College offenses keep pushing the envelope

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The Oregon Ducks are averaging an amazing 630 yards of total offense per game.

The Oregon Ducks are second in the nation in total offense…and it’s not close.

The previous two sentences should be incongruous, but they are not. They are merely a byproduct of the offensive revolution that has come to dominate college football of late.

Six weeks into the 2013 season, an astounding 19 teams averaging at least 500 yards of offense per game. The Baylor Bears lead the way with an absurd 780 yards per game. By comparison, just two teams finished the season averaging over 500 yards per game in 2009.

Granted, it is still in the early going so the numbers are partially a reflection of opponent strength (or lack thereof), but it’s worth noting that back in 2005 everyone went absolutely ga-ga over a USC offense that averaged 613 yards of offense through six games. The fact that the Trojans averaged 50 points per game that year was also supposed to be a big deal. Mind you, that was an offense loaded with arguably the best personnel ever on one unit — Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush, LenDale White, a star-studded offensive line, two second-round receivers and so on. But that team’s production was primarily the result of USC out-talenting its opponents.

Baylor has a nice collection of players, with two legitimate Heisman candidates (Bryce Petty and Lache Seastrunk) and a budding Biletnikoff contender (Antwan Goodley), but it doesn’t have an NFL player at every position like that USC team did.  Its incredible offensive output — 71 points per game?? — can mostly be attributed to the schemes and machinations of head coach Art Briles. Without Briles, Baylor would be just another Big 12 doormat.

And it’s about time people recognize that. Football commentators like to say it’s all about the Jimmies and the Joes, but they’re wrong: The X’s and the O’s matter, too, especially in college football. It’s not like Clemson would be as proficient on offense if it ran out of a Power I formation, would it? Would Baylor be the only team without a three-and-out in college football if it utilized a pro-style attack? Would Oregon be what it is today if it had run the West Coast Offense all these years?

No way.

Scouring the top 20 teams in total offense, only three run what are usually referred to as ‘conventional’ offenses, meaning with the quarterback primarily taking snaps from under center and with the offense huddling before every play.

The evidence in favor of the effectiveness of spread-style systems is so compelling, it’s a wonder that more elite schools don’t go full bore in this direction (Florida was one that did and it won two titles). Imagine if the USC offense of 2005 — or even 2011 — had run the Briles scheme. Or if Alabama emulated what Oregon does on offense. Those two teams running those schemes with their talent level would rewrite the offensive record books and probably never lose.

Of course, we’ll never see that happen because programs like USC or Alabama want to win the way they’ve always won, even at the risk of not optimizing their production. In the meantime, college offenses keep improving to the point where teams that would normally be excluded from the national conversation — the Oregons, the Baylors, the Texas A&Ms, the Clemsons, etc. — are now dominating it.

Better get used to it.

Notre Dame CB Nick Watkins announces intent to transfer

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Notre Dame cornerback Nick Watkins will be playing somewhere else this fall. Watkins announced, via Twitter, he will be leaving the Irish behind in search of a new program to complete his college football career.

As a graduate transfer, Watkins will be eligible to play with any new program this fall.

“When I decided to attend Notre Dame, my primary goal was to earn a degree from this prestigious university, and I’m proud to say that I’ll achieve that goal,” Watkins said in his statement. “With that being said, I’ll search for a new school to attend for my last year of college football.”

Last season Watkins appeared in 12 games for the Irish and recorded 21 solo tackles and seven assisted tackles. He also broke up eight passes and recorded an interception. Watkins played as a backup for Notre Dame and likely would have played a similar role this fall if he stayed in South Bend, but the former four-star recruit has potential to land a starting job in the right situation.

Ohio State super fan signed memorial photo of Earle Bruce, and Ohio State players were not happy

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The Ohio State football family paid their last respects to former Buckeyes head coach Earle Bruce this week, from family, friends, former players, coaches, and fans. Among those paying their respects was one of Ohio State’s most visible fans, the so-called Buck-I-Guy (the one who dresses up like a cowboy, and not the face-painting fan you see during every broadcast of an Ohio State game). A memorial photo of Bruce to be signed by Bruce’s former players accumulated plenty of signatures, but one of those signatures was not welcome by Bruce’s former players.

A sign made it clear the photo was to only be signed by former coaches and players that have played for or worked under Bruce. Whether he missed the sign or just felt he was as much a part of the Ohio State football program as the players, the self-proclaimed “Buck-I-Guy” signed the photo.

The signature clearly did not sit well with Ohio State players, and somebody ended up obscuring Buck-I-Guy’s signature by covering it up with an image of a buckeye.

Helmet sticker to Eleven Warriors.

Oregon’s Fotu Leiato arrested after removing vehicle’s parking boot

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For the second time this week, we’ll be forced to rest the “Days Without An Arrest” ticker back to double zeroes.

The latest to do the deed is Fotu Leiato, with the Eugene Register-Guard reporting that the Oregon outside linebacker was arrested Wednesday evening by university police on charges of second-degree criminal mischief and second-degree theft.  It’s alleged that Leiato removed a parking boot from the vehicle he was driving; it’s unclear what led to the parking boot being attached in the first place.

The Register-Guard also writes that “Leiato was also booked into the jail on a failure to appear warrant from Eugene Municipal Court, stemming from a second-degree criminal trespass charge.” What led to that charge is unclear as well.

All three of the charges Leiato is facing are misdemeanors, and the football program has yet to publicly address the developments.

The rising fourth-year senior has played in 37 games the past three seasons, including all 13 in 2017.  His lone start came during the 2017 season against Southern Utah.  He’s been credited with 37 tackles, one tackle for loss and two passes defensed during his collegiate career.

Michigan heads to France for Wolverines’ European Vacation, The Sequel

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Brace yourself, Paris, for the 2018 version of the Khaki Invasion.

Last year around this time, the Michigan football program took a trip to Italy as part of a spring practice schedule that included meeting the Pope as well as distributing backpacks to refugees.  Thursday, as previously announced, the U-M program is leaving Ann Arbor to head to Paris and Normandy for what this year will be strictly a true vacation as the Wolverines’ have already put the finishing touches on their 15 spring practice sessions this year.

According to mlive.com, this year’s trip will include “tours of the famous Louvre Museum, Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame Cathedral, a football clinic for locals, civic and community service events.”

“It’s an educational opportunity,” head coach Jim Harbaugh said according to the Detroit News. “(We all) connect. Not all learning is done in the classroom or on the football field.”

The Wolverines will be entering their fourth season under Harbaugh.  In the previous three years, they’ve gone a combined 28-11 and finished third (2015), third (2016) and fourth (2017) in the Big Ten East.  Last year, Harbaugh was the highest-paid coach in the Big Ten and the third-highest in the country at just a shade over $7 million.