Why College Football Defensive Battles Bore America

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Why College Football Defensive Battles Bore America
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

If anything good can come in the afterglow of the tire fire that was LSU/Alabama II, it’s this: We were treated to appropriate closure after a dark, depressing college football cycle. Beyond this, we can now lay the notion to rest that you don’t need points to have an exciting football game on a big stage. The SEC, college football’s preeminent conference—at least on the field—had that January stage all to itself in what could very well be the country’s most fun city and managed to prove just about everyone right about how much fun a 9-6 rematch could be.

You don’t need many points, you just need the hope of points and basic offensive execution. Moreover, the hope that the coaching staffs on both sides of a stadium care enough to adjust a game plan after not just weeks off, but two months after playing for the first time.

Something.

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Monday night’s game wasn’t bad, though, because it was low scoring, it was bad because when Alabama went up 12-0 early in the third quarter, everyone watching realized LSU was going to stick to its planned offensive game plan, and thus, the game was over there and then. Basically, the defenses on the field were mutually stifling to various degrees and the offense ranged from LSU’s embarrassingly non-existent attack to Alabama’s effective-enough-to-slowly-beat-an-embarrassingly-non-existent-attack attack.

Philosophically, people may still be arguing (somehow) that the idea of two hyper-talented, monstrously athletic defenses wearing offenses down to little nubs is far superior to (most recently) anything that happened in the Fiesta or Rose Bowls (79 and 83 combined points, respectively), and they’re 100 percent wrong.

The same people could maintain that it’s a personal preference—some people prefer shootouts, some defensive battles. They’re getting warmer and certainly more reasonable, but still giving a cop-out answer.

Let me explain.

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In a football sense, fielding a team whose best athletes come at an opponent in defensive waves is a sound way to build a team—you force turnovers, wreak physical and emotional havoc on the opposing players responsible for scoring points, and put your own offense in a better position, be it through field position or keeping opposing defenses on the field longer, to score points and wear down an opponent.

Good enough, right?

In an entertainment, non-rooting interest sense, though, a game dominated so thoroughly by defense that opposing offenses appear to be learning the game on the fly leaves the viewer simultaneously impressed by the wall that appears in front of every offensive crease and increasingly bored by offensive ineptitude, especially when that offense appears to try to solve the whole wall problem by running at the very same spot in the wall and hoping for a different result each time. Generally speaking, failure’s entertaining for only so long (read: not very, maybe a quarter) and then things turned sad and boring quickly. When we tune in to see two teams trade haymakers, we want to see them use both hands.

Simply put, there’s a reason, right or wrong, the Heisman has become a backfield award. That reason is, despite knowing how important defense has become, football is still much more of a glamour game than it is anything else. In its most basic form, offensive players are the ones most often changing the numbers on the bottom of the screen and the guys on the other side are the ones trying to keep the numbers still. It’s not good versus evil, but it’s pretty close.

The first thing we learn growing up isn’t a swim move or how to backpedal with loose hips, but how to throw a ball, carry a ball, or catch a ball—it’s just how it works. At tailgates, even in the SEC, you’re still far more likely to find a game of catch than you will three-point stances or overload blitzes.

Actually, if you do either of those things at a tailgate, let me know, I want an invite ASAP.

In any case, we want to see terrible touchdown dances, we want the ability to text 37 scoring updates to buddies stuck at work, and we want to be able to use the word “red zone” every once in a while.

And please, let those numbers on the bottom of the screen change by six more than once or twice a game. Please.

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