Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Defensive Pretenders

If religion is the opiate of the masses, then high scoring offenses are certainly the amphetamine fuel, misleading to both the unwashed mob and their injudicious pushers that constitute the sports media. No finer example of this confusion exists than last year’s “game of the century” between Michigan and Ohio State, said to be a nail biter of epic proportions, the contest was in reality a warning to the insightful of two fundamental flawed teams.

A glance again at the box score –

While the offensively addled speed freak sees teams scoring 42 points (Ohio State) and 39 points (Michigan), the experienced practitioner of defensive sobriety sees teams that allowed 42 and 39 points to be scored against them amid a 900 yard offensive engorgement of bacchanalian proportions.

And a warning. For if you can give up that type of obscene yardage within the myopic confines of Big 10 conference play, the elite contenders from other conferences might likely be able to do as much, or more.

Which they did, with Ohio State in turn surrendering 41 to Florida in the BCS title game, and Michigan 32 to USC in the Rose Bowl, scores in routs that were only 2 points and 10 points removed from those given up in the erstwhile “game of the century”.

We posted a similar warning about Louisville the week before they fell to Kentucky (and subsequently Syracuse), stating emphatically that “Good teams don’t give up a dizzying 555 yards offense – at home mind you – to Middle Tennessee State.”

And while it would be not genuine to say we anticipated the loss to Syracuse (though we did, via a successful money line bet, to Kentucky), we did predict several losses for Louisville this season.

With the self-back-patting “behind” us, who are the other defensive pretenders this year, as evidenced through 4 games of statistics? First, let us reiterate what it takes to be a champion in Division I-A. Of the past five MNC, the most they gave up point wise in the regular season, and their season average defensively, are as follows –

2006 Florida – 27 points in a loss at Auburn, Average 13.5 ppg

2005 Texas – 29 points in a win over Texas A&M, Average 16.4 ppg

2004 USC – 28 points in a win over Stanford, Average 13 ppg

2003 LSU – 24 points in a win over Arkansas, Average 11 ppg

2002 Ohio State – 21 points in a win over Texas Tech, Average 13 ppg.

So, no more than 29 points in any regular season game, and an average of 13.4 points per game surrendered are your “championship” markers. Keep that in mind as we go forward.

Now, introducing your defensive pretenders:

The Defensive Frauds

For these teams, the worst is ahead. These ranked teams don’t even place among the top 50 defenses in total yards in the country (Army is 50th, giving up 344 yards per game). Louisville was/is certainly in this category, but we also see –


Cal is 6th ranked in both polls at 4-0, but let’s take a closer look at those wins –

Over Tennessee 45-31, 382 yards surrendered
Over Colorado State 34-28, 458 yards surrendered
Over LA Tech 42-12, 274 yards surrendered
Over Arizona 45-27, 330 yards surrendered

Let’s put that in a little perspective. In Cal’s “marquee” win at home over the Vols, the Bears gave up 382 yards and 31 points to a Tennessee team that gathered only 20 points (13 on offense) and 298 yards against Florida, a suspect defense in its own right (more later).

At this point, Cal is averaging 361 yards given up on defense, and 24.5 points per game, to teams that have a collective record of 4-10, with not a single one of them having a winning record (the closest is Tennessee at 2-2).

Also in the Pac Ten –


Also 4-0 and ranked 12th, Oregon has similar problems to Cal. Their four wins –

Over Houston 48-27, 423 yards surrendered
Over Michigan 39-7, 365 yards surrendered
Over Fresno State 52-21, 327 yards surrendered
Over Stanford 55-31, 402 yards surrendered

That’s an average of 379 yards given on defense, and 21.5 points per game. The ppg stat is a bit illusory, because in beating Michigan, the Wolverines still managed 365 yards despite the 7 points. But, in giving up 31 points and 402 yards to lowly Stanford, the Duck’s problem is plain to see.

Cumulative record of Oregon’s opponents: 6-7.

For all of you jonesing offensive junkies in need of a quick fix, turn in to this defensively challenged match-up this weekend. And be sure of one thing – whoever wins this thing will in turn be virtually vaporized by USC later on.

Which, in turn, will lead to inflated tales of Trojan dominance.

Which, in turn, will be pointed out by me.

Others Frauds of Note –

Kentucky – probably not a surprise to anyone, but Kentucky was actually out gained in yardage in two of the games they won (to Louisville and Arkansas). The ‘Cats are averaging 404 yards a game surrendered on defense, and 23.3 points.

