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Big 12's improvement from '08 to '09

It's fun to argue over which team made the biggest strides from one season to the next, but the numbers are hard to dispute.

I looked at each team in the conference two different ways to get an idea of who improved the most from 2008 to 2009 in four major statistical categories (scoring offense, scoring defense, total offense and total defense), and who took a few steps back.

First, I looked at the national rankings alone -- how far the Big 12 teams rose and fell among their FBS counterparts from one year to the next. Then I looked at the specific statistics, to see on average how much improvement was made, and how closely that correlated with their ascension or descent in the national rankings.

The verdict: Texas A&M and Nebraska were the two biggest movers.

  • The Aggies jumped 45 spots nationally in scoring offense (from No. 64 in 2008 to No. 19 in 2009) and 73 spots in total offense (from No. 78 to No. 5). The statistics matched, as they improved from 25 points per game in 2008 to 32.85 in 2009. Texas A&M averaged 340.92 yards of total offense in '08 and 465.77 in '09.

  • Nebraska's move wasn't all for the better. The Huskers dropped 87 spots in the national rankings in total offense (from No. 12 to No. 99). Their scoring defense improved dramatically, though, allowing an average of 18.11 points fewer than a year ago. Nebraska ranked No. 80 in the country in scoring defense in 2008 and No. 1 in the country in 2009, allowing just 10.43 points per game.

In general: The entire conference improved defensively, but took a dip on offense (and that's not necessarily a bad thing, especially when you were averaging 50 points to begin with).

  • Only Baylor's defense allowed more total yards in 2009, and it was marginal (from 393.17 in 2008 to 405.58 in '09.)

  • The Aggies and Colorado were the only two teams to have a higher scoring average in 2009, and Oklahoma took the biggest step back. The Sooners averaged 51.14 points in 2008 and 31.08 in 2009.

  • Everyone but the Aggies dropped in total offense.

  • Everyone's scoring defense improved.

Up next: Of course, the next question is, who will be the most improved team in the conference in 2010? Check back later for a prediction.