Offense, not defense, wins championships now
In the past 12 college football championship games – either the BCS or College Football Playoff – the winning team scored at least 30 points in nine of those contests.
Last year, Clemson scored 40 points in the title game – and lost, to Alabama, 45-40.
Ohio State scored 42 points in the championship game two years ago to beat Oregon, 42-20. The Ducks came into the contest averaging 47.7 points and had just scored 59 in the national semifinal against Florida State, yet even their tremendous offense led by Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota wasn’t good enough.
Defense doesn’t win championships anymore in college football. Yes, a strong defensive team that can come up with big stops when it needs them will always have a chance to be good. But to be great, teams must be able to score at least 30 points on just about any caliber of defense.
Over the past two seasons combined, Penn State scored 30 points only six times in 26 games. That must change if the Nittany Lions are going to have any shot of returning to national prominence and competing for Big Ten titles and College Football Playoff berths.
This isn’t your father’s or grandfather’s college football. And as much as some PSU fans yearn for the old days of spectacular defense in the landmark 14-10 national championship victory over Miami, the reality is that the Lions will not be able to consistently beat division powers Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State, or anyone they might face in a playoff game, if they can’t put up a lot of points.
Defense will always be important to Penn State, so it’s not like James Franklin or any future coach should stop trying to carry on the traditions of Linebacker U or sending outstanding D-linemen on to the NFL.
But as Franklin now understands, following two dismal offensive seasons, to survive and thrive in the rugged Big Ten East, it’s going to take a creative, versatile offense.
New coordinator Joe Moorhead looks like the real deal – Saturday’s 39-point effort in a loss to Pitt gave us the first glimpse – and once he’s able to fully implement his system with the right personnel over the next few years, the Lions could become a juggernaut.
The way things are now, Franklin said he has to change his mindset to being more aggressive on offense, such as going for two early in contests or taking the ball to start the game instead of deferring.
“I remember a few years back, if you had 400 yards on offense, that was considered a good day,” Franklin said. “Those days are gone. If you scored 30 points, that was considered a big-time scoring day. Those days are gone.”
Yes they are.
Cory Giger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org