2008 Scoring Adjusted for Pace

Pace was one of the hot button issues in the 2008 college football season. Oklahoma’s highly publicized switch to a fast paced offense in reaction to the new clock rules was the major reason for it. The Sooners ended up leading the country in plays at 1,106 (79 per game), and they set a record with 716 total points scored.

The Sooners weren’t the only team to crank it up. Tulsa, under no-huddle guru Gus Malzahn, was second in plays behind OU, and Houston, TCU, and Nevada also broke 1,000 plays for the season.

The average number of plays per team for the whole season was 858.52. The average number of games played was 12.68. Therefore, the average number of plays per game for any given team was 67.7.

To take a look at how well everyone was able to score points on equal footing, I have adjusted total points by pace.

This would be the point where I mention that this is based off of the NCAA’s “scoring offense” stat, which includes defense and special teams scores in the totals. Because this study is looking at pace in terms of plays, and it proportionately increases or decreases each team’s total plays, it still works out under the assumption that teams would continue to get defense or special teams scores at the same pace as before.

Here is a table showing the top ten teams in points per game if everyone played at the nation’s average pace in terms of plays per game.

Top Ten Adj. Points per Game
Team Total Pts Pts/Game Pts/Play Adj. Total Pts Adj. Pts/Game
Florida 611 43.64 0.70 663 47.33
Oklahoma 716 51.14 0.65 613 43.83
Tulsa 661 47.21 0.60 571 40.79
Missouri 591 42.21 0.60 570 40.75
Oklahoma St. 530 40.77 0.58 514 39.52
Texas Tech 569 43.77 0.58 512 39.35
Texas 551 42.38 0.58 508 39.06
Oregon 545 41.92 0.57 500 38.48
Penn St. 506 38.92 0.57 498 38.32
Rice 537 41.31 0.56 490 37.68

Here we can see that when pace is accounted for, Florida usurps Oklahoma as the total points leader as OU loses over a hundred points. The accelerated pace that the Sooner offense operated at allowed them to score about a touchdown a game more than they would have had they played at the average pace. On a per game basis, the Gators were first by a little more than a field goal over OU.

The Big 12 is well represented with five of the top ten. Oregon is the only Pac-10 team in the top ten, but USC is lurking just outside at No. 12.

Penn State meanwhile is the only Big Ten team here, and the next-highest conference colleague of the Nittany Lions’ was Iowa at No. 27. In numerical terms, the Hawkeyes are almost a full touchdown behind. That shows just how much more efficient PSU was than the rest of its conference.

Florida holds a similar status in the SEC since it was clearly the most efficient team at putting points on the scoreboard. Florida was two tenths of a point away from being a full two touchdowns ahead of the next highest SEC team, No. 21 Georgia.

The ACC and Big East are the only BCS conferences not represented here. FSU was the highest ACC team at 20th, but their numbers are skewed a bit by 115 points scored in its first two games against I-AA opponents. Those 115 points make up 26.5% of the Seminoles’ total points in 2008. The Big East’s highest team was actually Rutgers, at 33rd overall.

I can’t finish this without a word about Rice. It’s amazing what Chase Clement and Jarrett Dillard were able to do for that team over their careers there. “Rice football” has been synonymous with “losing” in Texas for many years, but the Owls won 10 games a year ago. Rice has some other players, but those two will be sorely missed next season.


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