 in Josh Heupel’s four years as offensive coordinator.
For each of the last four seasons, I did a quick-and-dirty analysis of offensive points per play (OPPP) for all 10 teams in just their nine conference games. (One of the side benefits of the move to a true round-robin schedule in the Big 12 is that it makes for cleaner statistical comparisons.)
Not surprisingly, the conference champs usually generated the highest OPPP in the league.
Offensive Points Per Play, Big 12 (2011-14)
Note: The last four Big 12 winners were Oklahoma State in 2011, Kansas State and Oklahoma in 2012, Baylor in 2013, and Baylor and TCU in 2014.
This table serves two purposes. First, it shows that winning in the Big 12 requires a top-tier offense. That doesn’t mean that defense plays no role in a team’s success. It simply demonstrates that you’re not likely to win the league if you can’t move the ball and put up points as proficiently as the best in the conference.
Furthermore, the table reveals that in the last four years, OU’s offense wouldn’t qualify as elite. The Sooners finished well behind the conference’s top teams in offensive efficiency each season, including in 2012 when they tied K-State for the league crown. As I indicated, that has put the team squarely behind the eight ball in league play.
The reality is that while Heupel’s defenders rightly argue that he was running an unfamiliar offensive scheme in 2013 and 2014, he wasn’t exactly setting the world on fire in the previous two seasons. Through the lens of these numbers, it’s hard to see him as a scapegoat. Put another way: No matter what type of offense OU is going to run, Bob Stoops' move to replace Heupel with Lincoln Riley was more than justified.