Missouri – Could 4-0 look any more fraudulent when you have surrendered an average of 25 points per game – and 434 yards per game – to the likes of Illinois, Ole Miss, Western Michigan and Illinois State?

Nebraska – Yeah, Nebraska is still ranked at 22nd with a 3-1 record. But the Cornhuskers have given up 24.5 points per game, and 407 yards per game, including an astounding 610 yards to Ball State.

Other teams on the defensive fraud bubble

These undefeated teams, while in the top 50 defensively, might want to be a little cautious. Remember, in the past 5 years, no team that has won the BCS Title that has surrendered more than 29 points in a regular season game. Likewise, championship teams average about 13 .5 points per game surrendered defensively. In possible (or perhaps very real) trouble are –

Boston College – Surrendering 325 yards per game, the Eagles gave up 28 to Wake Forest at home. Overall, they are allowing 18 ppg.

Hawaii –Sure, nobody thinks they are really going to win anything. And their 313 ypg on defense and 18.5 ppg certainly verify that. Not to mention giving up 44 points to Louisiana Tech.

Texas – Wither those stout Longhorn defenses of old? Surrendering 311 ypg, and 18 ppg, Texas gave up 32 points to Central Florida.

Wisconsin – It’s a Badger illusion folks. Wisconsin is allowing 310 ypg, and 19.5 ppg, against the likes of Washington State, UNLV, and Iowa. Not to mention surrendering 31 points, and 377 yards, to Division I-AA Citadel.

Florida – Yes, my Gators. So far in 2007, our young defense is allowing 307 ypg and 19.5 ppg. Florida didn’t give up more than 27 points in the regular season last year (in a loss at Auburn), and 28 overall (in a win in the SEC Championship). Yet, 31 points were given up to Troy in the Swamp.

USC – Does Hollywood have a blemish? Why yes, it does, surrendering 307 ypg, and 18.3 ppg. Plus, the Trojans gave up 31 points to Nebraska, or more than our “magic” championship number of 29 points, only 3 games into the season. However, playing the likes of their Pac 10 foes it may not matter. Until bowl time, that is.

As an indication of how much information this really reveals, consider the case of my Gators, who have already played 1/3 of their regular season games. In order to get to that 13.5 ppg that was both their championship standard last year, as well as the championship defensive average of the past 5 years, they are going to have to surrender NO MORE THAN an average of 10.5 points per game over the remainder of the season. Against the likes of LSU. And Kentucky. And Georgia. And South Carolina.

In the case of USC, with 9 games remaining, they are looking at giving no more than 12 ppg if they are to reach that “magical” defensive average of 13.5.

I’m sure my 90’s era Gator colleagues are thinking an overwhelming Spurrier-crack-like offense can make up for the middling woes of a defense giving up 19.5 points per game. Well, not really. In the Year of Our Lord 1996, the Gator defense did surrender a un-championship like 17 points per game. And scored a pure-Colombian-like 47 points per game offensively. For a 30 point differential.

This season, the Gators are giving 19.5, and getting 49.3, for a 29.8 differential. Fantastic black-tar, you say! Well, remember we did lose a game that year…

For the teams listed above, I’m not saying they might lose a regular season game or two. I’m flat out saying they will, with the possible exception of USC.

Which leaves us “Friends of Bill B (Belichick)” of the offensively abstemious lot where?

Looking at LSU and Oklahoma, that’s where.

Ranked 1st (LSU), and 5th (Oklahoma) on total defense nationally respectively, both teams have played – and convincingly beat defensively – quality opponents. Points per game surrendered are 5.8 (LSU) and 11.8 (Oklahoma). Lurking is defensively ranked 2nd Ohio State, without total conviction until (when?) a better offense is played.

For LSU, 5.8 ppg on defense can lead to cockiness

The media theme of predestination might well lead to reality, with LSU facing USC in New Orleans for all the marbles of myth. Were that game played today, I would mortgage the house with a bet on LSU.


Anonymous said...

Jesus, Meatchicken. Biggest crybabies in college football.

Alagator said...

Actually it should be noted that Florida did not give a defensive TD to Auburn in 2006. The Gators served up two TD' on a blocked punt and the other on the last play of the game when Chris Leak fumbled a pitched ball...The offense also gave up a safety when holding was called in the end zone. So in essence the Florida D only gave up 12 points during that game...