Looking at Big 12 Offensive Lines

How good was Texas's offensive line in 2012 compared to its peers. We try to use statistics to take a look.

It's impossible to accurately rank offensive lines. In a sport packed full of statistics, and increasingly more advanced stats designed to get to the bottom of complicated performances, there still exists a fundamental inability to judge the impact of a group that just plain doesn't have statistics.

Sure, some coaches use pancakes, knockdowns and overall grades for offensive linemen, but those statistics aren't typically 1) released and 2) are awfully dependent on an individual grader. And even if all the grades were released, that doesn't account for the fact that different teams grade on different scales. There's just no hard-and-fast criteria for gauging an offensive line's performance relative to another's past the old eye test.

Still, because it's the offseason, we'll give this the old college try by looking at how well a team runs the ball, and how well a team protects its quarterback from being sacked. While imperfect, it could give us a slightly better look at the Big 12's offensive lines.

First, we'll look at yards per rushing attempt. Now, it's important to note that I've tweaked this just a little bit by taking sacks out of the equation. We want a look specifically at how a team runs the ball, so sacks are irrelevant. So Texas rushed 492 times for 2229 yards last year, but included in that stat was the fact that the Longhorns were sacked 16 times for a loss of 123 yards. Take out the sacks, and the Longhorns rushed 476 times for 2,352 yards. That means Texas averaged 4.94 yards per rushing attempt.

This statistic certainly has some flaws. First, while it takes out the sacks, it isn't able to account for un-called rushes, like scramble plays, that resulted in positive yardage. And second, how much credit should an offensive line get for a team's running success. Oklahoma State was far-and-away the league's most successful running team in terms of yards per rushing attempt, but that certainly wasn't solely an offensive line accomplishment. The Cowboys also had some of the league's best running backs, including leading rusher Joseph Randle.

Yards Per Rushing Attempt

1) Oklahoma State — 5.66

2) West Virginia — 5.41

3) Baylor — 5.37

4) Oklahoma — 5.31

5) Texas Tech — 5.16

6) Kansas — 5.12

7) Kansas State — 5.10

8) Texas — 4.94

9) Iowa State — 4.65

10) TCU — 4.50

Again, Texas allowed 16 sacks. So we're actually going to add that to the number of passing attempts to get a number that I'll call drop-backs. Now, this isn't a literal measure of how many times the quarterback dropped back to pass. In order to get that number, you'd have to go through every single game because scramble attempts are counted as rushes as well. But it does get us closer to a more legitimate number. So Texas's threw the ball 399 times a year ago, plus the 16 sacks that the Longhorns allowed, gives up 415 drop-backs.

Now, we'll take that number and divide it by the number of sacks allowed. That gives us 25.94 drop-backs per sack.

Like with the yards per rushing attempt, this is somewhat of an imperfect statistic. For instance, did Kansas have a league-worst 13.04 drop-backs per sack because the Jayhawks couldn't pass protect, or was it because they largely played a redshirt freshman quarterback who didn't understand the intricacies of getting rid of the ball? It was probably at least a little bit of both.

Drop-backs Per Sack

1) Oklahoma State — 42.25

2) Oklahoma — 39.07

3) Texas Tech — 27

4) Baylor — 26

5) Texas — 25.94

6) West Virginia — 25.41

7) Iowa State — 23.9

8) Kansas State — 23.5

9) TCU — 14.86

10) Kansas — 13.04

Now, I'll just average the places in the two categories. Texas was eighth in yards per rushing attempt and fifth in drop-backs per sack. So the Longhorns' average rank was 6.5.

Average Ranking

1) Oklahoma State — 1

2) Oklahoma — 3

3) Baylor — 3.5

4) Texas Tech — 4

4) West Virginia — 4

6) Texas — 6.5

7) Kansas State — 7.5

8) Kansas — 8

8) Iowa State — 8

10) TCU — 9.5

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