2013 College Football Season Is Shaping Up to Be the Year of Offense
Rest easy, fans of traditional college football, and maybe check back with us at some point next year. The 2013 season is simply not for you.
Much has happened in the first six weeks of the year, but among all the breakout players and manifest developments, nothing has felt so profound as the offensive revolution.
Even in the SEC, America's most hard-nosed and low-scoring league, defense has largely been for naught. The top defenses still (probably) reside in the Southeastern Conference, but even those units have been hopeless against teams like Texas A&M, LSU and Georgia.
A big part of this trend has been quarterback play. Never before—or at least not in the purview of recent memory—has college football been blessed with so many elite signal-callers, all of whom are playing out of their minds at the exact same time.
Last year was, itself, considered a good year for college football offenses, but look how the top 10 BCS quarterbacks compare from 2012 to 2013:
|Name||QB Rating||CMP %||Yards/Att.|
|1. Bryce Petty (Baylor)||229.61||72.8||14.7|
|2. Jameis Winston (Florida State)||213.94||73.2||11.7|
|3. Teddy Bridgewater (Louisville)||197.23||71.7||10.8|
|4. Zach Mettenberger (LSU)||190.12||68.2||11.1|
|5. Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M)||188.06||71.4||10.6|
|6. Tajh Boyd (Clemson)||182.22||66.0||10.3|
|7. Aaron Murray (Georgia)||176.87||64.9||10.2|
|8. Marcus Mariota (Oregon)||176.33||56.7||10.1|
|9. Connor Shaw (South Carolina)||173.92||68.8||9.7|
|10. Trevor Siemian (Northwestern)||171.30||68.2||10.4|
|Name||QB Rating||CMP %||Yards/Att.|
|1. AJ McCarron (Alabama)||175.28||67.2||9.3|
|2. Aaron Murray (Georgia)||174.82||64.5||10.1|
|3. J.W. Walsh (Oklahoma State)||170.11||66.9||9.6|
|4. Tajh Boyd (Clemson)||165.58||67.2||9.1|
|5. Geno Smith (West Virginia)||164.57||71.2||8.2|
|6. Marcus Mariota (Oregon)||163.23||68.5||8.0|
|7. Teddy Bridgewater (Louisville)||160.49||68.5||8.9|
|8. Taylor Kelly (Arizona State)||159.45||66.9||8.4|
|9. Connor Shaw (South Carolina)||158.06||67.5||8.6|
|10. Matt Barkley (USC)||157.56||63.6||8.5|
These numbers are obviously skewed by competition and sample size. As the heart of conference play approaches and fewer cream-puff opponents litter the schedule, the 2013 ratings will slowly start to dip.
But the difference is still hard to ignore—especially the average yards per attempt. Those completion percentages are essentially equal, but 2013's top quarterbacks are getting the ball downfield more often. Their playmakers and systems are markedly more explosive.
The 2013 top 10 has also started the year 44-5, with losses coming against just No. 1 Alabama, No. 3 Clemson, No. 4 Ohio State and No. 6 Georgia (twice). Not a single one of them has lost to a team outside the AP poll's Top Six.
Quarterbacks are no longer just correlated to victory; it's become almost impossible to win without a great one.
It's only been 22 months since "LSU 9, Alabama 6," but honestly, it might as well have been decades. That's how antiquated those defenses (and offenses) feel. A game that features five field goals and zero touchdowns, in 2013, would qualify as a totally different sport.
Seven times this season, two Top 18 teams have squared off with one another. Here is the offensive output from each of those games:
|Game||Total Yards||Total Points|
|(5) Georgia at (8) Clemson||1,012||73|
|(6) South Carolina at (11) Georgia||990||71|
|(14) Notre Dame at (17) Michigan||870||71|
|(1) Alabama at (6) Texas A&M||1,196||91|
|(6) LSU at (9) Georgia||943||85|
|(4) Ohio State at (16) Northwestern||888||70|
|(15) Washington at (5) Stanford||768||59|
Source: ESPN / AP Poll
No longer do just faceless MAC teams or sloppy Big 12 shootouts yield massive point totals. The best teams in the country, playing on America's biggest stages, are going for upwards of 74 points and 950 yards per game.
And America's two best offenses—in my opinion—haven't even had a chance to join that list. Oregon and Baylor, two teams that redefine the term "unstoppable force," have yet to play a marquee game, having to settle for making inferior opponents look like this:
Or maybe like this:
And definitely a little bit like this:
The only question now concerns longevity. Is this offensive renaissance a trend or a fluke?
Will 2013 be written about as "The Year of Offense" or "The Year That Changed Offense"? Will this be a blip on the radar of college football or a watershed moment in its development?
Are the Offensive Numbers in 2013 a Trend or a Fluke?
But those are all matters for smarter men than myself. I'll leave it to you, the thoughtful, civil and always respectful commenters beneath my piece.
Try as I might (and have), it's hard to come up with a good answer either way. The best I can do is sit back, crack a cold beverage and enjoy.
Who knows if, or when, or how we might ever see this again?
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