Oklahoma Sooners: Collin Klein
A closer look at the production of Big 12 offenses and defenses on third down can provide a glimpse at how champions are made and reveal areas of improvement heading into the 2014 season.
The stats, courtesy of ESPN Stats and Information, are from conference games only during the past two seasons in an effort to provide a fair baseline for every team. The teams are listed alphabetically with third-down conversion rate, opponent third-down conversion rate, yards per play on 3rd-and-6 or more and yards per play allowed on 3rd-and-6 or more serving as the four key categories to show production on third down, or lack thereof.
Some thoughts and notes:
- Kansas State leads the Big 12 in third-down conversion percentage in the past two seasons, and it’s no major surprise to see the Wildcats sitting atop the conference, as Bill Snyder’s Wildcats are efficient and productive. Playing three different quarterbacks -- Collin Klein, Jake Waters and Daniel Sams -- during this stretch, K-State has the Big 12’s top raw QBR on third down (85) in this span. However, Waters’ 57 raw QBR on third down was the lowest of the trio. He’s expected to be KSU’s starter this fall and will need to play better on third down if the Wildcats hope to make a Big 12 title run.
- Baylor, Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech, the only other teams joining KSU with better than 40 percent conversions on third down, combined with the Wildcats to win 92 games during the past two seasons. Third-down success on offense and overall success seem to go hand in hand.
- Iowa State, TCU and Kansas, the bottom three teams in third-down conversion percentage, will enter 2014 with new offensive coordinators, underscoring the importance of third-down success.[+] EnlargeAP Photo/Matt YorkBill Snyder's Kansas State teams have excelled on third down, a big reason for the Wildcats' recent success.
- TCU’s defense was exceptional on third down, leading the conference with a 31.9 percent opponent third-down conversion percentage. If the Horned Frogs continue that production, and the offense improves its 31.3 third-down conversion rate, TCU could return to a bowl in 2014. New coordinators Sonny Cumbie and Doug Meacham are tasked with jump-starting the Horned Frogs offense.
- Oklahoma State allowed just 34.7 percent opponent third-down conversion rate, joining TCU as the lone Big 12 schools under 35 percent in that category. An underrated defense is one reason Mike Gundy's squad won 18 games while playing musical chairs at the quarterback position during the past two seasons.
- Baylor and Kansas State are in the bottom half of the Big 12 in opponent third-down conversion rate over the past two seasons, a sign that stellar defense on third down is not a requirement to win the Big 12 title. KSU was sixth at 40.5 percent, Baylor was ninth at 44.2 percent. The Wildcats won the conference title in 2012, Baylor won in 2013.
- West Virginia, Iowa State and Kansas are the teams in the bottom half of the conference in third-down conversion rate and opponent third-down conversion rate. Those three teams combined to win 12 conference games in the past two seasons.
- Baylor led the Big 12 in yards per play on 3rd-and-6 or more with a 6.97 ypp average. The Bears' explosive offense was joined by Oklahoma (6.96), Texas (6.89) and West Virginia (6.43) as the lone teams to average at least six yards per play in that scenario.
- Texas Tech, at 4.68 yards per play, is surprisingly low in this scenario, rating ninth in the conference . The Red Raiders’ offense is consistently among the Big 12’s best but this is a clear area of improvement for Kliff Kingsbury’s squad.
- OSU sits atop the conference at 3.98 yards per play allowed on 3rd-and-6 or more, another sign of how underrated its defense has been over the past two seasons.
- KSU is the only other team that allowed less than five yards (4.23) in that scenario and is the only team in the top half of the Big 12 in yards per play and yards per play allowed in that scenario. Third-down success, on both sides of the ball, was a big part of KSU’s ability to consistently win (and surprise) during the past two seasons.
Not long ago, Big 12 media days was an event worthy of a red carpet, with star-studded quarterbacks annually filling the halls.
Many -- like “Vince” and “Sam” -- were on a first-name basis with their fans. Others -- like “RG3” -- donned catchy nicknames.
This year, though, there were no rock stars at media days in Dallas. Because, well, there are no marquee quarterbacks returning.
As the SEC with defense, the Big 12 has become synonymous with quarterbacking. Of the past 13 quarterbacks taken in the first round of the NFL draft, six are Big 12 alums.
