Last Saturday night, the Texas Longhorns secured their second conference title under coach Mack Brown following a thrilling last-second win, 13-12, in the Big 12 championship game against Nebraska.
A few days later, UT made Mack the highest-paid coach in the country at $5 million per season.
Coincidence? Berry Tramel of the Daily Oklahoman thinks not.
Tramel did some statistical sleuthing and came up with a theory about how Texas coach Mack Brown made his millions: winning the close ones. In 12 seasons in Austin, Mack has a sterling 21-4 record in games decided by three points or less and 27-11 mark in games decided by seven points or less.
Of course, you can't have a Texas football article without getting in a comparison with OU. Tramel notes that Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops hasn't fared nearly as well in his 11 years in Norman, going 6-9 in games decided by a field goal or less and 17-15 when the margin was at least seven points.
Clearly, therefore, Mack is a gamer, and Stoops is a choker, right?
Tramel's right when he says the disparity in the two coaches' close game records shouldn't be dismissed as some mere statistical oddity. In tight contests, Stoops' teams have failed to come through way too often. On the other hand, Texas always seems to find a way to pull out wins, as witnessed in this year's Nebraska.
The real question is why Cool Hand Mack's teams thrive in close games.
Maybe it's practice?
Of the Longhorns' 154 games in 12 years since Mack came to Austin, they've suffered 26 losses. Of those losses, 11 have been by seven points or fewer, which amounts to 42 percent. Of Texas' 128 wins under Brown, 27 have come by seven points or fewer. That equates to 21 percent.
North of the Red River, Stoops has lost 29 games in 11 seasons. In 15 of those 29 games, approximately 51 percent, the Sooners have lost by seven points or fewer. In OU's 116 wins under Stoops, the Sooners have won by a touchdown or less 17 times, or 15 percent of their victories.
As such, when comparing the two programs, Texas tends to lose by more than a touchdown at a greater rate. Meanwhile, the Longhorns win by a touchdown or less with greater frequency. Also, keep in mind that the vast majority Texas' close wins have come by three points or less.
(One last thing to consider: According to the Sagarin Ratings, the Sooners' strength of schedule has ranked 29th on average every year under Stoops. Texas' schedule has come in 34th on average every year under Brown.)
Do with the numbers what you will. Looking at the two coaches' records in close games, there's no doubt that Texas has a tremendous knack for coming through in the clutch. Yet, in the broader scheme of things, the numbers also suggest that OU does a better job of putting opponents away. Additionally, when they do lose, the Sooners appear slightly better when it comes to staying competitive.