Sco’ and sco’ some mo’.

A great quote from Chip Kelly about offense, from Chris Brown’s excellent look at why Oregon succeeds at the level it does:

“Every coach has to ask himself the same question: ‘What do you want to be?'” Kelly said at a recent clinic. “That is the great thing about football. You can be anything you want. You can be a spread team, I-formation team, power team, wing-T team, option team, or wishbone team. You can be anything you want, but you have to define it.”

There seems to be an awful lot of defining going on this season.

Through Tuesday, the 124 teams in the Bowl Subdivision have scored 36,130 points over 1,232 games, an average of 29.3 points per team per game. If that average holds, it would break the record of 28.4 points a game set in 2007.

More significantly, it’s not a one-time thing.

The climb in scoring has been a trend since the 2007 season. Prior to that fall, the national scoring average had only twice climbed above 26.9 points a game since the NCAA began tracking the statistic in 1937.

Over the past six years, however, FBS scoring average has moved above 28 points a game four times and never dropped below 27.

Wake Forest’s Jim Grobe thinks the war is over and offense won.

“People want to see a lot of scoring,” Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe said Wednesday. “They like seeing football scores like 38-35, they don’t like seeing a 3-0 game. I don’t think we’re going backwards in this deal. What you typically see is offenses take the lead then defenses catch up. It’s point-counterpoint, punch-counterpunch. But right now, I don’t see the defenses getting to where they’ll ever be dominant again.”

Maybe he’s right.  But it’s worth noting that of the top thirty teams in total defense, only two have losing records.  And those two 4-6 teams, Connecticut and Maryland, rank among the worst offensive teams in the nation at #107 and #120 respectively.  So is it a question of defense weakening across the board as a new offensive philosophy seems to be taking hold at the college football level, or is it more a case that what good offenses are doing these days simply exposes bad defensive teams to a greater extent than before?

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36 Comments

Filed under Stats Geek!, Strategery And Mechanics

36 responses to “Sco’ and sco’ some mo’.

  1. Connor

    I think another element at play has been the tweaks to officiating. As Rodney Garner said the rule changes to improve safety have almost all favored the offense. As has been noted on this site and others, holding calls on the offensive line have all but disappeared. Unnecessary roughness penalties are called with much more frequency. Defensive plays that were celebrated and game changing 10 years a go are a 15 yard penalty now.
    If the powers that be ever decided to buy Saban’s argument that the up-tempo game is as dangerous as helmet to helmet contact, scoring will go down again.

  2. Brandon

    I’ll take a great defense and an average offense over a great offense and an average defense any day of the week. I think a little too much is being made of A&M’s win over Alabama. Taking nothing away from A&M and Johnny Football, they are very good, but in my opinion they would never have beaten Alabama if Alabama hadn’t have had that physically and emotionally draining war it had with LSU the week before, they caught Alabama at a good time, got up on them early and were able to hang on.

    • Mayor of Dawgtown

      Correct assessment. Great defense and average offense= Kansas State; Great offense and average defense = West Virginia.

  3. gastr1

    I agree with Brandon’s point but for different reasons, i.e., I concur with Ivan Maisel about offenses that play too fast for the success of the defense. So in my opinion, the offenses won’t keep getting better–because Maisel’s point about high scoring offense causing high scored-upon defense is true and is counter to the Senator’s accurate point about winning football teams having good defenses…Chip Kelly notwithstanding.

    In short, you generally have a better chance of winning if your scores are typically closer to 3-0 than you do if they’re 38-35, Jim.

    • Brandon

      And you don’t get embarrassed even if you lose when you have a great defense, I can handle losing 21-10 or something like that every once and a while, if you are offense centric, even with tons of talent, if you have a few ill timed turnovers, dropped passes, and penalties, you can be on the wrong side of a 51-21 in a heartbeat.

  4. X-Dawg

    I partially blame Bobo for this! (my 1st “blame Bobo”post and it feels good!) :)

  5. I think the biggest canard is that Kelly is some massive innovator. His big contribution is pace, which when you think about was neither original nor innovative. Ultimately, as we all know the game (for various programs within a conference) goes in cycles. We (and LSU frankly) were stranded in a wilderness in the 90s under Goff and Donnan. Oregon has ascended as Washington, USC, UCLA, et al have declined. Obviously, some of that is in fact due to Kelly, but my larger point is that I am not at all sold on Oregon or what he does.

    To me the only thing that is particularly interesting is the pace of his practices, but let’s face it. Very few of us have any real visibility as to what a “good” or the “right” practice strategy is. At times in past, Richt has acknowledged his regret at not being more physical. We have heard the chorus that Bama’s practices are much more intense than ours, etc. I HAVE NO IDEA if any of that is true.

