Big 12 offensive binges heading towards record levels

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Not too many years ago, 500 yards in a game was a magical figure of success.

A long string of those games usually got an offensive coordinator hired for a head coaching job. Conversely, if a defense gave up too many of them, it typically got the coordinator fired.

But welcome to the new millennium, where 500-yard offensive games are becoming as commonplace as multi-million-dollar head coaching salaries and 300-pound linemen. And nowhere does it seem those games are being strung together as often as in the Big 12.

All Big 12 teams have played seven games so far this season. And during that 84-game period, Big 12 teams have topped the 500-yard barrier 26 times.

That's a ratio of roughly about 31 percent. And it's a pace that could challenge the record of 49 500-yard games that was recorded last season and included post-season games.

The Big 12 had four 500-yard games last week, which is significant because it tied the conference's record for one week in conference games. And Kansas just missed the mark, producing 491 yards against Oklahoma.

Theoretically, the defense played in conference games should be a little bit better than those played against a typically weak nonconference schedule. And wasn't the faster timing rules supposed to be robbing offenses of plays?

The yardage binges have been noticeable to veteran coaches around the league.

Texas coach Mack Brown said the large totals of points and yards he is witnessing every week is changing how he coaches.

"It's out of control," Brown said. "We're having to change the way we look at defensive stats, just because everybody is scoring so many points. I remember the day that we would try to keep from scoring 60 points, because we felt like that was really bad, and now you're seeing 70s. I don't know where it's going to stop."

Veteran Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman has returned to college football this season after 12 seasons coaching in the NFL. He's also noted a complete change in attitude since he last coached in college football in 1996.

"They used to take all the best players and put them on defense. And now, because of the emergence of the seven-on-seven (passing workouts) that goes on all summer long, it's almost like the AAU basketball. They just keep playing and playing and playing. And these kids, they enjoy playing offense and scoring points, as opposed to keeping people from scoring points," Sherman said. "I think it's as much a personnel issue as it is a schematic issue and just where people are putting their players."

Sherman's defense was blistered for a season-worst 561 yards last week against Texas Tech. And the Aggies have allowed an average of 47.7 points in their last three games.

"I think to a certain degree, you know how it is (that) there's a certain respect element to the game?" Sherman said. "It's about winning the game, not how many points you score? Now, it seems like the point thing is a big deal."

The most obvious reason for the scoring binge are the number of outstanding quarterbacks in the Big 12. The conference has nine of the nation's top 22 quarterbacks in terms of passing efficiency in the NCAA's latest statistics.

And here's a scary thought for defensive coordinators around the league. It will get worse for them before it gets better.

That's because only three of the starting quarterbacks in the league will be leaving after this season. Only Chase Daniel of Missouri, Joe Ganz of Nebraska and Graham Harrell of Texas will see their eligibility expire.

The league's two top current Heisman Trophy contenders -- Colt McCoy of Texas and Sam Bradford of Oklahoma -- still have eligibility remaining. And other potent offensive forces like Robert Griffin of Baylor, Todd Reesing of Kansas, Josh Freeman of Kansas State, Zac Robinson of Oklahoma State and Jerrod Johnson of Texas A&M also should be back as well.

Get out your calculators. It could be a wild ride again next season.

Here's a breakdown on Big 12 teams, how many times they've reached the 500-yard mark so far this season and who they did it against.