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Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Big 12 led nation in scoring, but stats were down

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

All season long, I heard offensive coordinators across the Big 12 talk about how much more difficult it was to move the ball in the conference last season than it was in 2008.

Bradford
Injuries to key playmakers, such as Sam Bradford, hurt the Big 12's offensive output.
The conference still leads the nation in scoring when compared to other conferences with a per-game, per-team average of 28.39 points per game.

But the Big 12's average in yards per play was down to 5.47 yards per snap. That figure ranks ninth among the 12 FBS conferences and worst among the conferences that receive automatic berths in the Bowl Championship Series.

As shown on Tuesday, most every team in the Big 12 saw a noticeable reduction in offensive production and scoring last season compared to the previous year.

That trend didn't necessarily correlate across the rest of the country, when individual conferences are analyzed.

The number of plays remained the same from 2008 to 2009, but total yards and yards per play increased across the nation. Rushing yardage and passing yardage was up a little bit across the board as well. Scoring did drop, but not by the 20.3 percent reduction that we saw in the Big 12 in 2009.

Obviously, the graduation of top players like Michael Crabtree, Chase Daniel, Jeremy Maclin, Graham Harrell, Quan Cosby, Josh Freeman and Joe Ganz had something to do with it. The conference also struggled with injuries to many of its top stars as Jermaine Gresham missed the entire season, Sam Bradford, Robert Griffin, Dez Bryant and Kendall Hunter all were gone for most of the season. Even Colt McCoy's injury came at a critical time to limit his team's offensive efficiency when it really could have used him.

Most importantly, the Big 12 had a wealth of top defensive players last season. We'll see that in the NFL draft when Ndamukong Suh is the likely first pick of the draft. Gerald McCoy should follow soon thereafter -- perhaps as quickly as the next pick. It wouldn't surprise me to see Earl Thomas and Sean Weatherspoon both as high first-round picks as well.

For a closer examination, I looked at every conference and compared offensive numbers from 2008 to 2009. The Big 12's figures were noteworthy, when compared to the rest of the nation.


It's interesting to note that the Big 12's per-team averages were down in yards per game, yards per play and scoring from 2008. The only other conferences where this trend occurred were in Conference USA and the Mid-American Conference.

And contrasting with this trend, the Southeastern Conference's figures in all three categories went up in 2009.

These figures are cyclical. But with the departure of so many dominant defensive players in 2010, along with the return of eight of 12 starting quarterbacks next season, we might see an increase from the numbers of this year.

If that happens, maybe we won't hear as much whining from the offensive coordinators, either.