With spread, no-huddle offenses proving to be hard to stop these days, college football observers see little evidence that scoring will be reduced any time in the near future.
"I think offenses will be significantly ahead of defenses here for the foreseeable future," ESPN analyst Ed Cunningham told BSB before the start of the season.
But even Cunningham likely didn't see the offense carnage coming this year, a trend that has held true even at Ohio State.
Through games of Oct. 13, 21 teams are averaging more than 40 points per game. In the past decade, there's never been a season in which more than 10 teams topped the 40-point-per-game barrier.
The total seems likely to go down a bit as the year goes on because early-season blowouts are replaced by tighter conference games, but there's not much doubt putting points on the board is a winning plan. Those 21 teams are a combined 105-25 on the season, and only one (2-4 Marshall, which averages 40.5 points per game) has a losing record.
In addition, there have been 15 games involving FBS squads this year where a team scored more than 40 points – and lost. It happened a whopping seven times over the Sept. 29 weekend, and Ohio State and Indiana helped add to the list when the Buckeyes downed the Hoosiers, 52-49, on Saturday night in Bloomington.
The final score meant that Ohio State played in a game with a 101 combined points twice in a row, as it came on the heels of the Buckeyes' 63-38 win against Nebraska. Those are now two of the four games in program history in which more than 100 combined points were scored, and Indiana posted the second-most points allowed by OSU since 1950.
Suffice it to say, head coach Urban Meyer isn't exactly pleased about the way the Buckeyes have played defense since an old-fashioned, Big Ten slugfest win against Michigan State to open the conference season.
"Do we want to win 48-47?" Meyer said. "We want to win, but no, Ohio State is going to be a defensive school. Our teams are going to be defensive, no question."
A few more numbers: So far this year, FBS teams have topped 600 yards of offense in a game 64 times – 30 more times than it happened in the entire 2002 season. Twenty-five teams have had 60 or more points in a game, one off the mark for the entire '02 season.
In other words, points are up all across the college football landscape, and there appears to be a few reasons why. While some have said defenses are catching up to spread offenses, the best ones are still getting the job done.
"It's funny because there's always been an ebb and flow in football where a new offense comes in – the wishbone, the wing-T – and it just dominates for a while but then defenses figure it out, then it kind of goes away and it becomes a few schools running it," Cunningham said.
"I'm not sure that trend is going to hold with this offense. It goes back to covering that much space. Anybody who wants to figure that out, go stand in the middle of a football field and look at the space of a field and think, 11 of us have to defend this entire thing."
Many of those spread offenses and some others have also adopted no-huddle schemes. That's true of the top-scoring team in the nation, 5-1 Louisiana Tech, which is posting a stratospheric 53.8 points per game thanks to Tony Franklin's spread, up-tempo scheme.
"It puts stress on you," Cunningham said offenses rushing to the line. "Forget any schematic advantage, the stress it puts on you cardiovascularly and mentally (is significant). There's an inability to get players in and out. Plus the other thing it makes a defense do is get more simple. It's difficult when you're trying to figure out what personnel are in for the offense, so what most defensive coaches do is they say, ‘OK, we normally run five defensive sets, but let's cut it back to three.' It simplifies things for an offense."
That's something Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier has noticed. Ohio State's offense hasn't been quite as up-tempo as expected, but the Buckeyes are scoring quickly, posting 17 scoring drives of less than two minutes. That's one reason the Buckeye defense is facing 72.9 plays per game, nine more than last year and the most this century.
"Meetings (on the sideline) are a whole lot shorter because sometimes we'll jog off the field and Coach will say, ‘This is what you need to do,' " Shazier said. "Then, boom, we go right back out there. It's like, ‘Darn, he scored already?' But I'd rather them score quickly than not score at all."
There's also the rise of the "Air Raid" style of offense, the pass-heavy scheme used by some like Dana Holgorsen at West Virginia. The Mountaineers have already scored 70 and 69 points in games, but on the other hand, they've given up 63 in a win and allowed Texas Tech to go wild as the Red Raiders picked up a 49-14 victory last week.
Holgorsen also watched his squad put up 70 on Clemson last year in the Orange Bowl, but the coach is becoming something of a rock star in the mentoring ranks for his unique approach to the game. ESPN analyst and former OSU player Chris Spielman told BSB that Holgorsen's outlook on the game is to simply put as many points on the board as possible then let the chips fall where they may.
"If you go down and talk to a very good football coach in my opinion, Dana Holgorsen at West Virginia, he's asking his defense to get four stops a game – ‘Don't worry, we'll outscore them,'" Spielman said. "That's just a different mind-set and a different philosophy."
That's not the case at Ohio State, where Meyer has maintained the Buckeyes will get back to their Silver Bullet ways. His two title-winning squads at Florida were both in the top 10 nationally in both scoring and total defense, and Meyer looks at the BCS standings and sees Alabama and Florida at Nos. 1 and 2 for a reason.
"At some point you have to play some really good defense, and (the elite teams) all do," he said. "The top two right now are Alabama and Florida, the two best defenses in America. That's not by accident they're 1-2.
"The great teams we've had over the years yeah, we scored some points, but at the end of the day, defense wins games."