One of the best things about college football is its diversity of offensive styles. NFL offenses tend to be largely homogenous, while in college football, some teams run the option almost exclusively and others pass the ball on every damn down.
To visualize just how different the styles are across the game, here is Bill Connelly's 2014 data on run/pass ratio for 65 power conference teams, combined with Football Outsiders S&P+ rankings, which show each offense's overall quality.
S&P+ strips out garbage time possessions, so efficient offenses that run the ball a lot are not necessarily more efficient just because their teams win more blowouts.
Each conference seems to form its own identity. Do you see any trends beyond the conference level?
Not surprisingly, the SEC was the king of all conferences when it came to offensive efficiency. While the Big Ten was right around the national average, the SEC's teams averaged 34th nationally.
However, the SEC was traditionally B1G in one way — SEC teams ran the ball more than any other. Pac-12 teams were the most predominantly pass heavy, while the ACC was almost perfectly average in its offensive approach.
Initially, we planned to use raw efficiency numbers, but Wake Forest's offense was so incredibly bad that it would've made other really bad offenses — like Vanderbilt's — look competent. So I had to chart these teams based on where they ranked among all FBS teams, rather than how they rated.
Most of the ACC was pass heavy, but with mixed results. The three run-heavy teams — Georgia Tech, Pitt and Boston College — were all efficient. The Yellow Jackets' option offense ranked among the best offenses in the country.
Unsurprisingly, the Big 12 was very pass heavy, and that worked out well for both TCU and Baylor, the latter of which is much more balanced than most expect.
The biggest surprises were the Oklahoma schools. Generally pass heavy, Oklahoma State ran more than its peers last year. Oklahoma had the most efficient offense in a pass-happy conference despite leaning toward the run. Having a back break the all-time single-game yardage record helps.
This might shock you, but the Big Ten prefers to run the ball. Ohio State and Michigan State — both of which have very good quarterbacks — were efficient and relied mostly on the run. Wisconsin, which had sub-par quarterbacking, had an elite, run-heavy offense as well.
The Big Ten West might be the most grounded division in college football, and that seemed to be the best strategy. The four runningest teams in the West were also the division's four best teams.
The Pac-12 was filled with successful offenses, no matter the strategy. Two of the three best ran a lot, though they'd best be described as balanced.
There were no truly bad offenses, and even Washington State, Cal and UCLA — three of the passingest teams in the country — had relative success.
On a side note, Washington should probably leave for the Big Ten. Not sure what they're doing.
Yeah, the SEC had a down year in bowl games, but the offenses were still excellent over the course of the season. More than half of the league's offenses ranked in the top quarter nationally.
While many of those top offenses were run heavy — particularly Auburn, Georgia and Arkansas — there was no major pattern.
Alabama, Mississippi State, Texas A&M and South Carolina had success with balanced offenses, Ole Miss had great success with a pass-first mentality and Tennessee showed some splashes of promise.
SB Nation presents: Who's likely to take down Alabama in the SEC?