College Football Predictions: Can Offense Alone Win a BCS Title?
In the wake of West Virginia's 48-45 victory at Texas on Saturday, there is a growing population of college football observers who believe that if the Mountaineers score enough, they can win the BCS championship. But West Virginia is just the latest high-scoring team to receive championship hype. Like Oklahoma State in 2011 and Texas Tech in 2008, it's a team overloaded with talent on one side of the ball, playing a scheme designed to score a bunch of points in a hurry.
All of this begs the question: Can a team of this ilk win a title?
Not if history is any indication.
Of the 14 BCS Championship Game winners, not one looked remotely like West Virginia. Notice the Mountaineers of 2012 towering above the BCS champions in points allowed.
Sure, there have been spread teams, teams with high-powered offenses and even four teams that averaged 40 or more points per game, but never a team ranked in triple digits in scoring defense, giving up five touchdowns a game. West Virginia, right now, sits at 102nd.
In fact, since 1998, only two BCS champions were ranked outside of the top 15 in scoring defense. One was LSU in 2007, a team that was 17th at 19.9 points per game after playing six total overtime periods over two games. The other was Auburn in 2010, which was 53rd in scoring defense at 24.1 points per game.
Put another way, only Auburn, a team that boasted a player who could literally "do it all by himself" on the defensive line, has won a title without a stellar defense. And, compared to West Virginia's defense, Auburn's 2010 unit was a godsend.
The scary thing for an offense-only team shouldn't be just the BCS title results. Fact is, there are not very many teams who hemorrhage points lining up to play in the BCS Championship Game at all. Even Oregon, the 2010 loser, boasted the 12th-ranked defense that was allowing just 18.7 points per game. So how does WVU stack up in that regard?
The worst of the losing teams on defense, Miami in 2002, USC in 2005 and Oklahoma in 2008, finished ranked 22nd, 35th and 58th in scoring defense in their respective years. In other words, to even get the chance to lose, based upon the trends, the Mountaineers certainly have their work cut out for them. Work that includes Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Oklahoma and Texas Tech, all teams that are scoring more points per game than West Virginia's bad defense is allowing.
While I'm not a big stats guy, in looking back at the trends since 1998, it is staggering how complete teams always seem to get into the BCS Championship Game. Of the 28 participants, only two teams—Florida 2006 and Ohio State 2002—averaged under 30 points a game. Both teams were at 29 and both teams walked away with a BCS title.
One of the more troubling trends for West Virginia, and other pass-based tempo attacks, might be the woeful performances put on by that sect's highest achieving team, Oklahoma. The Sooners have been routinely held well below their season-long scoring average when they play in the BCS Championship Game.
There is a lot of season left, and some teams will get better while others will get worse. However, in looking at the information, the real question isn't whether West Virginia, or any other team, can win with an offense-only approach. The real question should be whether WVU can even get into the championship game if it doesn't play defense?
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