2013 produces big numbers, not much defense

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 3, 2014 at 3:44 pm •  Published: January 3, 2014
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NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. (AP) — With apologies to Florida State, the question must be asked: Can anyone out there play defense?

The Seminoles come into the BCS title game ranked first in the country in points allowed.

Auburn and the rest of them? Pretty much every one-liner about busy scoreboard operators and video-game line scores applies.

Including Tuesday night's Chik-fil-A bowl, there have been nine games this season involving teams from BCS automatic-qualifier conferences that produced 100 or more points, according to STATS. Included among those: Auburn's 59-42 win over Missouri in the Southeastern Conference title game.

As for anything resembling the "Game of the Century" — the 1946 classic between No. 1 Army and No. 2 Notre Dame that ended in a 0-0 deadlock:

"That's an impossibility. That won't happen," Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. "It's trickling down now to where all the Southeastern Conference teams have parts or variations of spread offenses. They're very difficult to defend because of the space on the field, and then the quarterbacks running with the ball makes it even more challenging."

The over-under for Monday night's title game, despite Florida State's nation-leading 11.1 points-per-game allowed, is 67½.

The average over-under for this season's bowl games: 58. Through the first 30 games of bowl season, winners averaged 34.6 points.

"Back in the day, games were decided 10-3 and that was great stuff and hopefully we can get back to that," said Central Florida linebacker Terrance Plummer, a few days before the Knights topped Baylor 52-42 in the Fiesta Bowl. It was the third bowl game this season to produce more than 90 points.

But Plummer's vision probably won't materialize anytime soon, at least not with the way the numbers are trending.

Thanks to the influx of spread offenses that don't huddle, along with a rapid-fire substitution patterns and more athletic quarterbacks, defenses have been taking an increasingly steady drubbing over the past decade or so.

Teams in automatic-qualifier conferences averaged 30.8 points per game this season, according to STATS, continuing an upward trend from that dates to 2006, when the big schools averaged 25.4 points per game.

And by "big schools," that includes some of the most hallowed programs in football.

Remember tough-nosed Big Ten football? This year, the conference's marquee matchup produced this score: Ohio State 42, Michigan 41. So much for three yards and a cloud of dust. Another Michigan final from this season: Wolverines 63, Indiana Hoosiers 47 — in football, not hoops.

"With the way the rules have changed and the evolution of the spread offense and all those things, not too much shocks me," Georgia Tech defensive coordinator Ted Roof said. "I pretty much can roll with it. As long as we win, I'm good."

The Auburn-Alabama game, another bastion of old-time, grind-it-out football, was a 34-28 blockbuster this season, capped by arguably the most memorable play in the sport's history — Chris Davis' 109-yard return of a missed field goal with no time left in regulation.

That was once-in-a-lifetime.

Some of these other 2013 final scores are simply routine:

—Duke 58, Pittsburgh 55

—Arizona State 62, USC 41

—SMU 55, Rutgers 52

The list goes on. It cuts across virtually all the big conferences, led by the Pac-12, where teams averaged 33.5 points a game this season — 6.5 more than they did only five years ago. That's an increase of 24 percent.

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