Commentary

Cowboys hold key to Bedlam

In a hyped offensive affair, Oklahoma State's edge over the Sooners comes on defense

Updated: November 28, 2011, 12:44 PM ET
By Brian Fremeau | Football Outsiders
 Brandon WeedenBrett Davis/US PresswireBrandon Weeden leads the Cowboys' offense, but it's the defense that could beat the Sooners.

When the Oklahoma Sooners and Oklahoma State Cowboys get together this Saturday, the scoreboard operator is expected to be very active. The Cowboys (563 yards per game) and Sooners (548 ypg) each rank in the top four nationally in total offense, and they're putting up more than 40 points per game apiece, too. Last year when they got together for Bedlam, a total of 88 points were rung up on the board, 40 points in the fourth quarter alone in a wild 47-41 Oklahoma victory. Are we in store for another high-scoring thriller this weekend?

Not so fast. While the offenses on both sides of the field are capable of explosive production, it's the defenses that will finally have their day in the spotlight, too. No one is paying much attention to the non-offensive side of the ball since conventional stats don't rank the Oklahoma or Oklahoma State defenses very highly.

But our Football Outsiders metrics indicate that when we adjust for situation and opponent, both defenses are every bit as strong as the offenses. In Oklahoma State's case, conventional wisdom is way off. The Cowboys have one of the most underrated defenses in the nation, and if they are able to win this weekend, it will be that side of the ball that deserves the credit.

One of the biggest reasons Oklahoma State's defense is rated much more highly in our system is due to our discarding of garbage time stats from the equation. In our drive-based FEI ratings, we include data on drives during only the competitive portion of the game, and for the Cowboys, the difference in opponent production before and after the game is out of hand is significant.


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Brian Fremeau

ESPN Insider
• Has been a contributor to ESPN Insider and ESPN The Magazine since 2009
• Creator of the Fremeau Efficiency Index (FEI), a measure of college football team efficiency
• Contributor to Football Outsiders and his own site, bcftoys.com