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Offensive Production - The Shift to Higher Scores

We like a shutdown Defense, but this writer considers it a thing of the past. And here's why.

Scott Cunningham

In today's college football, the days of a 17-10 score are infrequent; the days of a shutout are just about unheard of.     While we all wish our team would tackle better and cover better, the fact is the offense has many more advantages over the defense and we need to adjust our perception to the reality of the modern game.   I would argue almost any team has a reasonable chance of 10-14 points a game.   A good team is looking at 17-24 points a game.   Factor in a great team on offense (see Oregon, Bama, Texas A&M, Georgia) and that goes to 25-30 points a game.   Now add in turnovers and penalties, and a 35-40 point game is not out of question for a top offensive team, in fact, it's becoming the norm.    That's far removed from a shutout, and the chances of a low score against a top team are pretty rare.   Even in a tough defensive battle, eventually something breaks loose and the score goes up, see UGA vs LSU in the SECCG.    There are just too many ways to pressure your opponent's defense, and whereas the offense can screw up repeatedly, the defense only has to screw up once to give up a TD.   The game is simply more geared towards scoring production.

Then there is the simplistic view of how any team can get 10-14 points.   You get a 6'3" 4.5 second 40 yard receiver with a QB that throws it 40 yards down the field, that team is going to get a score.   They may not win, in fact they may be terrible, but they may score.      Add in another factor, removing starters late, allowing the proverbial "trash touchdown".   Now, we all know it didn't mean much, but that trash TD can take a 35-10 game and turn it into a 35-17 game, which doesn't sound like quite as much a blowout, if you didn't watch the game.

So, I started a list, certainly not complete, of why we should expect more of our offense than defense, and also to help us understand that the game is going to be much more high scoring than the past, which is why a team like UGA needs to hang 40-50 on even the toughest opponents and realize holding a team to 17 points or less is pretty darn good.    Does it forgive lack of fundamentals on D?  Oh no, absolutely not, but it does help us understand the D starts much further behind the curve than the O.    Here are some reasons why the Offense has grown so much more than the Defense in college ball.

QB Safety: This got much more serious after Joe Montana got his shoulder destroyed and QB safety began to take more notice starting in the 80s.  Over the course of time more aggressive flagging of late hits have given the QB more protection, and therefore, more freedom.   This allows for more completions and more points.

High Schools running spread offenses:   High schools in my day weren't known for passing, but that has changed.   High schools run play action formations and spread offenses, developing QBs and WRs much more profoundly for the college level than the defensive side of the ball.   Young men show up  at a college program much more groomed today than 10 years ago.

A lot of CBs wanted to be WRs:  I realize there are still some head hunters out there, but a lot of CBs ended up in that position by default.  Meaning the top WRs are ready as freshmen where as the top CBs may need some grooming and coaching.     Bottom line:  WRs as a group are a little better than CBs as a group.   They generally have a speed and height advantage, which allows for big pass completions.   Sure, that big safety kills someone every so often, but in general, he gets burned more often than not. And we'll get to targeting.

7 on 7 play and practice for high school:   Elite QBs are doing 7 on 7 camps and walking on to college campuses with more knowledge than ever, allowing college teams to run more complex offenses and gaining an advantage at a younger age over defenses.    UGA has Brice Ramsey just waiting, he could already run most offenses in the country.    7 on 7 grooming is one of the strongest reasons QBs are ready to run complex and spread offenses from the start, which means young offenses have an innate advantage over a young defense.

QB camps: Ever hear of a defensive end camp?  Me neither.  I'm sure they exist, but the bottom line is there are a lot of top training programs a 15-18 year old QB can go to and learn a higher level of the game.  Oh, and where there are QBs, then there must be WRs, so the WRs are learning as well.   Another situation of freshman on the O side of the ball being more prepared than the D side.   And guess who goes to these camps and gets smart as well?   Yea, the Offensive Coordinators and QB coaches.   So the wealth of offensive production gets spread around.

Targeting:   You knew I was going to have to bring this one up.  It's huge when the penalty is ejection.    Whatever your personal feelings are, the targeting rules are going to allow a few more catches than usual, and therefore more offensive production.   There's just not much more to say, giving a receiver just a little more wiggle room allows more yards and more TDs.   And ejection?!   What penalty can compare?    It created a crazy rule as well, where the targeting penalty is enforced by the field and the ejection is overturned in the booth.   My head hurts.

Pass Interference and hands to face: More PIs are called on D than on O.   Advantage O.   And all the hands to face, grabbing facemasks by running backs that are never called?   Advantage O.     The referees can actually help balance the scales of power by being just as aggressive on Offensive PI and faskmasks, but it simply isn't happening.

Hurry up offenses:    This is clearly a major advantage to offenses, which is why more and more teams are going to it.   Personally, I think this is going to blow up somehow (I think the D should get a chance to get set) and we have seen already this season the controversies that come with it, but for now, it generates more offensive production.   Hurry up offenses work, the QBs are ready to run them (see 7 on 7) and defenses don't have a lot of ways to combat them.    Until the scores routinely blow through the roof and the rule makers decide to slow the game down some, this is a major advantage to the offense.

A youthful desire to touch the ball:    Many more kids want to throw, catch, or tote the rock than back pedal 10 yards over and over.   That creates a greater pool of young men on that side of the ball than the other.   Dick Butkis may not like it, but the star power is in offensive play making.   The money follows that train as well, naturally leading to more interest on the offense than defense.    There is more money at the "play maker" position and left tackle than on the D side of the ball.   Therefore, more competition, and a deeper pool of players that can handle the ball.

Bottom line, we may need to adjust our preconceived notions of what a good offense and defense is.  The days of low scores are gone.    I don't necessarily like it.  I am a chess match football guy - I like to flip the field, work the clock, and work field position.  That is changing, however, with the ability for so many teams to run hurry up and/or get the quick strike TD.    So, tell me what you think, and why, even tell me why I am wrong.   In the meantime, I'll keep hoping for a shutdown D while my intellect tells me different, and