Revisited: How Bob Stoops Cracked the BCS Code and Seized the Heisman

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Revisited: How Bob Stoops Cracked the BCS Code and Seized the Heisman

(This is a reprint of an article originally written on Dec. 14, 2008, shortly after Sam Bradford won the Heisman)

Dec. 14, 2008—

First off, kudos to Oklahoma's Sam Bradford for having a great season and for winning the Heisman. 

However, this article isn't about Bradford, McCoy, Harrell, or Tebow. 

This article is about their coaches and the evolution of their offensive systems and its impact on college football.

Most would consider Oklahoma's point production this year as unreal. The Sooners averaged 54 points per game and broke the NCAA record for most points scored in a season. 

Certainly, the Sooner offense is potent and stocked with weapons. However, let's take a closer look.

Oklahoma runs a hurry-up or fast-tempo spread offense. Other schools, such as Texas Tech, Kansas, Nebraska, San Diego State, Arizona, and Houston run or try to run a similar offense. 

Interestingly, all of the head coaches for these teams were at one time assistants to Bob Stoops of Oklahoma.

A fast-tempo offense keeps the defense off-balance and is usually more fun for the players on offense. What it also does is increase the number of plays over the course of a game.

For example, OU averages 79 offensive plays per game. In contrast, the Florida Gators average only 61 offensive plays per game. That is a difference of 18 plays, or 30 percent each game. 

Despite this difference, both teams average about 29:44 in time of possession. The average Sooner play takes six seconds less than the average Gator play on offense.

If Florida also ran this "speed-spread" offense, their scoring average would be 58 points per game, besting the Sooner's record-breaking pace this year.

Every system has loopholes and can be "gamed" or exploited.

Stoops and his disciples have cracked the BCS code by using high-tempo offenses. Even in the fourth quarter of blowout games, Stoops continued to run this offense deliberately, most notably in the Big 12 championship game, to run up the score beyond 60 points.

Points are sexy, and it sells the voters.

Well, it worked. His team is in the BCS championship game, and his QB has won the Heisman.

Voters and computers alike have been in awe of these unreal, inflated offensive numbers, while ignoring the inflation on the defensive side of the ball.

However, in the end, does this system work? The Sooners are 0-4 in their past four BCS bowl games. Texas, which does not run as high a tempo offense as OU, soundly beat the Sooners by 10 on a neutral field and controlled the clock effectively in their fourth quarter come from behind win.

Only time will tell, but my feeling is that the college football world has been deceived by Stoops and his tempo spread offense. 

Some would say this is genius, others a travesty. 

I'll let you decide.


UPDATE: Jan. 8, 2009

During the BCS Championship game, Florida held Oklahoma to only 14 total points, winning the game 24-14 and slowing down the record-breaking OU offense, proving yet again that defense wins championships. 

OU gave a valiant effort, but as the players themselves mentioned, they just didn't make enough plays at the end. 

Coach Bob Stoops is now 0-5 over the last five BCS games.  Next year, Stoops and his disciples will most likely continue to run the hurry-up spread, posting inconceivable offensive numbers, and again the voters will likely be entranced by the seemingly magical numbers against defenses that some call a joke.

I hope that the results of the championship game and other bowl games make the voters, pollsters, players, and fans take a closer look and not only focus on offensive production, but the value of defenses as well.  Otherwise, the BCS controversy will rage on until a playoff system evolves, which might never happen.

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