Who saw this coming?
Scoring, total offense and touchdowns dropped in college football to their lowest points in six years, according to year-end statistics compiled by the NCAA staff for the 2017 season.
Teams averaged only 28.8 points per game in 2017, a decline of 1.3 points from a record 30.08 points in 2016. That marks the lowest scoring average since 2011 (28.3). College football took a quantum leap in 2007 with scoring average jumping four points per team from 24.4 to 28.4.
Since then, the national scoring record was set three times, peaking at 30.08 points in 2016.
Average total offense was down 403.6 yards per game. That’s the lowest nationally since 2011 (392.4). Average touchdowns per team declined to 3.65, lowest since a 2011 average of 3.59.
All of it reflected the impact of the spread offense on the modern game. A combined 22 national records have been set since 2010 in rush yards per carry, completions per game, passing accuracy, passing yards, yards per attempt, total offense, yards per play, touchdowns per game and scoring.
However, there are tiny indicators that defensive coordinators are pushing back — at least a bit. For only the second time since 2003, no national records were set in 2017 among the 15 cumulative scoring categories tracked each season by the NCAA.
Everything is cyclical. Somebody’s brainstorming the next big thing on offense as you read this.
In the meantime, some of the change can be chalked up to controlling tempo.
“Defenses have caught up with up-tempo [offenses] and have retooled the secondaries to have corner-type skill sets at safety positions,” said CBS college football analyst Rick Neuheisel.
The numbers bear that out. In 2013, 20 teams averaged at least 80 plays per game. That number shrunk to six in 2017. That’s the fewest since 2010 (three)…
Defenses benefitted by being allowed time to change personnel if the offense substitutes. Then came the rise of RPOs — the run/pass option that allows offenses the decision whether to run or pass after the snap. (For a quick primer, look at Washington State and Auburn game film.)
“As always, defenses at some point begin to catch up with the ‘new’ ways offenses are attacking them,” said Texas A&M offensive coordinator Darrell Dickey. “… A lot of the ‘hair on fire’ offenses that were only concerned with yards and points are controlling the tempo more and trying to help their defense.”
It won’t last. The only thing that lasts is the chess match itself.