    The point being it seems like his attention to detail and process of preparing his players is his real value. Teams will figure out pace no matter how he packages it, and ultimately, the game is all about the same factors: blocking, tackling, getting the ball to players in space, making or limiting big plays, penalties, turnovers, etc. The fact that Oregon is so bad on the defensive side of the ball speaks volumes to me about the sustainability of his success. Further, if indeed the NFL plucks him out of Oregon, they might be doing Oregon a favor over the long term.

    • The Lone Stranger

      Amen to it all. This other Kelly character is just the most public face of the Nike merchandising network in Duckville. The Oregon athletic facilities are akin to some vision from out of Rocky III (the Drago side, of course) or even near science fiction. The ultimate product is 85 individual specimens that taken collectively are much more scientifically high-conditioned than any other team in the land.

      In truth, alot of their act seems phony to me, bought and paid for to make the architect, Knight, just more deified and wealthy. I realize this is the case at athletic departments nationwide (paid largely with donations) but the scale at Oregon is much like a factory farm.

    • The fact that Oregon is so bad on the defensive side of the ball speaks volumes to me about the sustainability of his success.

      Oregon is tied for 28th in defensive yards per play. You might be interested to see which team it’s tied with.

      • Bobby

        Facts are stubborn things.

      • i was aware of that…go look at the numbers in november. I think we all recognize that of all teams, our season long average is perhaps the least relevant of any team in college football. while it is both dangerous and intellectually dishonest to pick and choose which statistics we deem relevant (and I am a HUGE propoent of ypp as a measure of quality), I tend to think suspensions and complacency played a HUGE role in our early struggles. Our defense is the one that you see now, which is physical, organized (you have not seen much of the confused looks to the sidelines the past 3 weeks), and very very effective.

        More broadly, football as we know is an integrated game. Oregon’s defense benefits significantly from the fact that opposing offense are under pressure to score to match them. Further, the fact that many play from behind is a huge boost.

        • The Lone Stranger

          Not to go back down the rabbit hole, but, all of which makes the way the USCe game went down the more exasperating. UGa could never rely on that steadying defense to try to right the ship.

        • Oregon’s got some injury problems on the defensive side of the ball, so that’s part of what’s behind the Ducks’ November.

          I still don’t get why you say Oregon’s defense is so bad.

          • go watch the cal and USC games and tell me if you see anything that remotely resembles good defense. i understand there are injuries, but everyone has injuries. Cal is also a below average offensive team, and USC is a one dimensional offensive team.

            Certainly I could be wrong, but my guess is their defense gets torched the next three weeks.

            • One-dimensional or not, USC is averaging almost 7 ypp. It’s got a higher average than Oregon. Don’t see that outcome being much different that what Georgia’s was against Tennessee.

              • Mayor of Dawgtown

                USC is the best bet in the PAC 12 to beat Oregon IMHO. In the regular season game Oregon got up on USC early then both teams basically started trading TDs. Neither D could stop the other team’s O. If USC could get a couple of TDs up early against Oregon in the PAC 12 Championship Game I look for USC to win the rematch. First, USC has to win the PAC 12 South, though.

                • You may be right. Stanford is a better defensive team than USC, but I don’t think it’s got the offensive juice to keep up with the Ducks Saturday.

                  I’m just not sure Monte Kiffin can figure out how to slow down Kelly’s offense. Without some turnover help, I can’t see USC keeping up in a rematch, either.

  6. Rocket Dawg

    With the spread type offenses you are actually playing 11-on-11 rather than 11-on-10 since most of the time you have to defend the QB as a runner. What I see happening is defenses transitioning to smaller, faster LB’s that are more like today’s Safeties in that they have coverage skills and can lay the wood. Offenses will see this and transition back to I formation FB led smash mouth and the whole process starts over

  7. a few more thoughts. The notion that the you have to define yourself as a program is on point in many respects. that said, the SEC as constructed does not allow for teams to define themselves with a finesse offense and win, and its not simply the ability to run the football in abstract. Rather, you have to be able to run the football between the tackles to win consistently in the SEC. That is not to say that some team from outside the SEC running an Oregon style finesse could NEVER win a championship game against a true SEC style foe (i.e., not Auburn 2010 which was NOT a great defensive team). It is to say I don’t think it will work. thus, I think the style he has chosen is great if he wants to win the Pac 12 consistently, but I don’t think it wins a BCS title as long as he has to face an SEC team in the end.

    the MUCH more interesting style contrast right now for me is Harbaugh in the NFL. For all the praise heaped on Saban, Harbaugh’s accomplishments run circles around Saban (builiding a top 5 teams at Stanford???? and then taking an NFL franchise that had won nothing for a decade to the NFC title game. the question becomes in an NFL game where the rules are so slanted towards passing offense, can they win with his physical style?

