I’m sure this won’t be very popular but last Saturday’s shootouts just weren’t that entertaining to me. Points everywhere, teams going back and forth and last second finishes be damned. I want to see football. What we saw last week during the West Virginia Mountaineers–Baylor Bears game and the Tennessee Volunteers–Georgia Bulldogs contest was nothing short of embarrassing. It was a glorified 7 on 7 drill on some practice field in mid-August. It wasn’t a team effort.
Fans love scoring and so I do. I don’t want to see the LSU Tigers–Alabama Crimson Tide “Game of the Century” from last year when the Tigers won 9-6 on a field goal in overtime. That’s way too extreme, but what I do want is some balance. In this, the political season, all we here about is both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama trying to appeal to the moderate, independent voters. I’m one of them when it comes to college football and while our numbers might be relatively small, we are the “hardcore” fans that keep the sport going.
My favorite games to watch are generally 24-21, 20-17, 27-26 affairs where all of the phases of a football team participate in a win. A touchdown pass, a running back making a sweet cut at midfield, a big pick off a “tip drill” and a great return that flips field position are what football is all about. Why are defenses across the country struggling so much? I have a few ideas.
1) RULES/TECHNIQUE: The rules are such today that you can barely touch a wide receiver and a flag will be thrown. No longer can defensive backs actually engage a wide receiver and have a great one on one battle. Today the best you can do, outside the few corners with tremendous change of direction skills, is play a “soft zone” and hope to limit the opposition. So few teams will actually leave their corners on an island and give them the ability to freelance. This even happens at mighty Alabama where current Cincinnati Bengals corner Dre Kirkpatrick admitted to scouts that he never backpedaled in Nick Saban‘s Cover 2. How can someone get to the highest level without one of the main tenants of corner play!
2) BIG HITS: All we hear about today on TV, radio and in print is about “player safety”. The powers that be are trying to make the game safer, and that’s a good thing of course. No one wants to see a guy get paralyzed playing a sport. However, the glorification of big hits by ESPN and it’s ilk is creating a lot of bad habits. Go back to Week 1 when the Vanderbilt Commodores scored a long touchdown simply because the South Carolina Gamecocks free safety tried to “blow up” Vandy receiver Jordan Matthews. If he simply wraps his man up it would have been an 8-10 yard gain. Instead trying to make the “top 10” cost his team dearly. You can look at the USC Trojans–Stanford Cardinal game in Week 3 or just last week’s Texas Longhorns–Oklahoma State Cowboys game for even more examples.
3) TALENT/LOOK: When kids grow up they all want to play quarterback. Once they realize there are other places they can get to “paydirt” they go there. Speedy kids go outside to wide receiver and beefer kids shift inside to tight end. They all want to make an impact on the scoreboard. That’s all fine and well, but won’t likely win you a championship since you actually need to STOP the other team scoring. It isn’t just the players I blame for this. Too many coaches refuse to switch players away from offensive side, despite their inherent flaws, because they want flashy “playmakers”. They dread the pressure from the fanbase to open it up. I cringe when I hear the arrogance of many college football fans that say they don’t want their team to have an “NFL looking offense”. Who cares about appearance if you win? It’s worked ok for LSU and Alabama, two teams that get “it” on the defensive side of the ball.
Ask yourself what you remember football being about when you were a kid. I remember it being about passing, catching, tackling, blocking, etc. I don’t remember it being about walk in touchdowns and quarterbacks with half an hour to pass from the pocket. This isn’t even limited to the college game anymore. The NFL is seeing scoring records broken from week to week this season with defenses barely showing up to play. Hopefully this Saturday, the scoreboard won’t look like a video arcade in Vegas, it will look like football is actually being played.