Why the Big 12 Could Soon Be Replaced as College Football's Offensive Juggernaut

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Why the Big 12 Could Soon Be Replaced as College Football's Offensive Juggernaut
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The Big 12 wasn't recognizable last year. 

Forget for a moment that there were no elite teams—Baylor and Oklahoma came closest to that label—or that, with only six bowl-eligible teams, overall depth was lacking.

Rather, the Big 12 wasn't the offensive juggernaut that fans had come to know in recent years. Beyond Baylor, which had the No. 1 scoring offense in the country, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech, no other Big 12 teams finished in the top 25 in that category. 

Not coincidentally, nine of the conference's 10 teams—Baylor being the exclusion—played multiple quarterbacks extensively during the season. Getting into a rhythm on offense was a chore for most Big 12 teams. 

Still, when looking at offenses over the last four seasons, the Big 12 remains the most prolific of any of the major conferences. According to the website College Football Statistics, no other major conference has had more teams finish with a top-25 scoring offense in a single year than the Big 12 (seven in 2012). 

Top 25 Scoring Offenses among Power 5 Conferences (2010-14)
Conference 2010 2011 2012 2013 Total
ACC 1 2 3 2 8
Big 12 4 5 7 3 19
Big Ten 3 1 1 2 7
Pac-12 2 4 3 4 13
SEC 3 3 4 6 16

CFBstats.com

Top 25 Scoring Defenses among Power 5 Conferences (2010-14)
Conference 2010 2011 2012 2013 Total
ACC 3 3 1 3 10
Big 12 2 0 0 2 4
Big Ten 3 5 4 4 16
Pac-12 2 1 3 3 9
SEC 3 6 6 4 19

CFBStats.com

Difference (2010-14)
Conference Total Scoring Offenses Total Scoring Defenses Difference
ACC 8 10 -2
Big 12 19 4 +15
Big Ten 7 16 -9
Pac-12 13 9 +4
SEC 16 19 -3

CFBStats.com

Similarly, no other power conference has had more teams finish in the top 25 of total offense in a single year (seven in 2012). The Big 12 has had more top-25 passers over the past four years and is tied for second with the Pac-12 for most top-25 rushing teams in that same time span. 

Jamie Squire/Getty Images

That is a lot of numbers, and certainly, they only tell part of the story. For example, in 2013, Oregon State finished just outside the top 25 in scoring with 34.8 points per game. Fractions of a point are being split. No one could reasonably say that the Beavers suddenly didn't have a potent offense. However, they just missed the cutoff point. 

Statistically speaking—and this is a somewhat limited window—the Big 12 stands above all other power conferences in offense. However, whether or not the conference can keep up that production is questionable. Since 2010, the number of top-25 passers in the Big 12 has gone down each year. The number of top-25 rushing teams in the Big 12 also dropped to two in 2013. 

Top-25 Passers by Conference (2010-14)
Conference 2010 2011 2012 2013 Total
ACC 3 1 4 2 10
Big 12 5 5 4 2 16
Big Ten 1 0 0 1 2
Pac-12 2 5 1 5 13
SEC 2 1 4 2 8

CFBStats.com

Top-25 Rushing Teams by Conference (2010-14)
Conference 2010 2011 2012 2013 Total
ACC 2 1 2 2 7
Big 12 3 4 3 2 12
Big Ten 4 3 4 3 14
Pac-12 3 2 3 4 12
SEC 3 2 2 4 11

CFBSTats.com

Remember the seven top-25 scoring offenses the Big 12 had in 2012? There were only three last year. No other conference suffered such a steep drop-off from one year to the next at any point over the last four seasons. 

It could just be a one-year phenomenon, caused in part by several big-name offensive players graduating or being drafted into the NFL. However, the 2014 recruiting rankings show the Big 12 is struggling to bring in premier offensive talent. Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon and Baylor wide receiver KD Cannon were the biggest names to sign with Big 12 teams in February. 

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Compare that to Texas A&M, who has two signees—wide receiver Speedy Noil and quarterback Kyle Allen—who ranked among the top 10 players in the country. In all, the SEC signed roughly a dozen offensive players ranked in the top 50 of 247Sports' composite rankings

For what it's worth, the SEC has been leaning slightly away from the "defense wins championships" mentality. Last year, six SEC teams finished with top-25 scoring offenses, and five finished in the top 25 in total offense. Both numbers were the most of any conference. Meanwhile, only four SEC teams finished with a top-25 scoring defense. 

Could the Big 12 soon relinquish its offensive crown to the SEC, or even the Pac-12? If recruiting doesn't pick up, it wouldn't be surprising to see a changing of the guard when it comes to great offensive conferences. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All stats courtesy of cfbstats.com. All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports

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