Is this what we want football to be? With that simple question, Alabama coach Nick Saban, whose team has won two of the past three BCS national championships and, as a near unanimous No. 1, is poised to win another one this season, neatly summed up the current state of the college game.
He believe offenses are running (and passing) wild and defenses are, at the moment, seemingly powerless to stop them. Five teams are averaging more than 50 points per game. Twelve more, including Sabans Crimson Tide, are averaging more than 40 points a game.
Oregons offense cant go fast enough. West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith has thrown 24 touchdowns and no interceptions. On the same day the Mountaineers defeated Baylor 70-63, Georgia topped Tennessee 51-44 in an SEC game.
And Saban, a defensive coach in a defensive league, is worried that the game is becoming something unrecognizable. He called for changes to slow the offenses down and to protect defensive players.
I think that the way people are going no-huddle right now, that at some point in time, we should look at how fast we allow the game to go in terms of player safety, Saban said last week. The team gets in the same formation group, you cant substitute defensive players, you go on a 14-, 16-, 18-play drive and theyre snapping the ball as fast as you can go and you look out there and all your players are walking around and cant even get lined up. Thats when guys have a much greater chance of getting hurt when they're not ready to play.
I think thats something that can be looked at. Its obviously created a tremendous advantage for the offense when teams are scoring 70 points and we're averaging 49.5 points a game. With people that do those kinds of things, more and more people are going to do it.
I just think theres got to be some sense of fairness in terms of asking, Is this what we want football to be?
To most people not named Harvey Updyke, it sounds like unpleasant grousing from a coach whose team is capable of recruiting any player it wants, like 300-pound defensive tackles and Heisman Trophy-caliber running backs. Lets keep playing football the old way, it sounds like Saban was saying, where 300-pound defensive tackles and Heisman Trophy-caliber running backs provide a distinct advantage.
Saban is right on one account: It works, so more people are going to do it.
Fresno State, which didnt match anyones idea of a progressive offense under former coach Pat Hill, is now a spread, up-tempo team under first-year coach Tim DeRuyter. The Bulldogs are averaging 39.5 points and 493.8 yards per game. Both totals rank in the top 20 nationally.
Yes, this is what some people lots of people want football to be.
The offensive proliferation is changing the game.
Changing the way we look at stats. Yards per play as opposed to yards per game, for instance, given the fact that some teams run a lot more plays per game.
Changing the way teams approach fourth down. If you cant stop them and if field goals wont cut it, theres more reason to go for it.
Changing the way defenses defend. Creating turnovers becomes even more critical. Sometimes it is the only way to stop an offense. Consider the top nine teams in turnover margin, including Alabama and Boise State, are 44-2.
Its cyclical. Thats what I really think. Until enough people do it and people kind of figure out, OK, this is what everybody is doing, well go a different way, Boise State coach Chris Petersen said. College football is interesting in terms of the variety.
Thats what makes it so great. Some teams run the triple option. Others always pass. There are so many styles and theres a coach or a program willing to try something different.
Now many have settled on the spread. Even though most think of it as a passing scheme, there are real benefits in the running game, especially if you have a running quarterback.
Fresno State running back Robbie Rouse, used to seeing eight or nine defenders crowded near the line of scrimmage, is happy to see the gaps that the spread offense is giving him. Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr said the best thing about the spread is how it makes life easier for Rouse.
Teams are doing that because it spreads you out and you can do some things in the run game and keep it simple, Petersen said.
So yes, this is what I want football to be like. I want some teams that rely on offense and some that rely on defense. Some that pass and some that run. And if it means Arena League scores, so be it.
Brian Murphy: 377-6444