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Mike Yurcich hoping to bring Texas offense up to Big 12 championship standards

Mike Yurcich has done his research.

The new Texas Longhorns offensive coordinator spent six seasons in the Big 12 with the Oklahoma State Cowboys, so he understands the conference and what it takes to win championships in the nation’s most wide-open league.

“If you’re going to win the Big 12, you’ve got to be around 45 or 46 points per game,” Yurcich told SiriusXM Radio. “That’s what it’s been for the past decade. You have to score a bunch of points.”

A look back at the offenses of Big 12 champions from 2011-19 proves that Yurcich was right on the mark with his research and also shed some light on the standards set across other statistical categories.

Big 12 championship offenses

Year Team PPG (all) PPG (conference) YPG YPP RZ TD% 3rd-down % SP+ FEI
Year Team PPG (all) PPG (conference) YPG YPP RZ TD% 3rd-down % SP+ FEI
2019 Oklahoma 42.1 39.5 537.6 8 71.2 49.7 2 4
2018 Oklahoma 48.4 50.3 570.3 8.6 66.7 50.7 1 1
2017 Oklahoma 45.1 44.1 579.6 8.3 70.8 42.6 1 1
2016 Oklahoma 43.9 47.8 554.8 7.5 69.5 51.5 1 1
2015 Oklahoma 43.5 47.2 530.2 6.8 66.7 43.7 11 11
2014 TCU 46.5 47.6 533 6.7 61.5 42.9 17 17
2014 Baylor 48.2 45.3 581.5 6.6 65.8 46.7 11 7
2013 Baylor 52.4 47.8 618 7.5 64.1 46.8 11 5
2012 Oklahoma 38.2 41.9 498.6 6.5 68.7 51.9 2 8
2012 Kansas State 38.8 38.9 401.8 6.2 63.4 50 11 10
2011 Oklahoma State 48.7 48.3 549.8 7.2 64.6 48.9 1 7
Avg. 45.1 45.3 541.4 7.3 66.6 47.8 6.3 6.5

Even with the incredible success in the conference offensively over a long period of time, metrics like yards per play and the opponent-adjusted stats like SP+ and FEI have elevated to another level since Lincoln Riley arrived at Oklahoma in 2015. During the last four seasons, the Sooners have produced perhaps the greatest run of offensive success in college football history.

Since 2016, Riley’s transfer quarterbacks have recorded three of the top seven seasons in all-time passer rating, including setting the top marks in three consecutive seasons (2016-18).

As a result of the decline in quarterback play, along with the turnover of four offensive linemen and wide receiver Hollywood Brown, the Sooners suffered the monumental drop from No. 1 in SP+ for three years to… No. 2.

In other words, to overcome the Sooners and break the streak of five consecutive Big 12 titles for Oklahoma, Yurcich’s offense will have to continue improving on the strides made by head coach Tom Herman over his first three seasons in Austin.

So far, the Longhorns have come a long way, just not far enough.

Texas offenses under Tom Herman

Year PPG (all) PPG (conference) YPG YPP RZ TD% 3rd-down % SP+ FEI
Year PPG (all) PPG (conference) YPG YPP RZ TD% 3rd-down % SP+ FEI
2017 29.5 25.4 398.5 5.2 61.7 38.1 81 109
2018 31.1 31.3 411.6 5.5 66 46.4 27 25
2019 35.2 32.1 465.8 6.4 78 48.9 11 13
Avg. Big 12 champ 45.1 45.3 541.4 7.3 66.6 47.8 6.3 6.5

Texas still trails the recent conference champions by some significant margins, especially in points per game — nearly 10 points. Everything else is largely noise, right?

Averaging 26.8 points per game in November sunk the Longhorns thanks to poor performances against the Cyclones and Bears — only 31 points combined, including 10 against Baylor thanks to a meaningless last-second touchdown. As all the other indicators of success rose across the board, points per game in conference play was the one area where Texas struggled to match its other improvements.

Consider just how high the standard for excellence is now on offense in college football. Texas averaged 465.8 yards per game last season, 14th nationally. In 2009, only five offenses in the nation bested that mark.

All the typical caveats apply for why total offense doesn’t mean much, but the comparisons across the years do provide some perspective on the extent to which spread offenses have revolutionized the game.

Now the Longhorns will have to beat the best in the game.

Can Yurcich do it?

Mike Yurcich’s offenses

Year Team PPG (all) PPG (conference) YPG YPP RZ TD% 3rd-down % SP+ FEI
Year Team PPG (all) PPG (conference) YPG YPP RZ TD% 3rd-down % SP+ FEI
2019 Ohio State 46.9 47 529.9 6.9 78.7 55.2 4 3
2018 Oklahoma State 38.4 33.8 500.2 6.4 67.2 44.9 7 12
2017 Oklahoma State 45 43.7 568.9 7.3 65.3 45.6 4 2
2016 Oklahoma State 38.6 36.8 494.8 6.7 62.3 43 7 26
2015 Oklahoma State 39.5 41 480 6.4 66.7 43.5 24 19
5-year avg. 41.68 40.46 514.76 6.74 68.04 46.44 9.2 12.4
2014 Oklahoma State 27.6 23.9 378.8 5.4 50 32.8 50 72
2013 Oklahoma State 39.1 37.9 448.8 5.8 75 38.8 26 36
Overall avg. 39.3 37.7 485.9 6.4 66.5 43.4 17.4 24.3

It took several years for Yurcich to find his stride with the Oklahoma State offense after head coach Mike Gundy hired him from Shippensburg University, a Division II school in Pennsylvania. The first year, Yurcich used a two-quarterback system with Clint Chelf and JW Walsh, then the Cowboys took a step back in 2014 with Daxx Garman at the helm.

Perhaps the most important development for Yurcich in Stillwater was his recruitment of Mason Rudolph out of South Carolina in the 2014 class. Rudolph was a top-300 prospect, but wasn’t a big-time national recruit — he only had six offers.

Along with some strong recruiting from wide receivers coach Kasey Dunn, who is now the offensive coordinator, Yurcich was able to pair Rudolph with pass catchers like James Washington who could take the top off defenses.

The Oklahoma State offense immediately bounced back from the struggles in 2014, then took off when Rudolph was a junior and senior, starting a stretch of four years in which Yurcich’s attacks ranked among the top 10 nationally in SP+.

His year at Ohio State in 2019 with Justin Fields at quarterback showed what Yurcich can do with elite talent, surpassing Oklahoma in points per game, red-zone touchdown percentage, and third-down conversion rate.

Unfortunately, the Longhorns don’t have quite as much talent as the Buckeyes, but last season did provide a look at Yurcich’s upside as a coordinator.

With Herman intent on spending more time managing other aspects of the program instead of focusing on offensive game plans, he’s hoping that the success at Ohio State is a sign of what Yurcich can do at Texas. Beating Oklahoma probably depends on it.

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