When a student scores a 97 on a test that the rest of the class bombs we call it “breaking the curve;” when a college football offense racks up 500-plus yards per game while the rest of the field averages fewer than 400 we call it “breaking the stat sheet.”
The reality is there are at least a handful of current college football programs which produce enough yards and points to make statistical comparisons with the rest of the pack useless.
These select teams are offensive curve breakers and they make the process of religiously scanning numbers for some sort of hidden meaning or predictive powers irrelevant.
To illustrate this phenomenon, let’s look at five programs which have recently piled on the yards and points in the same prolific fashion that the guy on Man vs. Food has consumed gross amounts of fat and calories.
The Cowboys haven’t finished out of the top five nationally in either total yards or point scored since 2009, making them one of the most fertile offensive producers over the last three seasons.
Oklahoma State has averaged over 500 yards of offense and 45 points per game since 2010, and though it’s largely been achieved through the air (the Cowboys have ranked in the top five in passing yards the past three years), don’t forget that the ‘Pokes stormed to a No. 21 ranking in rushing in 2012.
In case you’re wondering where all the wild yardage totals have gotten the Cowboys, they are 31-8 since 2010 including a Big 12 South division title in 2010 and a Big 12 league crown and BCS berth in 2011.
All this is even more fascinating when you throw in the fact that, on average, the Cowboys have ranked No. 62 in scoring defense over the same time period.
A program which has used a fruitful offensive system to engineer a launch back onto the national radar, Baylor has been mega productive since 2010 and almost unstoppable since 2011.
In both 2011 and 2012 the Bears managed back-to-back No. 2 national rankings in total yards and consecutive No. 4 honors in points scored netting Baylor, on average, 580 yards and 45 points per game over the past two seasons.
As far as how they’ve managed to rack up the yards and points, it may be at least marginally surprising to find out that the Bears are one of the most balanced attacks in the conversation.
To illustrate, Baylor earned No. 4 rankings in passing yards in both 2011 and 2012 and finished ranked No. 14 and No. 10 respectively in rushing yards over the same time period.
What has hindered Baylor in the win/loss column (the Bears are 18-8 since 2011) is the fact that its defense has allowed a generous 37 points and 494 yards per game over the past two seasons making it one of the worst units in the FBS.
Another program that has lit up the scoreboard over the last two seasons, West Virginia has been ultra-explosive offensively since Mike Leach protégé Dana Holgorsen took over the reins in 2011.
The Mountaineers have finished the last two seasons ranked in the top 15 nationally in scoring and total yards giving West Virginia fans, on average, 39 points and 485 yards per game to cheer about.
The spread that butters West Virginia’s bread has been the passing attack, a weapon which has earned the Mountaineers top 10 honors in aerial yardage rankings in both 2011 and 2012.
What’s unfortunate for West Virginia is that despite its speed and ability to score it’s only 17-9 since 2011 including a disastrous 7-6 campaign in 2012.
Like Baylor, this deficiency in the win column can be explained away by a defense that gave up an average of 38.1 points and 472 yards per game last season.
Though you might expect to see Texas Tech as the fourth of the five total squads on our list of prolific offensive systems from the Big 12, don’t forget about Oklahoma who has basically out Tech'ed Tech over the past three seasons.
Indeed, and coming somewhat as a surprise, the Sooners have out gained the Red Raiders since 2010 in points scored, total offense and even, OMG, passing yards.
Oklahoma hasn’t finished out of the top 15 nationally in total yards and scoring in the past three seasons and on top of that the Sooners haven’t closed out a year out of the top five in passing yards since 2010.
This means that Oklahoma has racked up, on average, 38.3 points and 497 yards per game over the last three years giving it one of the most consistently fruitful offenses in all the FBS.
Though the Sooners 32-8 mark in three years is disappointing by Oklahoma standards, it looks pretty darn good considering a slipping defense that has allowed an average of 380 yards per game since 2010.
Not only is Oregon the only non-Big 12 squad on our list, it’s also the only program that has gotten it done, for the long haul, with the run versus the pass.
Indeed, did you know that the Ducks have managed to earn a No. 3 average national ranking in total yards since 2010 and a No. 2 rank in points by virtue of speedy running as opposed to fertile pass flinging?
Really, it seems almost like an impossible scenario given today’s high-flying college football culture.
In terms of how effective Oregon has been in rushing, how about a No. 4 average ranking since 2010, a mark that puts the Ducks behind only Georgia Tech, Air Force and Army, all prolific option teams?
Yes, primarily via its ground strikes, Oregon has managed to score 49 points and earn 533 yards per game during the past three seasons.
The other significant difference between the Ducks and the quartet of Big 12 teams on our list is the fact that Oregon is 36-4 since 2010, a number that includes two Pac-12 crowns, a BCS title game appearance and three consecutive BCS berths.
Despite the headlines that try to convince us that we’re in the era of obnoxious passing totals heralding win after glorious win, the case of Oregon’s wild offensive stats serve to remind us that college football is still a game that is won on the ground.
Indeed, it’s a game won by teams that can still run the ball effectively and by squads that, at the very least, can manage to hold opposing offenses to fewer than 25 points per game.
If you disagree with this line of thought consider the following stat, a number that is oh so relevant especially in a sport saturated with offensive coverage as opposed to defensive celebration.
The only squad to finish in the top 10 national rankings in total offense and win the national championship since 2007 is Auburn.
The other six winners, LSU, Florida and Alabama (three times), on average, ranked No. 24 in total offense at the end of the season when they won the big, cheesy enchilada.