PFB - Stat of the Week: OSU to Face Biggest Run-Heavy Team in Conference

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Feb 17, 2018
The Oklahoma State Cowboys might have the best run defense in the conference, but the unit will be heavily tested against the Big 12’s leading rusher Alex Barnes and run-heavy opponent Kansas State this Saturday. KSU has always been a downhill run team under head coach Bill Snyder, and things are no different in 2018. One of the biggest factors of this game will be whether the Wildcats can establish the run against a team that’s been stout upfront all season.

Kansas State has the most lopsided run-pass ratio of any team in the Big 12, running the ball over 61 percent of the time. In their season opener against South Dakota, for example, the Wildcats ran the ball 47 times out of 75 plays for 256 yards. And they’re not afraid to stick with the run, even if it’s not working. The Wildcats ran the ball 39 times against Texas in a 19-14 loss two weeks ago despite only recording 107 yards on the ground. In fact, one of their first-half drives had eight straight runs.

The Wildcats’ yards-per-carry has a huge impact on their offense’s effectiveness. One of the reasons why is because when they’re running the ball well, they’re not forced into third-and-long situations as much. But when they have faced better defenses, their run game isn’t usually as effective and therefore has an impact on how many long third downs they have. That, in turn, affects their conversion percentage, which hurts their ability to sustain drives.

Here’s a chart that shows the Wildcats’ 2018 yard-per-carry average in descending order:

Baylor 9.1 50%
SDSU 5.4 45%
UTSA 3.7 46%
MISS. ST. 3.2 25%
TEXAS 2.7 40%
WVU 2.5 21%

Notice how, for the most part, the Wildcats’ run game has a major effect on their ability to sustain drives. Kansas State’s at its most effective when it can continue to churn the clock and pick up first downs with a consistent run game.

If the Cowboys can play tough against the run on first and second down, they force the Wildcats away from their strength. Additionally, KSU has given up the most sacks of any team in the Big 12. OSU, on the other hand, leads the league in sacks. While the Pokes’ secondary got tested (and burned) last week against Iowa State, this week will give the front seven their biggest challenge since the start of conference play.

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