  8. The “define yourself” thing is a bit misleading. Do anything well and you’ve “defined yourself”. Honestly, Bobo could go many directions and do well with this offense if he just wanted to define hisself (or switch away from what is working…as the case may be. ) but there is also an advantage to doing several things well.

    These are kids you need to break it down simply and teach, first and foremost. There’s just not enough practice time. Once you have four and five year QB’s, then it is easier to get more creative. Malzahn and Kelly are good at breaking complicated things down, teaching, and repeating. I don’t think a Richt/Bobo offense could survive long with “one and done’ers.” But once that system clicks…it is fun to watch.

    • The Lone Stranger

      You put your finger on the constitution of the “Richt System” in that a competent and confident QB is required. As I see it, the Dawgs get real productive when a seasoned signal caller is pulling the strings. Outside of Stafford as a So. I do not believe the Offense has ever excelled with a green QB.

    • The “define yourself” thing is a bit misleading. Do anything well and you’ve “defined yourself”. Honestly, Bobo could go many directions and do well with this offense if he just wanted to define hisself (or switch away from what is working…as the case may be. ) but there is also an advantage to doing several things well.

      If any of you read Chris Brown’s Smart Football book, this is a point he touches on and one that it seems that Kelly also agrees with. Defining your offensive philosophy doesn’t necessarily mean “3 yards and a cloud of dust and nothing else” or “spread it out and sling it around and no running game”. It means you have a core philosophy that you perfect and represents your bread and butter (in the Richt/Bobo offenses at Georgia, this is clearly the play-action passing game). However, you still have other styles/formations/plays that you run as either a change-up or due to personnel match-ups. Put another way, it’s how you avoid being a jack of all trades, but master of none. I believe the Senator briefly reviewed the book awhile back, but it was a good read and good for a budget ($2 on Kindle, I believe).

  9. No matter how the schemes and pace have changed, the game is still fairly simple at the end of the day. Teams that win can run the ball and stop the run unless you are physically superior to other side. The only way to have true balance is to be able to run or pass on most any down and distance and be a threat to move the chains. If someone can hem in Oregon’s spread running attack, the Ducks will lose. Pete Carroll did a pretty good job of controlling Oregon’s offense with equal athletes.

    • The Lone Stranger

      That’s why I believe the secret of the Ducks’ sauce is in their conditioning. They are out-training people. End of story.

      • AthensHomerDawg

        Combine that with Saban’s penchant for skirting the rules and hiring “analysts” and you have some serious juice.

  10. Macallanlover

    I think you guys are underestimating the Ducks. Not saying they are the best team in CFB but the defense isn’t the same weak product it has been in the past and the offense is better this year, imo. Of all the teams in the Top 5, they are the ones I would not like to be paired against. We are a good run defense but the cutbacks would work well against us and the pace of play will drag anyone down by the 3rd and 4th quarters.

    • with 6 weeks to prepare, I will take my chances with Oregon. I think our coaches are smart enough to be able to simulate it. Look at their bowl record under Kelly.

      ND does play tough D. KState does not beat themselves. by definition, that generally limits the ability to score points in “bunches” and suggests a more methodical approach would be required to beat them.

      • Macallanlover

        You may be right, never know until teams line up and face each other (and even then it would take a few games in certain cases, to really know which is the best…like last year.) I will say that if they remain unbesten, they definitely have to be included in the BCS title game. It would be a travesty if ND and KSU were picked over an unbeaten Oregon team that has dominated everyone they have faced.

        • I tend to avoid the debate about which two of the three unbeaten teams will remain so because there is more football to be played, and, there is only a very high probability that one loses and probably greater than a 50% chance that two lose.

          Should we beat Bama, and what that would likely suggest about Aaron, our OL/running game, and our defense, I am more than comfortable facing any of the three and would expect to be favored against all of them.

  11. JT

    Defense always wins championships, think of it this way. The offense can do two things score and turn the ball over. The defense can stop the other team from scoring, the defense can get the ball back and the defense can score. Advantage defense.

  12. W Cobb Dawg

    As far as UGA is concerned, I’m much happier with our O this season. Seems like we’re going for the endzone much more often, rather than dinking the ball. I agree with JT: D wins championships. But don’t expect the D to bail out a team that has offensive problems.

  13. hailtogeorgia

    I think it’s pretty simple, really. Offense may have started to win the war, but if you’re seeing offensive output begin to rise on a regular basis across the board, which we are, the teams who win are still going to be the teams best equipped to stop those offenses. Whether it’s a defensive struggle that ends in a 9-6 game, or a shootout that ends in 61-51, ultimately, the team who can force more stops is probably going to win.