How Much Scoring is Too Much in College Football?
No one has to explain to me what is happening in college football as the game becomes more offensively oriented by the year. I do pine for the occasional 21-17 game in which there is a balance between offense and defense, but please don’t let this come across as a “Get Off My Lawn” rant. But my question is twofold: What is the definition of good offense? And, to paraphrase the late great Casey Stengel “Can’t ANYONE play defense around here?”
In getting ready to work the Mississippi State-Texas A&M game at Kyle Field tomorrow night for Westwood One National Radio, I was curious to check some numbers. Generally speaking, if you score 30 points a game, you would think that’s good enough to win, right? Well, through four weeks of action, if you average 30, you’re only the 70th highest scoring offense in the country (out of 128 FBS schools). If you average 40, you’re only 25th in scoring. If you average 400 yards a game you’re only 78th in the nation, and there are 19 teams that average over 500 yards a game. There’s no doubt this isn’t our father’s football. Frankly, if you’re 30 years old, it’s not even the football you grew up with. The question is, is this good?
Is it good while teams are supposedly hurrying up to snap the ball, they get to the line of scrimmage and then check the sideline for the play looking at some crazy card system that only Chip Kelly seems to understand? Is it good that quarterbacks are playing almost exclusively from the shotgun and don’t have to read defenses throwing either bubble screens or bombs with nothing in between? Is it good because of the reliance on the passing game that line play has become much less physical? ESPN’s Trent Dilfer made the point the other day, that offensive linemen don’t know how to “fire off” the ball because they’re now conditioned to either rock backward or move laterally. And indeed, why is it, if the athletic ability is relatively equal, that defenses play as if they’re deer in headlights?
It’s hard to argue that college football has never been more popular, yet this offensive gorging reminds of the kid who wants six scoops of chocolate chip ice cream. He’ll eat it. He’ll love it. But in the end, it isn’t very good for him. Games lasting four hours or more are NOT good for the sport. Especially for those who actually go to the games (many of them night games), but even for the TV people who would like to see the games fit into a three and a half hour window. The recent Wall Street Journal story quoting numerous NFL scouts as lamenting the college game because so many (quarterbacks, in particular) are just so ill prepared to come into the league and play. It almost appears as if the clock has been turned back 40 years to the mid 1970s when the wishbone was in vogue – albeit today we’re at the other end of the spectrum.
The WAC back in the 60s and 70s used to be laughed at because all they did was play 50-48 football. Who knew that 50-48 football would ultimately be accepted as the norm and not the exception. Still, I must say, there was something about Mississippi State’s 17-9 win last week at Auburn that brought a smile to my face.