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Friday, August 8, 2008
Will new coaches change play-calling ratios?

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

My fascination with football numbers got me in the middle of the night in a tiny hotel room in Topeka, Kan. I had to grab my calculator and do some figuring.

The Big 12 is being transformed into a passing league with the assimilation of spread offenses across the country. It made me wonder how complete passing offenses had become.

So I looked at the number of plays that each team ran last season and figured out a run/pass ratio. And here's what I came up with.

TeamRunPassTotal% Run% Pass
Baylor29856185934.765.3
Colorado48547696150.549.5
Iowa State47342389652.847.2
Kansas51247698851.848.2
Kansas State35151086140.859.2
Missouri530582111247.752.3
Nebraska41748189846.453.6
Oklahoma57446197558.941.1
Oklahoma State59238697860.539.5
Texas53943697555.344.7
Texas A&M57637695260.539.5
Texas Tech246763100924.475.6
Totals559358711146448.851.2

Six of the conference's eight bowl teams all ran the ball last season more than they threw it, which is an obvious tendency because of how most coaches scheme their games when they were ahead. Only Missouri and Texas Tech threw the ball more than they ran it among bowl teams.

But passing offenses are taking over the conference in general, with an average of 51.2 percent of plays in the conference as passing attempts last season.

After looking at these charts, it got me to thinking what the changes by the conference's three new coaches will mean for their programs.

Baylor -- The Bears had the second-most pass-heavy offense last season with Guy Morriss. But with an improving offensive line and Art Briles' history at Houston, I look for the Bears to try to run the ball more often -- particularly early in the season as they try to build some confidence. Whether that transformation holds through Big 12 play will be interesting to see.

Nebraska -- Bo Pelini's arrival has brought much excitement about his defensive philosophy. I think his offensive attitude will be interesting as well. I look for the Cornhuskers to shuck some elements of the West Coast passing attack and move back a little with more running plays. Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson would like to emphasize a deep stable of I-backs. And playing with more running plays would enable the Cornhuskers to eat the clock and keep their defense off the field.

Texas A&M -- I expect A&M to emphasize passing a little more under new coach Mike Sherman. The Aggies repeatedly ran the zone read under Dennis Franchione. They will feature more of a pro-style offensive attack with their new coaching staff. And while I still think that A&M will be a ground-oriented team, it won't be as tilted as heavily to the run as in the past.