The offseason is a good time to step back and take a look at the bigger picture.
Which Big 12 teams are efficient on offense and defense, excel on third down and consistently create turnovers? Those are just a few of the questions we’ll aim to answer during this weekly offseason series. In this series, we’re looking for the programs that build themselves upon certain long-term traits as opposed to riding one or two elite players to short-term excellence.
Today, we continue the series by looking at yards per carry to get a glimpse at the Big 12’s most efficient running games. (All stats are in Big 12 games only since 2012, when TCU and West Virginia joined the conference, via ESPN Stats & Information.)
1. Oklahoma, 5.53: The Sooners have averaged at least 5.3 yards per carry during each of the past three seasons. Some thought Oklahoma’s running game might take a step backward with Lincoln Riley arriving to install his version of the Air Raid offense before the 2015 season. Instead the Sooners averaged 5.5 yards per carry, the second-highest yards-per-carry average during this span.
2. Baylor, 4.95: The Bears have a big-play running game that matches their explosive passing game. Baylor led the Big 12 with 272 carries of 10 yards or longer and averaged 247.7 rushing yards per game. Shock Linwood has been at the center of it all, averaging 5.95 yards per carry and rushing for 2,643 yards in 26 conference games.
3. West Virginia, 4.57: The Mountaineers consistently have had a good running game despite playing musical chairs at the quarterback position since joining the league. West Virginia averaged 2.91 yards before contact per carry, which ranked second in the Big 12.
4. Texas Tech, 4.48: Like Baylor, the Red Raiders are known for their high-flying passing attack, yet Texas Tech has consistently featured an efficient running game. Kliff Kingsbury’s team has been particularly good during the past two seasons, averaging 5.17 yards per carry in 2014 and 5.36 yards per carry in 2015.
5. TCU, 4.47: The Horned Frogs' running game has transformed since Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie took over TCU’s offense before the 2014 season. After failing to average more than four yards per carry during the first two seasons in the Big 12, TCU averaged 5.15 yards per carry during the past two seasons.
6. Texas, 4.44: The Longhorns haven’t have overwhelming success on the ground despite tallying 1,512 total carries during the span, which ranked third in the conference. D’Onta Foreman is the only Texas player who rushed for more than 500 yards while averaging more than five yards per carry (7.11) since 2012.
7. Kansas State, 4.15: Big plays have not been a staple of the Wildcats’ ground game. The past two seasons have been particularly tough, with the Wildcats failing to average more than four yards per carry in either year (3.82 in 2014, 3.8 in 2015). Finding a game-breaking running back could be the key, as K-State’s 1.55 yards after contact per carry was the worst in the Big 12.
8. Iowa State, 4.09: The Cyclones rank in the bottom third of the Big 12 in most rushing categories as the inability to run the ball has been at the heart of their struggles. Matt Campbell will be encouraged, however, as Iowa State’s 4.39 yards per carry in 2015 -- thanks largely to Mike Warren’s emergence -- was the best during this span. Warren’s 1,339 rushing yards and 5.9 yards per carry are better than any other Cyclone’s statistics during the past four years. Warren did that in 12 games. By comparison, Aaron Wimberly, Shontrelle Johnson, James White and DeVondrick Nealy -- the four other Cyclones in the top five in rushing -- each played at least 20.
9. Oklahoma State, 3.95: The Cowboys' running game has been on the decline, dropping from 4.81 yards per carry in 2012 to 3.27 yards per carry in 2015. Big plays have been a problem, with Oklahoma State’s 167 carries of 10 yards or longer ranking ninth in the Big 12. The conference average was 203.9 during this span.
10. Kansas, 3.37: The Jayhawks are another team that took a clear step backward during this span, going from an average of 4.44 yards per carry in 2012 to 2.55 yards per carry in 2015. James Sims and Tony Pierson are the only two Jayhawks who rushed for more than 500 yards during the past four years.