The offseason is a good time to step back and take a look at the bigger picture.
Which Big 12 teams are efficient on offense and defense, excel on third down and consistently create turnovers? Those are just a few of the questions we’ll aim to answer during this weekly offseason series. In this series, we’re looking to expose the programs that build themselves upon certain long-term traits as opposed to riding one or two elite players to short-term excellence.
Today, we continue the series by looking at which offenses maximize their trips to the red zone by looking at red-zone efficiency, which is the percentage of red-zone trips that result in touchdowns. (All stats are in Big 12 games since TCU and West Virginia joined the conference in 2012, via ESPN Stats & Information.)
1. Kansas State, 67.3: The Wildcats' spot atop this list was spurred by terrific quarterback play in the red zone. The Wildcats’ 79.6 QBR in the red zone was the best in the Big 12 during this span thanks to Collin Klein (81) and Jake Waters (60.3), and 25 percent of its red-zone carries resulted in touchdowns, which led the Big 12. K-State's trademark offensive efficiency translates into the red zone with relative ease.
2. Baylor, 64.8: The Bears 534 total red-zone plays during the span was the highest in the conference. Baylor’s 125 red-zone touchdowns and 97 red-zone rushing touchdowns led the Big 12 and its 28 passing touchdowns was seventh. As Baylor’s offense rebuilds the offensive line, the Bears could be forced to turn to the pass more in the red zone this fall.
3. Oklahoma, 64.6: The Sooners’ 3.16 yards per carry in the red zone was the best in the Big 12 as they continued to have ground-game success even as they closed in on a score. Oklahoma’s first season under Lincoln Riley wasn’t outstanding, with the Sooners ranking fifth in the Big 12 with a 67.3 red-zone efficiency percentage in a league-high 49 trips inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. Oklahoma could improve in this area in 2016 with a full year in Riley's offense and an expanded role for tight end Mark Andrews.
4. Oklahoma State, 63.9: Only Baylor (2.6) took better care of the football in the red zone with the Cowboys' 3.2 red-zone turnover percentage ranking second in the Big 12. The Cowboys aren’t outstanding with their red-zone passing or rushing, but rank in the top third of the conference in many red-zone categories. The inability to run the ball makes it hard to expect Oklahoma State to improve this percentage, but Mason Rudolph's 91.6 red-zone QBR was second only to Oklahoma's Landry Jones during this span, and that should give the Pokes plenty of hope.
5. Iowa State, 63.8: The Cyclones led the Big 12 in yards per play in the red zone at 3.58, but Iowa State has run just 317 red-zone plays during this span. Iowa State’s 7.6 red-zone turnover percentage goes a long way in explaining why they barely sit in the top half of this list despite having success moving the football. New head coach Matt Campbell and running back Mike Warren could help Iowa State rise on this list in 2016.
6. Texas Tech, 61.7: The Red Raiders' 3.52 yards per red-zone play is second only to Iowa State, but its struggles to run the ball (2.49 yards per carry) hamper its touchdown efforts. Texas Tech also threw seven red-zone interceptions during this span, worst in the league. Patrick Mahomes, who has a 71 red-zone QBR, brings hope for the fall with his ability to ad lib in clutch situations.
7. Texas, 60.6: Only Kansas struggled to move the ball in the red zone more than Texas. The Longhorns 2.99 yards per play in the red zone was ninth and its 3.32 yards per red-zone pass attempt was last in the Big 12. Things haven’t improved much under Charlie Strong during the past two seasons, with the Longhorns remaining in the bottom third of the conference in both categories. New offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert will be counted on to transform the Longhorns' fortunes in this area and has the horses to do it with several talented running backs on the roster.
8. West Virginia, 57.4: The Mountaineers' inability to convert on third down has been at the heart of the problem. West Virginia’s 35.3 red-zone third-down percentage was worst in the conference. Poor quarterback play has been a major issue as well, with a 39.4 red-zone QBR during this span. Skyler Howard's 25.2 red-zone QBR must improve for West Virginia's offense to reach a different level in 2016.
9. TCU, 56.1: Turnovers are a major problem for TCU with 10 red-zone turnovers, which ranks ninth in the Big 12. However, things have improved slightly under offensive coordinators Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie as the Horned Frogs have a 58.8 red-zone efficiency during the past two seasons.
10. Kansas, 45.2: The Jayhawks' yards per play (2.68) and yards per carry (1.96) in the red zone are the worst in the Big 12 and Baylor ran more than double the number of red-zone plays than the Jayhawks’ 247. Kansas did improve in David Beaty’s first season, however, jumping from last to ninth with a 52.9 red-zone efficiency percentage in 2015. As Beaty takes over play-calling duties, it will be interesting to see if Kansas can improve even more.