That Conference Sure Can _____ (Fun Stat Nerd Tidbit: Oklahoma)

NORMAN, OK - OCTOBER 18: Quarterback Sam Bradford #14 of the Oklahoma Sooners during play against the Kansas Jayhawks at Memorial Stadium on October 18, 2008 in Norman, Oklahoma. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

UPDATE: History, Celebration And The Oklahoma Sooners is now up at the mothership.

When the Sooners host Tulsa on September 3, they will do so as the No. 1 team in the country. It will be the 19th season since 1950 that they'll have played at last one game with the AP's top spot and the fifth in 12 years. The 2010 season may have just been good, but it's easy to see why pundits are beginning to think 2011 could be great. They will have go-to star power in quarterback Landry Jones, receiver Ryan Broyles and, when he returns from a broken foot, linebacker Travis Lewis. But the difference between good and great could be determined by how much Oklahoma improves in the trenches. The Sooners were manhandled down the stretch, on both sides of the ball, against both Missouri and Texas A&M; it was a jarring sight for those with recent memories of Gerald McCoy, Phil Loadholt, etc. It put the slightest damper on a 2010 campaign that did still see Oklahoma winning their fourth Big 12 title in five years and their first BCS bowl in six attempts.


Early in this long offseason, my friend Allen at Blatant Homerism recently made his 10 Bold Predictions for the Big 12 in 2011. No. 3 on the list: "Offenses will put up 2008-like numbers."

They're a far cry from Colt McCoy, Sam Bradford and Chase Daniel, but check out the returning starters at quarterback in the Big 12 this year:

Think about some of the firepower coming back at wide receiver:

Then, consider that defensive-minded Nebraska has left for the Big Ten.

Blast off.

For all we know at this stage, this could be 100% correct. But to get a read on the unlikely nature of that prediction, we need just to take a look at how good Big 12 offenses were in 2008. Here are the top ten Big 12 offenses of the last five years, according to Off. F/+:

1. 2008 Oklahoma (+21.5%, fifth overall)
2. 2008 Oklahoma State (+14.2%, 27th overall)
3. 2008 Texas (+13.4%, 34th overall)
4. 2007 Missouri (+13.0%, 36th overall)
5. 2007 Oklahoma State (+12.7%, 39th overall)
6. 2008 Texas Tech (+12.7%, 43rd overall)
7. 2007 Texas Tech (+12.3%, 46th overall)
8. 2010 Oklahoma State (+11.2%, 14th overall)
9. 2008 Missouri (+10.9%, 56th overall)
10. 2010 Oklahoma (+9.8%, 69th overall)

Of the 60 Big 12 offenses that have taken the field in the last five seasons, the top three (and five of the top nine) played in 2008. Three others played in 2007. The Big 12 was on the forefront when it came to adopting, and succeeding with, the spread, and I'm not sure the conference can see similar success without a similar level of innovation. (And considering all five of the 2008 teams on the list above now have different offensive coordinators, innovation will be that much more difficult.)

Thinking about this got me a bit curious: what have been the best conferences in a given aspect of the game?

Let's have some fun with some averages. And yes, all relevant disclaimers apply: 1) We should maybe only be looking at the top half of the conference if we're wanting to gauge dominance (but that was going to take quite a while to set up), 2) Averages are only so descriptive, etc. This is just for fun, so I wasn't worrying too much.

Top Ten Conferences According to Average Off. F/+ (2006-10)
1. 2009 SEC (Avg. F/+: +6.2%)
2. 2008 Big 12 (+5.8%)
3. 2009 ACC (+5.8%)
4. 2007 SEC (+5.6%)
5. 2009 SEC (+5.6%)
6. 2006 SEC (+5.2%)
7. 2007 Pac-10 (+5.1%)
8. 2006 Big East (+4.9%)
9. 2010 Big Ten (+3.8%)
10. 2010 Pac-10 (+3.7%)

So the 2008 Big 12 is nudged out for the top spot here. Using only the top half of each conference, the Big 12 gets the nod -- an average of +13.4% compared to 2009 SEC's +11.1% -- but poor, dreadful Colorado and their -12.4% Off. F/+ ruined the Big 12's party. (The worst offense from the 2009 SEC: Vanderbilt and their -10.1%.) Still: good offenses here.

Top Five Conferences According to Off. Rushing S&P+ Rk (2005-10)
1. 2005 Big Ten (Avg. Rk.: 32nd)
2. 2007 Pac-10 (32nd)
3. 2006 Big Ten (36th)
4. 2008 Big East (37th)
5. 2009 SEC (39th)

Top Five Conferences According to Off. Passing S&P+ Rk (2005-10)
1. 2006 Big East (Avg. Rk.: 32nd)
2. 2009 SEC (36th)
3. 2006 SEC (37th)
4. 2010 SEC (38th)
5. 2008 Big 12 (41st)

The 2009 SEC definitely won the "more balanced" prize. Oh yeah, and...

Top Ten Conferences According to Average Def. F/+ (2006-10)
1. 2009 SEC (Avg. F/+: +7.6%)
2. 2007 Pac-10 (+7.0%)
3. 2006 SEC (+6.4%)
4. 2008 SEC (+6.1%)
5. 2006 Big East (+6.1%)
6. 2010 SEC (+5.8%)
7. 2007 SEC (+5.6%)
8. 2006 ACC (+5.1%)
9. 2008 ACC (+5.0%)
10. 2009 Big Ten (+4.8%)

...the SEC wins the defensive prize too. But we probably already knew that.

Top Five Conferences According to Def. Rushing S&P+ Rk (2005-10)
1. 2007 Pac-10 (Avg. Rk.: 33rd)
2. 2009 SEC (34th)
3. 2005 Big 12 (34th)
4. 2010 SEC (37th)
5. 2008 SEC (37th)

Top Five Conferences According to Def. Passing S&P+ Rk (2005-10)
1. 2009 SEC (Avg. Rk.: 33rd)
2. 2010 SEC (33rd)
3. 2006 Pac-10 (35th)
4. 2007 SEC (36th)
5. 2006 Big East (36th)
10. 2008 Big 12 (41st)

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