Sunday, November 23, 2008

Nothing Personal Texas Tech

I got a little hate mail on my post about the weak defenses of the Big 12.

From the comments (sic) –

gators youre an idiot. Even if Texas Tech struggles with the sooners they are 59-2 under stoops in Norman. A win in Norman no matter how hard the struggle will only validate the fact that we can go into a hostile environment (such as miami come championship time) and beat a good football team over adversity. when we win in Oklahoma perhaps you will give the respect most definitely earned by a great football team.

I had no idea that your team was going to have its pants pulled down and their bottoms spanked, but when I “point out” that a team is seriously lacking defensively it isn’t an attack on that team individually. When a team is defensively challenged – as Tech has been all year – sooner or later you have one of “those games” where your offense doesn’t perform. Sometimes it is because of the opposing defense, or sometimes you just don’t have your “A” game. And when it does happen, you get schooled.

It is actually pretty simple – if your offense has a bad day, you can still be competitive if your defense is only giving up a few points offensively. Or, as a former Gator great defensive player once put it to me – “you can lose a game scoring 50 points, but you never lose if your opponents score zero.”

Anyone who has followed this blog is well aware of the how harshly critical I was of Florida’s defense last season. With an even mediocre defense last year Florida would have contended for another BCS title. Further, in all the statistical studies I have looked at of championship teams the most consistent statistical category is defense.

Based on our analysis on defense, in early 2007 I pointed out that then high ranked Louisville was headed for serious trouble. At the time the Cardinals were 9th ranked and undefeated (after a 12-1 2006), but they ended 2007 6-6.

In early October last year I pointed out that 5-0 and 2nd ranked Cal was similarly challenged defensively, and received some hate mail from Bear fans. Cal would end the season 7-6.

It isn’t just a low number of average points surrendered that point to a championship squad – it is individual game performances. We pointed out in December 2007 that typical BCS champions didn’t have even single games in a season where they gave up more than 29 points. (Last year LSU gave up more than 30 twice, but both were overtime games in which they gave up only 27 in regulation).

In one of the posts that “put us on the map” back in 2006 we noted that the “Game of the Century” between Michigan and Ohio State actually exposed the defensive vulnerabilities of the Wolverines in their 42-39 loss, a vulnerability that was confirmed when USC shredded Michigan for 32 points and 432 yards in the Rose Bowl that year.

And this season, in a piece entitled “Paper Tigers”, we noted on October 13th that preseason highly ranked Clemson, Missouri, Auburn and yes, LSU, were headed for rough seasons, and made predictions of their final records (Clemson 6-6, Missouri 9-3, Auburn 5-7 and LSU 8-4). All those records look reasonably likely now. The reason for our skepticism – mostly defense.

This really isn’t rocket science – no matter how much one can wish it wasn’t so, defensive vulnerabilities eventually get exposed in games like we witnessed between Texas Tech and Oklahoma last night. Until a team comes along with an offense so "explosive" that it can overcome all defensive deficiencies I going to continue to believe that no such team exists, or ever has.

Had it not been the Sooners, the Red Raiders would have been similarly dismantled by one of the “big boy” teams in Miami come January. It’s a phenomena that – from Alabama over Miami in 92’, to Nebraska over Florida in 95’, to LSU over Ohio State last year – happens all too frequently in the final college game of the year. Here’s hoping that exposing Texas Tech last night leads to a better match up in Miami.


DolFan 316 said...

Mergz is a wise man. SEC wins national title because of better D. Big 12 fans weep in their beer.

Oh yeah, this whole D wins championships thing works in pretty much every other sport too.

Gator Boys said...

You're so right about everything... You should start betting before everybody else realizes this.

Trader Rick said...

You be right!

Anonymous said...

“you can lose a game scoring 50 points, but you never lose if your opponents score zero.”

THAT should be hanging in EVERY locker room, in EVERY sport, on the planet!