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.

Don’t let Saquon Barkley distract you from the season Stanford’s Bryce Love is having

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Saquon Barkley is incredible. The Penn State running back is every bit a deserving Heisman front-runner, what with his 66 carries for 518 yards and four touchdowns, his team-leading 23 grabs for 335 yards and two touchdowns, and his 22.86-yard average on seven kickoff returns. This isn’t a criticism of him.

But I want to introduce an idea to you right now, and I want you to take a deep breath first: it’s possible Barkley is not having the best season of any running back in college football. At least not to this point.

Take a look at Stanford’s Bryce Love‘s first four games:

  • 13 carries for 180 yards and a touchdown in a 62-7 destruction of Rice
  • 17 carries for 160 yards and a touchdown in a 42-24 loss to USC
  • 13 carries for 184 yards and two scores in a 20-17 loss to San Diego State
  • 30 carries for 263 yards and a touchdown in last night’s 58-34 defeat of UCLA

Add it all up and you get 73 carries for 787 yards and five touchdowns, which not only means Love leads the nation in rushing yards per game — he leads the nation in rushing while averaging 10.78 yards per carry.

Love not only leads the nation in total rushing yards, he not only leads the nation in rushing yards per game, he leads the nation in yards per carry for all players anywhere in the neighborhood his carry total. Four players rank ahead of Love in yards per carry thus far, and those three players have toted the rock 76 times — combined.

The next closest player on the yards per carry rankings with at least 70 rushes is San Diego State’s Rashaad Penny, who averages 7.87 yards on 91 carries. That’s an incredible number, and still 27 percent lower than Love’s average.

Stanford may not win enough for Love to join Barkley in the Heisman conversation, but right now it appears the two running back spots on every All-American team are locked up until further notice.

Georgia, TCU replace Ohio State and OK State in top 10 of latest AP poll

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Big wins over ranked opponents pushed Georgia and TCU into the top 10 of the latest Associated Press poll, released Sunday. Voters were apparently more impressed with Georgia’s 31-3 whipping of then-No. 17 Mississippi State in Athens than they were of TCU’s 44-31 upset of then-No. 6 Oklahoma State in Stillwater. Georgia moved up four spots while TCU jumped seven, but the Bulldogs remained ahead of the Frogs by two spots, No. 7 to No. 9.

Elsewhere, Washington creeped forward one spot, Washington State and Louisville nudged forward two, and South Florida, San Diego State and Utah leaped three spots forward. Notre Dame and West Virginia returned to this week’s poll at Nos. 22 and 23, replacing upset losers Florida State and Oregon. Unlike the Coaches’ Poll, voters remembered that Mississippi State hammered LSU by 30 points just eight days ago, keeping the Bulldogs one spot ahead of the Bayou Bengals.

The full poll:

  1. Alabama — 1,515 total points (52 first-place votes)
  2. Clemson — 1,458 (2)
  3. Oklahoma — 1,397 (1)
  4. Penn State — 1,304
  5. USC — 1,247
  6. Washington — 1,188
  7. Georgia — 1,136
  8. Michigan — 1,088
  9. TCU — 1,028
  10. Wisconsin — 1,023
  11. Ohio State — 1,016
  12. Virginia Tech — 828
  13. Auburn — 701
  14. Miami — 693
  15. Oklahoma State — 665
  16. Washington State — 551
  17. Louisville — 502
  18. South Florida — 406
  19. San Diego State — 365
  20. Utah — 356
  21. Florida — 342
  22. Notre Dame — 246
  23. West Virginia — 212
  24. Mississippi State — 148
  25. LSU — 92

 

Coaches’ Poll: Georgia moves into Top 10, TCU doesn’t

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The more irrelevant of college football’s two exhibition polls is out following Week 4 action, and it’s not radically different from last week’s edition. Georgia and TCU were this week’s biggest movers, jumping four spots apiece for their respective wins over then-No. 17 Mississippi State and then-No. 7 Oklahoma State. Each of the losers of those games dropped seven spots, Oklahoma State to No. 14 and Mississippi State to No. 24, which is somehow two spots behind an LSU team that these Bulldogs absolutely hammered just eight days ago.

Mississippi State remains one spot ahead of Florida State, who somehow edged out Notre Dame for the final spot despite losing to unranked NC State at home. West Virginia returned to the poll at No. 23, taking the place of Oregon, who fell out after falling 37-35 at Arizona State.

The full poll:

  1. Alabama — 1,570 total points (59 first-place votes)
  2. Clemson — 1,499 (4)
  3. Oklahoma — 1,443
  4. Penn State — 1,328
  5. USC — 1,306
  6. Washington — 1,277
  7. Michigan — 1,152
  8. Georgia — 1,089
  9. Ohio State — 1,066
  10. Wisconsin — 1,029
  11. TCU — 985
  12. Virginia Tech — 877
  13. Miami — 727
  14. Oklahoma State — 687
  15. Auburn — 664
  16. Washington State — 574
  17. South Florida — 522
  18. Louisville — 505
  19. Utah — 437
  20. Florida — 345
  21. San Diego State — 315
  22. LSU — 221
  23. West Virginia — 184
  24. Mississippi State — 132
  25. Florida State — 104

 

SEC acknowledges officiating error on Kellen Mond would-be touchdown run

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The SEC conference office isn’t supposed to take sides, but deep down the league had to be rooting for Texas A&M to beat Arkansas yesterday.

In the second quarter, Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond took off for what should have been an 89-yard touchdown scamper to bring his Aggies to within 21-14. Except the side judge incorrectly ruled him out of bounds, mistaking his white cleat of Arkansas defensive back Josh Liddell. It was a human error mistake that no one could do anything about once it happened.

Texas A&M settled for a field goal on the drive, losing four points that should have been theirs. Sure, it wasn’t the refs’ fault that the Aggies couldn’t cash in a first-and-goal from the 10-yard line, but that isn’t A&M’s problem. Mond ran into the end zone without being brought down or stepping out of bounds.

The point, thankfully, became moot hours later when Mond and his charges completed the comeback, winning 50-43 in overtime.

Still, the SEC office on Sunday acknowledged the mistake and that there was nothing anyone could do about it.

“On the play at 10:02 in the second quarter of the Arkansas vs. Texas A&M game, the ball carrier was incorrectly ruled out of bounds and the play whistled dead by the official.

“Based on NCAA football playing rule 12-3-3-g, ‘If the ball carrier is ruled out of bounds, the play is not reviewable.”

Moving forward, it will be interesting to see if the NCAA can change the rule on plays such as this. Rules makers adapted to add a clear recovery clause in which a fumble is prematurely blown dead, and the play above shows that Liddell kept trying to tackle Mond even after Mond was incorrectly ruled out of bounds. So why not just allow the touchdown to stand?