Geno Smith
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Too Much Offense?

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Are games like Baylor-West Virginia aesthetically pleasing for fans to watch?

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Discuss (Total votes: 6,948)

IT'S OFFENSE
IT'S OFFENSIVE

Take the points

Miller By Ted Miller
ESPN.com
Archive

Know what's fun to watch? Two talented teams playing quality football. Quality football can happen on either side of the ball. Or both. When two good teams get together and play well on both sides of the football, the scores tend to end up in the 20s. Such as 24-21 or 28-24. You see haymakers from each team on offense and defense.

But we all know sometimes games feature teams that are significantly better on one side of the ball or the other. That means we sometimes get 9-6. Or we get 70-63.

Which is better football? You can't automatically answer based only on the score. You have to watch the game and see the playmaking and the miscues.

Let's look at 70-63, which was the eye-popping count of West Virginia's win over Baylor. First, do either of these teams play good defense? No. Both teams lack A-list talent on that side of the ball.

But was it an exciting, well-played football game? Yes. There was only one turnover and 12 penalties in 183 plays from scrimmage. The offensive playmaking was fantastic. From bell-to-bell, it was difficult to turn away.

Now let's look at 9-6, which was the eye-closing count of LSU's win over Alabama in the 2011 regular season.

The Tigers' win featured four turnovers and 13 penalties in 127 plays. LSU quarterbacks were horrid, completing 9 of 17 passes with two interceptions.

It was two very good football teams relying on their defenses and playing conservatively -- and sloppily -- on offense.

And it was boring.

Now, I know a lot of people will shout, "It wasn't boring! You just don't appreciate good defense!"

No, I appreciate good defense. I also appreciate avant-garde art, music and literature. I go, "That's interesting and unusual. It makes me feel smart to consider it with my most earnest look."

Then I go do something fun. Like watch a high-scoring football game.

There's just a hint of the same smug pretense, by the way, in snobs who regale you at a cocktail party about their LOVE of esoteric arts, music and literature and folks who insist they love a good 10-7 football game.

And, by the way, you agree with me.

Quick: Access your list of the best college football games you've ever seen. How many feature a winner with fewer than 20 points?

The only one that comes immediately to mind from my personal list is the 1979 Sugar Bowl, when Alabama beat Penn State 14-7, a game that featured a memorable goal-line stand for the Crimson Tide. Otherwise, it's games such as USC-Texas in the 2005 national title game (41-38), Boise State-Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl (43-42), Nebraska over Oklahoma in 1971 (35-31), Ohio State-Miami in the 2002 national title game (31-24), Boston College-Miami in 1984 (47-45), etc.

It's certainly justifiable to salute teams that grind out a 10-7 final. But there's no doubt that high-scoring football is more thrilling to watch.

Play some defense

Schlabach By Mark Schlabach
ESPN.com
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I like offense as much as the next guy.

I've just never been a fan of the Arena League.

And before you start throwing out recent scores from the SEC, such as Georgia's 51-44 victory over Tennessee on Saturday, it was different from what West Virginia is doing.

The No. 5 Bulldogs threw a pick-six and had myriad mistakes in the first half that helped the Volunteers light up the Sanford Stadium scoreboard.

In West Virginia's 70-63 victory over Baylor in the highest-scoring game in Big 12 history on Saturday, the Mountaineers scored a touchdown to go ahead 35-28 with 29 seconds left in the first half. And then Baylor scored again 29 seconds later to tie the score at 35 at the half.

The Bears and Mountaineers combined for 1,507 yards of offense, 67 first downs and went 23-for-31 on third down.

Georgia's defensive effort against Tennessee was an anomaly in a strange game. West Virginia's defensive effort was status quo.

The Bulldogs and Volunteers played bad defense on Saturday. The Bears and Mountaineers don't play any defense.

West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith completed 45 of 51 passes for 656 yards with eight touchdowns and no interceptions. Baylor quarterback Nick Florence threw for 581 yards with five touchdowns and one interception on 29-of-47 passing.

It might be more difficult to do that playing against air.

The Mountaineers had three 100-yard receivers -- well, actually a 300-yard receiver, 200-yard receiver and 100-yard receiver. Stedman Bailey caught 13 passes for 303 yards with five touchdowns. Tavon Austin had 14 catches for 215 yards with two touchdowns, and J.D. Woods caught 13 passes for 114 yards with one score.

Baylor's Terrence Williams caught 17 passes for 314 yards with two touchdowns -- and his team lost.

"Not every Big 12 game is like this," Mountaineers coach Dana Holgorsen said. "Not everyone is like that. Next week will be different."

Will it?

Holgorsen's fast-paced spread offense figures to keep putting up video game-like scores and stats, and he doesn't seem too concerned that the Mountaineers can't stop anybody. West Virginia's porous defense figures to catch up with it at some point, but not if Smith keeps completing more than 80 percent of his passes. The Mountaineers score so quickly on offense that their defense can't catch its breath.

It's not football. It's a video game.

But I'm the same guy who believed LSU's 9-6 overtime victory over Alabama last season was an instant classic.