But these are foreign times in the conference. For a change, quarterbacking is the Big 12’s big unknown.
“We're in the same situation as seven or eight others,” said West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen, who is replacing his school’s all-time leading passer, Geno Smith.
“Pretty much everyone is in the same boat.”
A boat that seats virtually everyone in the league.
Texas' David Ash is the Big 12's only expected starter who started more than five games last season. Six other teams are still officially involved in quarterback derbies, including Texas Tech, which could wind up starting true freshman walk-on Baker Mayfield in its opener with projected starter Michael Brewer dealing with a back injury.
Such quarterback uncertainty has rendered the Big 12 as wide open as ever, with six teams receiving first-place votes in the league’s preseason poll.
“I think it would be unfair to even predict what could happen in the league this year,” said Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy, who has hinted he won’t announce Clint Chelf or J.W. Walsh as the starter until the opener against Mississippi State. “You have a certain number of teams, five or six, who if they stay healthy and get quality quarterback play, have a chance to win the league.
“For the fans and for the media, this year is as exciting as it gets -- because I don’t think anyone really knows.”
But the lack of marquee returning quarterbacks is also predominantly why for the first time in its history the Big 12 doesn't have a team ranked in the top 10 of the preseason polls. Oklahoma State was the league’s highest-ranked squad at No. 13.
Ash started every game but one for the Longhorns last season. But he also was benched against Kansas and TCU.
TCU’s Casey Pachall had a banner 2011 campaign. But he left four games into last season to seek treatment for substance abuse.
And while Chelf and Walsh both won games for the Cowboys as starters last year, it’s unclear at the moment which of the two will get the majority of snaps.
“The preseason polls for the majority in my opinion are based on returning quarterback play, because we all know how important quality quarterback play is to winning games,” Gundy said. “They look on paper and see there’s not a lot of returning quarterbacks in this league and so you’re not going to get recognized as much as other schools.”
Coaches and players around the conference, however, caution not to dismiss this batch of quarterbacks just because they’re new.
“There’ll be a bunch of names you’ll be talking about next year -- that they’re all back,” Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said.
While there’s no Vince Young, Sam Bradford or Robert Griffin III yet, there is talent.
Blake Bell and Trevor Knight, who are vying to replace four-year starter Landry Jones in Norman, were both four-star recruits. So was Kansas’ Jake Heaps, who sat out last season after transferring from BYU.
Baylor’s Bryce Petty had offers to play at Nebraska and Virginia Tech coming out of high school.
And Kansas State’s Jake Waters, who is fighting Daniel Sams to succeed Heisman finalist Collin Klein, was the No. 1-rated quarterback to come out of junior college this year.
“The quarterback play in the Big 12 last year was phenomenal,” Holgorsen said. “And it's always going to be phenomenal.
“It's just going to be with newer people.”
1. What's your initial reaction to the matchup?
OU-Florida in the Sugar would have been one of the best matchups of any bowl outside the title game. But this one is about as good. The Sooners get a chance to face off against the Heisman favorite in Johnny "Football" Manziel, which probably means OU will have seen the top three Heisman contenders (Manziel, Notre Dame LB Manti Te'o and Kansas State QB Collin Klein). The Sooners will have to play well, because A&M is one of the hottest teams in college football, coming off that win at Alabama.
2. Which team in the Big 12 does Texas A&M most resemble?
Can I say A&M? I mean, they were in the Big 12 just last year. If I had to compare them to someone currently in the Big 12, I'd probably say Oklahoma State. A&M's offensive line is tremendous, and Manziel has several playmakers to work with. Manziel is obviously more mobile than anyone OSU has, but the Cowboys present the dual-threat attack with Clint Chelf and J.W. Walsh. That's where the comparisons end. Because the Aggies are much more formidable defensively than the Pokes with Damontre Moore, who is tied for third nationally with 12 1/2 sacks.
3. What's the most intriguing individual matchup?
Mike Stoops vs. Manziel. Stoops has struggled game-planning against prolific, mobile quarterbacks this season, and Manziel figures to be his biggest challenge yet. Will Stoops go back to the dime package, or will he use linebackers Frank Shannon and Corey Nelson to spy Manziel? Either way, Manziel poses plenty of problems for a defense that's been gashed late in the season.
