Big 12 stat crunch: Red River Showdown edition


Welcome to the weekly Big 12 stat crunch, where we take a deeper statistical look at what’s going on in the conference. Three things that stand out going into the Red River Showdown between Oklahoma and Texas on Saturday:

1. The Heard effect

When Texas quarterback Jerrod Heard takes the field against Oklahoma on Saturday, two aspects of his game -- one thing we know and one thing we don't -- will be put to the test.

Four starts into his career, we know Heard is an electric talent as a rusher. When you take sacks out of the equation, Heard already has rushed for 423 yards on 52 carries this season. Among Power 5 quarterbacks, he ranks No. 2 behind Louisville's Lamar Jackson in rushing yardage. On Heard's positive rushing attempts, he's averaged an exceptional 10.3 yards per carry.

So we know what he'll try to do with his legs against the Sooners. The big question this week: What's Heard going to do in the second half?

The fact he's completed just 39 percent of his second-half attempts (12 of 31) this season is concerning. He's yet to throw a fourth-quarter touchdown and has a second-half QBR of 2.1 during his last two games. Poor line play has made it harder to hang in the pocket, and Heard has scrambled or been sacked on 26 of his 57 dropbacks in the second half.

He's averaging 20.5-yard gains on those second-half completions, so we know he won't be afraid to hit the big throws. But Texas might need a bunch of them on Saturday. We'll see if the redshirt freshman can rise to the occasion.

2. Sooners' evolving offense

Tracking how Oklahoma's shift to an Air Raid-style offense has had an impact on its offensive production has been fun to follow. A few results through four games do stand out.

Under new offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma is developing one of the nation's most effective offenses on first downs. The Sooners are picking up an average of nearly 8.2 yards per play on first downs, which ranks third-best in FBS behind Baylor and USC. That's up from 7 yards per play through four games last season. They're putting up close to 300 yards a game on first downs and doing so on a 60-40 run-pass split.

Yards per attempt, as expected, is way up. Oklahoma averaged 6.8 yards per attempt last season and is at 9.9 so far this season. The run game hasn't been as effective -- from 6.1 yards per rush down to 4 -- but you can get away with that when you're scoring 42 points a game and getting 6.8 yards per play.

A lot of this growth has to do with Baker Mayfield running the show, no question. But with all the weapons healthy and at his disposal, Riley is starting to build something dangerous here.

3. Pack your special teams

Coaches like to say you pack your defense and your special teams for big road games like these. The latter is definitely true of Red River games.

Last year, Alex Ross' kick return touchdown swung the game early. In 2013, Daje Johnson's punt return touchdown was the nail in the coffin. There was a blocked extra point returned for a score in 2012 and another kick-return TD in 2011.

Going into this year's matchup, it seems obvious Oklahoma has the upper hand on special teams, considering all of Texas' gaffes over the past three weeks. But ESPN's efficiency ratings suggest Oklahoma (47th in FBS) and Texas (48th) are about dead even when it comes to that third phase of the game.

Those numbers don't really reflect the fact that Texas likely won't have Johnson this week, could be changing its place-kicker and never knows what to expect from freshman punter Michael Dickson. Oklahoma should win the special-teams battle in a big way, and that never hurts in this rivalry.