At this point last season, Texas had made 38 trips to the red zone. This season, the Longhorns have tripped there 36 times.
So what's the difference between last year's offense, which led the league in scoring, and this year's which is among the worst? It's an inability to score touchdowns once inside the opponent's 20. Last year's squad had 24 at this point. This year's has scored 15.
The struggles have especially been prevalent in conference play. In five conference games, Texas has made 25 trips to the red zone. That's second best in the league, behind only Texas Tech, which has just one more trip, but has played in one more conference game. But the Longhorns have struggled to score touchdowns once they've gotten there, and are the only Big 12 team to attempt more field goals in the red zone than they've scored touchdowns (nine touchdowns, 10-11 field goals).
Most people look at red zone scoring percentage, but a better way to gauge a team's ability in the red zone is to look at red zone efficiency. In short, it's points scored (touchdowns x 6 and field goals x 3) divided by red zone attempts.
That casts an even better look at Texas's red zone struggles.
Big 12 rankings by points per red zone trip in conference play
1) Kansas State 5.2
2) Texas A&M 5.1
3) Nebraska 5
4) Iowa State 4.9
5) Oklahoma State 4.7
6) Missouri 4.5
7) Oklahoma 4.4
8) Texas Tech 4.0
9) Baylor 3.8
10) TEXAS 3.4
11) Colorado 3
12) Kansas 2.7
Kansas State is an outstanding example of why red zone efficiency is better than red zone percentage. The Wildcats are the league's sixth-best team by red zone percentage because they were stopped twice on red zone trips, once on downs and one missed field goal. All five teams ahead of them have one or fewer failed trip.
But while Oklahoma State, the team ranked third in percentage, has scored 10 touchdowns on its 16 trips and kicked five field goals, Kansas State has scored touchdowns on 15 of their 18 trips, and have only twice settled for a field goal attempt.
Texas, on the other hand, has failed to score six times. Four times, quarterback Garrett Gilbert has thrown an interception. Once, Texas's failing fell into the "other" category, where any stop that isn't a fumble, interception or downs is listed. And once, the Longhorns missed a field goal.
Texas actually tied for second in times scored. Texas Tech was first with 20 scores, with Oklahoma also scoring 19 times. But Texas's number is deceiving because 10 of those scores were worth three points, and nine were touchdowns. Oklahoma, on the other hand, scored 16 touchdowns and three field goals.
No team had as poor a touchdown-to-field goal ratio as the Longhorns do … the only two teams below Texas in points per trip are Colorado and Kansas, two teams that have struggled to score at all in the red zone.
Last year's offense scored an average of 4.8 points per red zone trip in conference play, the highest mark in the league. With the way this year's group has moved the ball between the 20s, if the Longhorns can approach last year's points-per-trip numbers, they'll start scoring highly again with consistency.