4. Who's the most important player no one's talking about?
How about Landry Jones? All the focus will be on Manziel, and for good reason. But I'm not so sure there's an advantage at QB. Jones has been on fire the last month of the season, throwing for 500 yards twice. Jones is susceptible to interceptions. But lately, he hasn't allowed those plays to phase him. Jones is capable of putting the Aggies defense on its heel, too.
“There’s still some games ahead of us that we might have a chance at something to play for,” Jones said. “Our mindset and mentality isn’t that the season is over. Yes, we have two losses and maybe the national championship is out of our grasp. But you never know what can happen in college football. We want to put ourselves in position if we have a chance at the end of the year, and be in the best position possible.”
So with only a month left in the season, the Sooners still need Kansas Sate to lose twice to have a shot at the outright Big 12 crown. OU also needs to run the table. What are the chances of both happening? SoonerNation looks at both remaining schedules and plays out the percentages:
Odds to lose: 30 percent
With Heisman frontrunner Collin Klein’s status is up in the air, the Horned Frogs might have a chance. Especially at home. Especially coming off a momentum-building, come-from-behind victory at West Virginia. Then again, TCU has struggled to score against good defenses since losing QB Casey Pachall. West Virginia’s is not a good defense. Kansas State’s is.
Odds to lose: 15 percent
It’s becoming evident that the Bears are the worst team in the Big 12 outside Kansas. Baylor beat the Jayhawks for its first Big 12 win over the weekend, but will the Bears beat anyone else? Playing defense the way they have, the Bears figure to get steamrolled by Kansas State, Klein or not.
Odds to lose: 35 percent
Unless there’s something more to an injury that didn’t appear that serious, Klein should be back for the Dec. 1 bout with Texas. The Longhorns just had their best performance of the season winning at Texas Tech. But this is still the same team that got annihilated by Oklahoma, and needed a miracle to beat Kansas. The Longhorns have a ton of untapped talent, and there could be a ton of pressure on Kansas State to win this game. But the Wildcats are simply better on both sides of the ball, plus they’ll be at home.
Odds to win: 90 percent
The Sooners surrendered a plethora of passing yards at Baylor last season. But Robert Griffin III won’t be on the field this time. Mike Stoops will. Advantage Sooners. The Bears also don’t play any defense. Landry Jones should have a career day throwing against Baylor’s porous secondary.
at West Virginia
Odds to win: 70 percent
In the preseason, this looked like it would be OU’s toughest game. Now, it doesn’t even look like OU’s toughest remaining game anymore. The Mountaineers are in a free fall. And while they’re still dangerous offensively, the Mountaineers could give up 60 to OU the way they’re playing defense.
By beating the fifth-ranked Irish, OU also can take out another obstacle between it and the national title game. But other obstacles still loom for the one-loss Sooners.
SoonerNation breaks down those five obstacles:
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“At the end of the day, have a bunch of new guys -- that’s not an excuse because we’re capable of playing a lot better than we did the other night -- you have five drives that end up in the red zone out of your 10 drives, which isn’t terrible. Trust me, that performance the other night wasn’t good. I understand that. But it’s not like we’re not doing anything well. We need to operate more efficiently in the red zone, we need to take care of the ball. You got two three-and-outs that hurt you, penalties that put you behind the chains, quarterback has to take care of the ball. You do that and it’s a different ball game.
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U.S. Presswire/Matthew EmmonsThe Kansas State defense simply overwhelmed Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones.
The key to Kansas State’s success is a rarely talked about side of the ball for the Wildcats -- their defense.
Timely turnovers, pressure on the quarterback, and offensive efficiency were the keys to an upset win over No. 6 Oklahoma last Saturday.
The win was just the second time in 33 tries that Kansas State beat Oklahoma when the Sooners were ranked in the top 10 of the AP poll.
Kansas State had Landry Jones rattled all night, forcing him to throw 10 passes when under duress (six in the second half).
Jones' one interception in the game was under duress on an off-balance, overthrown pass.
Additionally, the Wildcats sacked Jones twice, with both sacks resulting in fumbles. Jones turned the ball over twice, and both led to Kansas State touchdowns.
Kansas State did this while bringing four or fewer rushers on 43 of Jones’ 45 dropbacks.
