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Taking A Hard Look At The Oklahoma Sooners' Offense

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NORMAN, Oklahoma -

I am a firm believer in statistics not telling the whole story when it comes to the game of football. However, there are times when the numbers do not lie.

One of those times is the current state of the Oklahoma Sooners offense. Now, there are going to be a lot of numbers thrown out here, but bear with it. It will all make sense in the end.

In 2008, the Sooners switched to a hurry-up, no-huddle style offense. The Sooners had no shortage of offensive success to that point in the Bob Stoops era, but this change in offensive ideals took that success to another level.

That season, the Sooners had sophomore quarterback Sam Bradford distributing the ball to a loaded arsenal of weapons, including Demarco Murray and Chris Brown in the backfield, and Juaquin Iglesias, Manny Johnson, Ryan Broyles, and Jermaine Gresham on the outside.

They scored seemingly at will, without exerting much apparent effort, and at a pace so fast, it was almost impossible to comprehend.

Now, that same offensive scheme, with new personnel, and in a new year, is struggling to function with the same efficiency that the 2008 unit did. The past three years haven't been to the level of the 2008 unit either, but each of those groups a lot better than the 2012 offense has been.

To isolate some of the problems the 2012 offense is facing, let's first take a lot at the numbers from the 2008 offense.

The Sooners averaged a solid 4.7 yards per rush, 9.5 yards per pass attempt, and 14 yards per completion. Overall, the offense averaged 6.9 yards per play for the 79 plays per game they ran.

As far as the speed of the offense, the Sooners averaged 6.72 plays on their 104 offensive scoring drives in 2008. Like any team, the Sooners got better throughout the year, ripping off an incredible four-game stretch where they averaged less than six plays per drive.

Not coincidentally, the stretch coincided with the Sooners record-setting run of five consecutive games of 60 or more points. The first three games of that stretch were the last three of the run of averaging less than six plays per drive.

The most plays the Sooners averaged in a drive were 9.1 against Missouri in the Big 12 championship game. Incredibly, the Sooners ran 94 plays and scored on 10 of the 11 times they had the ball.

Not only was the scoring prolific, but the Sooners had a lot of big plays throughout the year as well. The Sooners had 85 runs of 10 yards or longer, or 14.4 percent of their rushing attempts in 2008. Throwing the football, OU had 185 completions of 10 yards or more, 35.8 percent of pass attempts in 2008.

Conversely, the 2012 offense is averaging 6.1 yards per rush, 7.4 yards per attempt, and 11.6 yards per completion. The Sooners are only averaging 72 plays per game and 6.8 yards per play.

OU is averaging 7.77 plays per drive on their 18 scoring drives this season. Big rushing plays are a bit more prevalent, although inflated thanks to the Sooners' victory over Florida A&M, with 25 plays going for 10 yards or more. However, big plays down the field are not showing up quite as much in the stat sheet. The Sooners have 39 passing plays of 10+ yards, 34.8 percent of passes.

Now, the main difference is the speed with which the Sooners are scoring, and because of that difference, it appears the Sooners of 2012 are going much slower tempo-wise than the 2008 Sooners.

The fact is, they aren't. They just aren't scoring as fast because they aren't moving the ball down the field as fast. Where the 2008 Sooners could score a touchdown in six plays, the 2012 Sooners are taking 10 or 11 plays to score.

Another stat: The 2008 Sooners had two 1,000 yard rushers, and a quarterback that threw for over 4,700 yards and won the Heisman Trophy. Most of the time, the run opens up the passing options with play-action passes down the field. However, in 2008, it was more of the pass setting up the run. Of the 185 completions of 10 or more yards, almost 40 percent, 72 completions, came on first down.

This season, it appears the Sooners are doing the opposite, using the run to set up the pass. 17 of the 39 10+ yard completions, 44 percent, have come on second down instead of first down. It's not like the Sooners are throwing away a down, but they aren't always making the best call in order to push an up-tempo attack.

A failed run or short gain slows the speed of the drive, where as a pass downfield goes along with the natural motion of an offense moving down the field.

Simply put, the OU offense isn't being efficient in trying to maintain a fast-paced offensive assault. If the Sooners had a more reliable, consistent rushing attack, it may be a different story, but at this point in time, the Sooners should be taking a page out of the 2008 offense's playbook, using the pass to set up the run, and therefore, making the offense more efficient and potent.

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