The importance of team defense in winning a championship is discussed throughout the college football season. Fans and coaches alike proclaim defense wins titles, while offense sells tickets.
Past experience demonstrates if a phrase is repeated often enough, even a doubting Thomas will begin to agree.
Before racing to an acclamation of such perceived facts, an examination of successful teams should reveal the truth regarding the big winners in the 21st Century.
Unlike more established programs where questioning the team's ability to win the "Big One" is a centerpiece of preseason conversation, the Broncos of Boise State have proven throughout the past decade they can win at the highest rate year in and year out.
Will this ultimately lead them in a position to play for the BCS Title?
The Five Highest Winning Percentages Among FBS Teams From 2000 through 2009:
Team / Record / Winning Percentage
1. Boise State / 112-17 / 87
2. Texas / 110-19 / 85
3. Oklahoma / 110-24 / 83
4. Ohio State / 102-25 / 80
5. USC / 102-26 / 80
Any conversation concerning a consistently powerful offense must include the often-quoted Mack Brown of Texas.
The Longhorns have ranked at or near the top of scoring offense for the entire decade of the 21st century.
Twice Coach Brown has taken his team to the BCS Title Game, and all of the nation wonders, "will there be a third time?"
The Five Highest Scoring Teams From 2000 through 2009:
Team Scoring Average Per Game
1. Boise State 41.4
2. Texas 39.3
3. Texas Tech 36.9
4. Oklahoma 36.8
5. Florida 34.9
Discussions concerning big winners in College Football will sooner or later drift to coaching ability and success. A commonly accepted premise of a big time program is they must have an outstanding head coach.
It has been said a coach can make or break a football program. To be fair, let us concern ourselves with only those who have at least 10 seasons of experience as a head coach.
Because of this requirement, excellent leaders such as Urban Meyer of Florida, Mark Richt of Georgia, and Chris Peterson of Boise State do not yet qualify for the list below.
The Five Winningest Active Coaches:
Name/ Record/ Winning Percentage
1. Bob Stoops, Oklahoma/117-29/80.1
2. (Tie) Gary Patterson/TCU/85-28 /75.2
2. (Tie) Joe Paterno, Penn State/394-129/75.2
4. Brian Kelly, Notre Dame/171-57/74.8
5. Jim Tressel, Ohio State/229-78/74.4
If defense wins championships then the 2009 Cornhuskers must not have gotten the message.
Blessed with the finest defensive player in the land with the fearsome Ndamukong Suh, one of the most intensely defensive-minded coaches in Bo Pellini, and a rock 'em sock 'em attitude which intimidated the most powerful offenses they faced, the Cornhuskers lost four games in 2009.
Nebraska gave up 140 points in their 14 game season while BCS Champion Alabama surrendered 164 in the same number of contests.
There is little question regarding the need for a stout defense to compete for a title of any sort.
When coaches put together teams they strive to have the ability to keep the games close, in order to give themselves a chance to win.
In the distant past, this was accomplished by holding opponents to single digit totals.
More recently, the spirit seems to indicate a powerful offense that can strike at will does a better job of giving teams a chance to succeed.
But, is either of these approaches the correct one?
The current BCS Champion, Alabama, averaged 32 points and gave up nearly 12 a game in winning the title last season.
As a counterpoint, the final National Championship team of Bear Bryant at Alabama in 1979 also averaged 32 points a game but gave up less than 6 a game.
The offense was just as effective in Tuscaloosa over 30 years ago so, what has really changed?
The answer may be that an offense that can put points on the board against any defense, along with a defense that stops an offense at the key times of the game, is the most desirable of circumstances.
And it is preferable to have a coach who knows how to win and keep errors to a minimum.