Jones was off-target all night. Twelve of his 15 incomplete passes were overthrown, underthrown or wide. He has struggled with off-target passes all season. Twenty-five of his 39 incompletions have not reached his receivers.
Oklahoma was held below 20 points at home for only the third time since Bob Stoops became coach in 1999. It was also the first home loss for Sooners in 15 games against ranked opponents under Stoops.
On the other side of the ball, Kansas State relied on an efficient running game and short throws to move the ball.
Collin Klein attempted 13 of his 21 passes within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage, completing 10 of those for 91 yards.
Klein was at his best on third down, completing 7 of 11 passes for six first downs. On third and long (six-or-more yards to go), he completed 6 of 7 passes for five first downs, including two in the fourth quarter as the Wildcats attempted to preserve their lead.
After its win over the Sooners, Kansas State moved up to No. 7 in the AP Poll. That is the highest ranking the Wildcats have attained since September 2003.
“For three quarters we did exactly what we wanted to do,” he said. “If you can hold them to three points through three quarters, that’s very difficult to do. I don’t know if anybody’s ever done that.
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Jones third-down incompletion targeting Kenny Stills on OU’s first possession
Two plays after Jones missed a wide-open Brannon Green for a touchdown on play action, he missed Stills in the corner on third down. This play was important for various reasons:
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On Oklahoma's 24-19 upset loss to Kansas State:
What impressed me most: Tony Jefferson played like a warrior at free safety, finishing with a career-high 14 tackles. And he did it on a bum ankle. Jefferson was quick to anticipate Kansas State's quarterback run game, and helped keep Collin Klein at bay for most of the game.
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While the Kansas State linebacker took care of his business there, a "K-S-U" chant echoed through Norman after Bill Snyder's Wildcats finished making history. Walker was climbing to get off the field, but the rest of his team never wanted to leave after Kansas State's 24-19 victory over Oklahoma. Coaches and players hugged and high-fived.
Kansas State and Oklahoma players both had glassy eyes, for very different reasons.
"I mean, I was shocked," defensive end Adam Davis said.
Sure, the Kansas State faithful knew they could win. But that they would? History shot disapproving glances the way of anyone who believed otherwise.
Oklahoma was a perfect 14-0 versus ranked teams at home under Bob Stoops, dispatching opponents by an average of 28.2 points dating all the way back to 1999. The Wildcats hadn't beaten the seven-time Big 12 champs in the regular season since 1997.
Those stats, though, hadn't reached Davis. And he was still shocked. So were the raucous 85,276 Sooners fans in attendance who provided the best Big 12 atmosphere to date.
"It feels like you're on top of the world," Davis said of the postgame party on the field.
The big names on Saturday will attract plenty of attention. Landry Jones' shortcomings. Collin Klein's toughness and passing prowess, highlighted by a 12-yard completion on third-and-11 to Tramaine Thompson that all but iced the game in the final minutes.
Snyder, ever the exploiter of weaknesses, saw a big one in Jones that plenty of others saw, too.
Asked if Jones was "spooked," Davis replied: "I noticed it in the first half. When we'd get upfield, he'd start jabbing his feet real quick and moving. That let us know that he don't like nobody in his blind side, and we tried to attack it all night."
The Wildcats succeeded. They flushed Jones from the pocket in the first quarter and linebacker Justin Tuggle, playing defensive end on that particular play as part of a specialized package, caught Jones from behind and stripped the ball. Jarell Childs scooped it up just a yard in front of the goal line and scored.
Kansas State's defense believed.
"What we did all week was worked on trying to flush him out of the pocket, because we know he ain't good with pressure," Davis said. "If we get to his blind side, he's going to get jittery and try to move out the pocket and scoot up and stuff. We tried to get our D-tackles to cause pressure on the edge and try to get him."
The Wildcats notched two sacks, but the constant pressure had Jones looking mediocre for most of the night. His second turnover came when tackle Vai Lutui lunged at Jones from his knees. Jones threw off his back foot and promptly sailed a probable completion into the waiting arms of Kansas State safety Ty Zimmerman.
"It was a little bit of a struggle offensively. ... Our defense, I think, created the turnovers that took place, by and large," Snyder said. "I thought they did a heck of a job."
