True Offensive Balance (Fun Stat Nerd Tidbit: Oklahoma State)

UPDATE: The Oklahoma State piece is up at SBN.

Oklahoma State has finished 16th or better in Off. F/+ in four of five seasons. They ranked seventh in 2010, posting a rare balance -- 16th in Rushing S&P+, eighth in Passing S&P+ -- and nearly unmatched efficiency. And in 2011, almost everybody returns on the offensive side of the ball. The main departure actually happened in the booth, where Holgorsen departed to become head-coach-in-waiting, then head coach, at West Virginia. If new offensive coordinator Todd Monken maintains an approximate level of dialed-in play-calling, and if Oklahoma State isn't struck by the injury bug the same way Holgorsen's last abandoned team was, then the Cowboys could continue building toward becoming the Oregon of the Midwest, the historically decent program looking to take a step up to the elite level on the coattails and coffers of an aggressive, ambitious donor (for Oregon, Phil Knight; for Oklahoma State, T. Boone Pickens). They would, however, probably prefer to do so without drawing the negative attention Oregon has recently drawn; been there, done that.

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Balance is incredibly important in college football, but not in the way we're always told. "They averaged 170 yards rushing and 170 yards passing per game; they were very balanced!" Really, balance has nothing to do with the yards you gain and everything to do with the threat you can present. It doesn't matter whether you gain the exact same number of yards rushing and passing -- it just matters that you can both run and pass at a high level.

Of course, Oklahoma State has managed to fulfill both definitions in recent years. Their per-game yardage balance has been downright spooky at times -- they averaged 243 yards rushing and 243 yards passing in 2007, 246 and 242 in 2008 -- but more importantly, the Cowboys have simply proven that they can both run and pass at some of the highest levels in the country. And in the end, this kind of balance leads to wins, plan and simple.

Last year, Oklahoma State's per-game yardage was off-balance -- 174 rushing, 346 passing -- but they were more than capable on the ground, and that was what counted. They ranked 16th in Rushing S&P+ and eighth in Passing S&P+; on average, about eight teams per season rank in the Top 16 in both categories, and guess what: those teams win. A lot.

Of the 49 teams who have managed Top 16 rankings in both Rushing and Passing S&P+ in the last six seasons, 39 have won at least nine games in a season, 42 have won at least eight, and only three have not finished with winning records. If you play at this high a caliber both on the ground and in the air, you are going to win games no matter how poor your defense is. Unless your defensive coordinator is Greg Robinson or Kevin Cosgrove, anyway.

Oklahoma State has found incredible balance in four of the past five seasons, and though it has taken the defense a bit of time to catch up, the Cowboy Machine is clicking at quite a high level right now.

Year Team Rushing
S&P+ Rk
Passing
S&P+ Rk
Record
2005 Texas 1 2 13-0
2005 USC 2 4 12-1
2005 West Virginia 16 13 11-1
2005 Virginia Tech 11 9 11-2
2005 Louisville 4 1 9-3
2005 Auburn 10 10 9-3
2005 Clemson 9 15 8-4
2005 Minnesota 12 3 7-5
2006 Louisville 4 1 12-1
2006 Ohio State 5 3 12-1
2006 West Virginia 1 7 11-2
2006 BYU 8 2 11-2
2006 LSU 16 5 11-2
2006 Hawaii 2 6 11-3
2006 Notre Dame 13 13 10-3
2006 Oklahoma State 15 16 7-6
2006 Minnesota 12 12 6-7
2007 LSU 6 14 12-2
2007 West Virginia 3 12 11-2
2007 Florida 2 1 9-4
2007 Navy 13 6 8-5
2007 Oklahoma State 9 3 7-6
2007 Nebraska 15 9 5-7
2008 Florida 1 2 13-1
2008 USC 7 3 12-1
2008 Oklahoma 6 1 12-2
2008 Penn State 2 5 11-2
2008 Ohio State 12 15 10-3
2008 Oklahoma State 11 9 9-4
2008 Stanford 8 14 5-7
2009 Texas 15 11 13-1
2009 Cincinnati 3 7 12-1
2009 TCU 13 4 12-1
2009 Penn State 12 13 11-2
2009 Georgia Tech 4 14 11-3
2009 Virginia Tech 6 5 10-3
2009 Wisconsin 16 12 10-3
2009 Miami-FL 9 15 9-4
2009 Stanford 7 10 8-5
2010 Auburn 1 1 14-0
2010 Nevada 8 12 13-1
2010 Ohio State 9 16 12-1
2010 Wisconsin 4 14 11-2
2010 Oklahoma State 16 8 11-2
2010 Virginia Tech 12 10 11-3
2010 Alabama 3 4 10-3
2010 Arkansas 11 6 10-3
2010 Florida State 5 11 10-4
2010 Michigan 2 5 7-6

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