2008 Scoring at Oklahoma’s 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.

But what if everyone played at Oklahoma’s pace? Here is a look at what the top ten in scoring would look like if everyone ran 79 offensive plays a game.

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.

The top ten in scoring, adjusted to be at Oklahoma’s 2008 pace:

Top Ten Points per Game at Oklahoma’s Pace
Team Total Pts Pts/Game Pts/Play Adj. Total Pts Adj. Pts/Game
Florida 611 43.64 0.70 773 55.23
Oklahoma 716 51.14 0.65 716 51.14
Tulsa 661 47.21 0.60 666 47.60
Missouri 591 42.21 0.60 666 47.54
Oklahoma St. 530 40.77 0.58 599 46.11
Texas Tech 569 43.77 0.58 597 45.92
Texas 551 42.38 0.58 593 45.58
Oregon 545 41.92 0.57 584 44.90
Penn St. 506 38.92 0.57 581 44.71
Rice 537 41.31 0.56 572 43.96

Tulsa edges out Missouri in points per game, even though rounding to the nearest point makes them equals in total scored.

What we can see here is that Oklahoma was ahead of pretty much everyone at scoring points. Adjusting for pace, they still were ahead of most of the nation and earned their record 716 points scored.

Florida was the one exception. Thanks to getting points in many ways other than just offense (INT returns, off of blocked punts, in the return game, etc.) while running about an average number of offensive plays, Florida would have shattered the Sooners’ new record in the very year they broke it.

The Gators would have topped out at a little over 55 points a game. That means Army’s all-time record would have been safe, but only barely. In 1944, Army scored exactly 56 a game, less than a point than Florida’s hypothetical total.

It is almost a little surprising to see Missouri so high since the Tigers were a bit of a disappointment this season. It goes to show that the offense was still good at turning plays into scores, but that defense just didn’t quite work out.

As great as Florida and Oklahoma were at turning plays into points by having relatively high points per play ratios, they weren’t the best of the decade. Since 2000, the team with the highest PPP was 2006 Hawai’i, with 0.72 points per play. At Oklahoma’s pace over 14 games, that would come out to 795 points on the season.

One would figure though that if they were that close to 800, they’d find a way to get one last touchdown to get to 802. Maybe something like the Florida Flop?


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