Snyder was a cool customer holding a hot cup of coffee with cream and sugar, taking sips while he answered questions after the victory in his Cotton Bowl windbreaker on a brisk fall night in Oklahoma. At one point during the conference, a cricket flew in and landed an inch from Snyder's left eye. He broke an answer for only a moment to swat away the pest.
Nothing could get to the unflappable SnyderCats on this night.
"When you play somebody as good as an Oklahoma team, it really does mean something special to them, and they feel good about it," Snyder said.
Snyder's demeanor wouldn't have been much different if the 14-point underdogs had gotten waxed by 30, like so many teams at Owen Field before them. Still, his message to the team remained consistent.
"He said he was very proud of us," Davis said with a grin.
Expecting maybe something a little more dramatic?
"Yes, we were, but you never really know what to expect," Davis said.
Well, that just wouldn't be very Snyder. Saturday's win, though? Doing what no team had ever done before and getting outgained in total yardage while doing it?
Could anybody else but Snyder do that?
And when the No. 6-ranked Sooners look back on their first home loss against a ranked team under head coach Bob Stoops, they can look closely at their inability to get key defensive stops when they needed them.
“We kind of broke down a little bit in the fourth quarter,” defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. “We fought ourselves through the game, but we just got outexecuted in the fourth quarter and that was really the game.”
The Wildcats were 3 of 3 on third down in the fourth quarter, taking advantage of the Sooners defense in various ways to complete critical conversions.
Kansas State did it again. Powered by an impressive fourth quarter from quarterback Collin Klein and 130 rushing yards and a touchdown from John Hubert, the No. 15 Wildcats escaped with a stunning 24-19 victory against No. 6 Oklahoma in Norman, Okla.
It was over when: On third-and-3 with 1:59 left in the game and both teams out of timeouts, Klein plowed left on a keeper and picked up five yards for the game-clinching first down. The Wildcats held on to the ball for the game’s final four minutes and ended in the victory formation after their second third-down conversion of the drive.
Game ball goes to: Collin Klein. He threw for only 42 yards in the first half, but he saved his best stuff for the final quarter, throwing for 72 yards on 4-of-5 passing. Klein paced the Wildcat attack with 79 rushing yards and, most importantly, he didn’t turn the ball over once.
Stat of the game: Three Oklahoma turnovers were the difference-maker in the end and doomed an inconsistent Sooner offense. A Landry Jones fumble became a Kansas State touchdown, a Blake Bell fumbled snap at the goal line cost OU a crucial score and Jones’ interception late in the third quarter set up another Wildcats touchdown.
What Oklahoma learned: The Sooners are still very much a work in progress. OU couldn’t make up for a shaky night from Jones, and its run game (27 carries, 88 yards) didn’t provide much help. With Texas Tech and Texas up next, Oklahoma needs to get its act together quickly.
What Kansas State learned: Just as they did last year, the Wildcats proved they can hang with the big boys in the Big 12. The close-game magic that carried KSU to 10 wins in 2011 isn’t gone, that’s for sure. The Wildcats can make their case for being the conference’s top team in three weeks at West Virginia.
Stat of the half: The Sooners entered the weekend having scored touchdowns on all 10 of their red-zone possessions. Tonight, they have scored just six points on three red-zone chances.
Player of the half: Kansas State linebacker Justin Tuggle has only one tackle, but it was a huge one. Deep in OU territory, Tuggle sacked Sooners quarterback Landry Jones and stripped the ball, which was recovered by K-State’s Jarrell Childs in the end zone for the only touchdown of the first half.
What’s working for the Sooners: Spearheaded by free safety Tony Jefferson, who already has 11 tackles, the Sooners have kept quarterback Collin Klein at bay. The K-State offense has only one field goal, and no pass play longer than 12 yards.
What’s not working for the Sooners: The Sooners have moved the ball, but have been unable to capitalize in the red zone. Jones overthrew a wide-open Brannon Green off play-action on OU’s opening possession, forcing the Sooners to settle for a field goal. Then backup quarterback Blake Bell fumbled out of the Belldozer package inside the K-State 5-yard line.
What OU needs to do to come back: If the Sooners can take care of the ball, and take advantage of their opportunities in the red zone, they should be fine. The defense is playing well, and the Sooners are getting sparks at receiver from Sterling Shepard and Roy Finch.