Paul Myerberg did the math on something I was very interested in seeing after the first week of the season went in the books.
Last fall, 32 teams in the F.B.S. earned a touchback on 20 or more percent of their kickoffs. Two teams, Auburn (57.6) and Oklahoma State (53.5) registered touchbacks on more than half of their kickoffs.
Over the season’s opening weekend, 91 teams registered a touchback on 20 or more percent of their kickoffs. Eight teams opted for a touchback on every kickoff: Idaho, U.C.L.A., Vanderbilt, Memphis, Michigan, Western Michigan, Washington State and UTEP.
That is pretty dramatic. Sure, it’s a small sample size, and, sure, you can expect some coaches to experiment with kickoffs (and kickoff returns) as the season develops and they get a better feel for how their special teams can perform. But I don’t think I’m going out on a limb here by predicting we’re going to see a significant increase in touchbacks this season.
Over the long haul, if that favorably impacts player health, I’m all for it. As for the short run, I’m also in for any development that helps a certain team reduce the impact of finishing 87th in opponent kickoff returns last season.