Conventional wisdom says Oklahoma State had a rotten defense last year. Just how bad was it? I looked at OSU's final stats rankings and compared them with the defenses we saw last year. None of these comparisons are good for the Pokes.
- In total defense, OSU ranked 94 out of 120. The only opponent we faced last year with worse numbers was Central Michigan (#105) who we scored 56 on.
- In rushing defense, OSU was a more respectable 52nd. Of our opponents last year, only Auburn and Kentucky were worse at 55th and 57th respectively.
- In scoring defense, they were 77th, ahead of only Central Michigan at 90th.
So, we should walk all over these guys right? Those stats aren't bad, they're atrocious. Georgia fans want Willie's head and he finished 22nd in total defense last year. Imagine if we finished 94th. It's simple then, Oklahoma State can't play defense. Right?
Those defensive stats only show a confined, distinct measurement without context. The actual picture is broader. In factoring those terrible defensive stats, remember that OSU played the #2, #3, #4, #7, and #8 total offense last year. They faced six of the top 10 scoring offenses. They could have been Bama '92 and still given up big numbers just based on the offenses they played. The best total offense we faced last year was UF at #15. In fact, we only played two teams better than #50 last year, UF and Central Michigan.
So, those stats need a control. How well did OSU's defense do when compared with their opponents' average yards gained? Only three teams outperformed their season total offense average against the Pokes by more than 30 yards. Texas Tech exceeded their average by 98 yards, Oregon by 80, and Texas A&M by 62. Everyone else was right at or slightly below their season average. Okie State held three other teams to more than 30 yards under their season average (Washington State, Houston, and Baylor). In other words, the Pokes weren't awful last year. They were just average.
All of this doesn't mean much because it is based on last year's numbers. It's just that I've seen a bunch of folks assuming we will be able to score at will against OSU because of those awful rankings and it just isn't that simple.
Bill Young is taking over the OSU defense this year after spending 2008 at Miami (who finished 26th in total defense last year and 56th in scoring defense). Young is probably best known as John Cooper's defensive coordinator at Ohio State from 1988-1995. He's confident is his crew, but with only six starters returning, the mediocrity of last year's play, and the installation of a new defensive scheme, I don't think the Pokes are going to be much improved from last year's average, but not awful, efforts on September 5th. I still say we get our points, but it might not be quite as easy as some presume.