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Examining Oklahoma's vulnerability against TCU

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OU visits TCU on Saturday in what will be the Sooners most difficult road game this season. This post will use drive-based analysis to examine the four most recent games played between the Sooners and Horned Frogs to determine what type of game to expect this weekend.

Oklahoma's conference schedule provides the Sooners with a clear path to the playoff with games in Norman against Kansas State (10.18.14), Baylor (11.18.14), and Oklahoma State (12.6.14). UT's transition under Charlie Strong and the loss of David Ash will make it next to impossible for the Longhorns to win the Red River Rivalry. (Excuse me, it's apparently now AT&T's Red River Showdown.) After winning in Morgantown, Oklahoma's most dangerous remaining road opponent is clearly TCU.

The Horned Frogs won two games comfortably against a mediocre Minnesota team and a stunningly anemic SMU squad. In those games, TCU averaged 3.71 points per ten drive and allowed no points on 14 statistically significant defensive drives. Only two of those defensive drives ended inside the Horned Frogs' 40 yard-line.

TCU entered the Big 12 in 2012, and three notable things occurred during the Horned Frogs' first two seasons:

  • TCU's offense had more issues adjusting to the Big 12 defenses than vice versa. This will surprise those who use broad generalizations to classify conferences and consequently view the Big 12 as a league with optional defense. TCU finished 9th in offensive touchdown percentage in 2012 and 8th in offensive touchdown percentage in 2013.
  • The Horned Frogs struggles at Amon G. Carter Stadium since entering the Big 12 has been more noteworthy. TCU's one win against Kansas in 2012 represents the Horned Frogs lone win against a conference foe in Fort Worth.
  • TCU's expected winning percentage last season greatly exceeded their actual winning percentage. In football, the opponent for this calculation is 2.37. TCU went 3-8 last season against FBS opponents despite scoring 15.7 points per ten drives and allowing 16.1 points per ten drives. Their actual winning percentage was roughly 21 percentage points less than their expected percentage. This discrepancy was the largest in college football last season. This measurement does not explicitly gauge a team's ability to win close games, but team performance in this category is often the product of a team's ability to win close games and/or score non-offensive touchdowns. (Oklahoma finished first in this category last season.)

Oklahoma has been arguably the most impressive team in college football thus far. Some readers may think that it may be foolish to presume that TCU can defeat the Big 12's most impressive team with their struggles in recent seasons. Recent history suggests Oklahoma will be in for a fight on Saturday. Oklahoma has outscored TCU by an average of 5.7 points per ten drives in their four games since 2005. Here were the outcomes for each of those four games:

  • Oklahoma 20, TCU 17 (Norman)
  • Oklahoma 24, TCU 17 (Fort Worth)
  • Oklahoma 35, TCU 10 (Norman). Oklahoma slaughtered TCU in 2008, but the Sooner offense scored at least 30 points per ten drives in each game they played prior to their loss against Florida in the national title.
  • Oklahoma 10, TCU 17 (Norman)

TCU stunned Oklahoma in 2005 when they walked out of Norman with a win over Adrian Peterson and the Sooners. It must be pointed out that this was OU's first game in the post-Jason White era, and Peterson injured his ankle.

The graphs below chart how OU and TCU have fared against one another over the past decade. Here is an overview of these charts measure:

  • Starting Field Position
  • Yards per Play
  • Rushing Yards per Play
  • Passing Yards per Play
  • Yards Percentage {(Passing Yards + Rushing Yards) ÷ Available Yards}
  • Rushing Yards Percentage (Rushing Yards ÷ Available Yards)
  • Passing Yards Percentage (Passing Yards ÷ Available Yards)
  • Punt Percentage
  • Effective Turnover Percentage (Downs + Fumbles Lost + Interceptions + Safeties) / Drives
  • Touchdown Percentage
  • Efficiency (Points per Drive × 10)

Click here to view a more comprehensive glossary.

Please click on the charts below to enlarge each image:

Los_medium

Ou_yds_per_play_medium

Tcu_yds_per_play_medium

Ou_yds__medium

Tcu_yds__medium

Punt__medium

Eto__medium

Td__medium

Efficiency_medium

Oklahoma should be favored to win this game because the Sooners are more of a known quantity. The line on this game favors Oklahoma by 5 to 5.5 points, and that seems about right. Based on the quality of these teams's defenses and their past four games, the current over/under at 56.5 points looks way too high. With that being said, this prediction will likely look stupid by Saturday evening.

Here are a few other notes:

I wrote a few fan posts previously that included interactive Tableau data visualizations. The data in those posts have been updated. Click on the links below to access them:

  • Non-Conference Drive Stats (2009-2014)
  • Game Summaries for 2014. This visualization uses drive stats to illustrate how each team and conference performed in each game. For example, the SEC's three non-conference losses this season came when their offenses scored fewer than 20 points per ten drives. Also, it shows how efficiently Baylor scores and how inefficient Kansas has been.

Speaking of Kansas, I feel compelled to write about my alma mater's incompetent football program. Kansas is the smallest state with multiple BCS programs, and Bill Snyder owns Kansas. Kansas also cannot attract better players than Nebraska, Oklahoma, Missouri, and Oklahoma State. I would argue the biggest problem for this program will be establishing its offensive identity. Here's what I mean by that:

  • Kansas cannot recruit the personnel necessary to run a pro-style offense.
  • Running the triple-option in the Big 12 will make it impossible to come back on teams like Baylor and Oklahoma. It will allow them to be competitive with inferior talent by shortening games, but it will place a low ceiling on their success. (This may be the most viable option at this point because any success is desirable.)
  • On the other hand, KU cannot expect to outscore the elite spread offenses of their conference by implementing its own version of the Air Raid.

Consequently, count me among the Jayhawk faithful advocating for KU to hire Bob Stitt from the Colorado School of Mines. Bill C. advocates this strategy along with the guys at Rock Chalk Talk. KU needs an offensive coach with a history of building winners out of losers. The plate tectonics of conference realignment have not moved in a couple years, but there will inevitably be another expansion-induced earthquake. If the Jayhawks want to be on the right side of the cut line, they need to find a coach who can mold their program into something desirable.

That will be the last time I post about Kansas this season because the firing of Charlie Weis was the only interesting thing that will happen in Lawrence this season.

I plan to normally post on Tuesdays, but my lifelong allegiance to the Chiefs and Royals interfered with my ability to post earlier than Wednesday. For those interested in more drive-based analysis, please visit FBSDriveStats.com.