Key stats led to KSU, OU's success in 2012

As the season rapidly approaches let’s take a look back at 2012 and some interesting stats which helped the Big 12’s top two teams finish near the top of the overall standings. With help from ESPN Stats and Information, here’s a look at five offensive and five defensive stats that can get overlooked but help reveal why co-champions Kansas State and Oklahoma suffered just one conference loss apiece despite neither fielding the conference’s top ranked offense or defense a year ago.

Offensive stats

Percentage of plays resulting in no gain or negative yardage: KSU led the way in this category at 26.4 percent, the lowest in the league. Every Big 12 team with a percentage less than 30 percent won at least eight games in 2012. Avoiding the negative play is critical in the Big 12. Losing yards on an offensive play is one of the few times the offense suffers a clear loss of momentum, ensuring the defense isn’t on its heels like many of the Big 12's up-tempo offenses are designed to create.

Percentage of plays gaining more than 10 yards: OU led the Big 12 with 26 percent of its plays gaining more than 10 yards. The Sooners’ offense was the league’s most explosive even though it finished behind Oklahoma State, Baylor and West Virginia in yards per game.

Fewest three-and-outs: OU tied with Baylor for the league lead with 35 three-and-outs (2.69 per game), although the Bears had nine more total drives. Kansas State finished tied with Texas Tech for third with 39 (three per game). A small number of three-and-out drives is a sign that a team has the ability to control the game’s rhythm and can keep its defense off the field.

Touchdowns percentage on drives that reached inside an opponent’s 40-yard line: This stat shows a team’s ability to finish drives and make key plays when it matters. KSU and OU finished 1-2 in the category. The Wildcats scored a touchdown 60.7 percent of the time while the Sooners converted 60 percent of the time. The league average was 52.3 percent.

Points per drive: Baylor and OSU immediately come to mind when thinking of explosive Big 12 offenses but Kansas State was right up there in points per drive last season. BU led the league at 3.16 followed by OSU’s 3.05 and the Wildcats’ 3.02. Those were the only Big 12 teams that averaged more than three points per drive.

Defensive stats

Opponent plays over 20 yards: TCU finished atop the league in several defensive categories but KSU topped the Big 12 by allowing just 3.08 per game in 2012. The Wildcats’ sound defense kept opponents from changing games on one play last season, a big reason why they went 11-2 and earned a Fiesta Bowl berth.

Starting field position margin: The Wildcats ran away with this stat with a 11-yard average. It’s a clear sign KSU was winning the defensive and special teams battles. The league average was 1.6 and TCU (5.4) was the only other team with a margin better than four.

Opponent quarterback rating: The Wildcats didn’t finish atop the conference standings in many pass defense categories but they finished second with a 47.7 opponent quarterback rating. Their ability to pressure the quarterback (2.46 sacks per game) and create turnovers (2.38 turnovers forced per game) overcame their 248.46 passing yards allowed average.

Opponent red zone touchdown percentage: TCU led the league at 42.5 and KSU was the only other Big 12 team under 50 percent at 43.4 percent. Not surprisingly, those two teams finished 1-2 in points allowed. Those defenses forced turnovers or field goals instead of allowing red zone touchdowns to keep themselves in games.

Percentage of opponent completions going for a first down or touchdown: OSU led the league in this category, allowing only 51.4 percent of opponents’ passes to gain a first down or TD. The Cowboys were joined by KSU (53.4), Texas (54.8) and OU (55.5) in the top four and those teams combined for 38 wins in 2012. It’s a sign those defenses were aware of down and distance and made key plays at key times. The league average was 56.3 percent.