Zen and the art of winning college football games:
“It used to be that good defense beats a good offense. Good defense doesn’t beat good offense anymore,” Saban said. “It’s just like last week. Georgia has as good a defense as we do an offense, and we scored 41 points on them [in a 41-24 Alabama win]. That’s not the way it used to be. It used to be if you had a good defense, other people weren’t going to score. You were always going to be in the game. I’m telling you. It ain’t that way anymore.”
Kirby Smart ain’t buying what Tuscaloosa Yoda is selling, though. At least sort of.
“I think if you look at recent history, elite offenses have certainly done well in the Playoff and have really won most of the championships,” Smart said. “If you look across the board at the biggest offensive numbers and the output of those offensive numbers, whether it be Clemson, whether it be Alabama, whether it be LSU, I would argue that each one of those teams had pretty good defenses, so it’s not a clear-cut question, it’s not a clear-cut answer.”
Smart said that there’s a lot of factors that are important for a team to be successful in today’s game.
“It’s not easy to say this or that,” Smart said. “There’s a lot of factors that go into it, but scoring offense and being able to score points is a tremendous factor, and a lot of the offenses have been ahead. The really good offenses have been ahead of the really good defenses, I don’t disagree with that. But, if you look across the board, there’s some teams that have really dynamic offenses and don’t have defenses, they struggle, they struggle when they go play really good teams.
Smart did state that it’s important for teams to have both, though.
“You’re really looking to have both, but I do respect that Clemson’s won championships with good defenses, and Alabama, when they won and beat us, they had a dynamic offense, but they had a good defense,” Smart said. “Then, when you go to LSU last year, nobody even talks about their defense, but they obviously had a good defense because they’ve got players playing all over the NFL.”
There’s some misdirection going on there. Saban isn’t saying today’s great teams don’t play defense; he’s just saying, push comes to shove, offense wins championships these days. Kirby sounds like a man who isn’t quite ready to give up the dream ($$).
“Nobody wants a 9-6 game. They don’t enjoy that. I think it’s a great thing. I think it’s physical toughness, I think it’s a rock ’em-sock ’em, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I think it could be a great game and be 9-6, but nobody’s entertained by that. So the world we live in today is entertained by points.”
Kirbs, did you ever watch that 2015 Georgia-Missouri game? Great is about the last word I’d associate with that debacle. But I digress.
“So I don’t know when they’ll catch up,” Smart said. “I don’t know if they’ll catch up. I really don’t care if they catch up. Our job is to do the best job defending those kind of offenses that we can. And we want to defend them better than others. And I think we can do that. I think if you recruit well and you have good enough athletes, you have great enough players, you can defend great offenses better than everyone else. It doesn’t mean you’re going to stop them. But it does mean you can defend them better than everybody else.”
All well and good, but even Smart goes on to admit “you better be able to score yourself.”
The thing is, it’s not as if Georgia has to be among the elite of the offensive elite in order to be a legitimate playoff team. Look at the top ten teams in SP+ this week.
If Georgia were able to improve its offensive ranking into the low twenties or high teens, it would be right there with Alabama and Clemson. Surely that’s not an impossible task.
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