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As the ticker scrolls across college football finals that could easily make you think you were time warped to basketball season, take notice that defense is still a major component to a championship caliber team.
You already know BCS favorite Alabama is a defensive oriented team. All the other highly ranked schools, whether they be rated by oddsmakers or merely pollster’s favorites, sport similar credentials.
This past weekend two prime contenders to Alabama’s crown, LSU and South Carolina, squared off in a defensive struggle.
Steve Spurrier, who did as much to usher in the era of pass-first offenses, has been a defensive minded coach since he arrived in South Carolina. He took over one of the lowest regarded, least historic of the region’s programs.
It has taken time for his Gamecocks to gain traction in the SEC, but now they are among the prime contenders in that conference, and that makes them national championship contenders as well.
By the way, don’t think they are out of anything yet. If they beat Florida, South Carolina will have the inside track to represent the Eastern Division of the SEC in the championship game. A win there and they are right back in the picture for national championship honors.
Les Miles’ took his LSU team to the BCS championship game last season with a mediocre offense, but a prime defense.
Oregon has come close the past few seasons and it’s been the defense that has prevented them from taking that final step. This season they have made a successful effort to find athletes on defense to properly compliment the talent they have sported on offense.
Florida and Kansas State remain unbeaten with solid defenses that enable their offenses to win games with controlled, but unspectacular offenses.
USC is lying in the weeds as a championship contender and if they can pull it off it will be because their defense has held together while their offense has been a disappointment.
Florida State has been knocked out of the unbeaten ranks and likely the championship race as well, but check their defensive stats. A strong Clemson team was the only squad to put any numbers on them, but the Seminoles shut them down the second half when it counted.
What was very apparent this past weekend were the teams whose defenses were exposed. West Virginia had posted scores of 69 and 70 points previously and had climbed to No. 5 in the polls. Wiseguys weren’t fooled however and most of the betting professionals had their money on Texas Tech, one of the best defensive teams in the Big 12.
Ohio State, while ineligible for the bowls this season, had also been sneaking up the pollster’s lists but Indiana posted 49 points on their D. The Buckeyes would be exposed in a hurry by a real contender. Maybe they are lucky they will stay home for the holidays. Then they can fool themselves into thinking what could have been.
The one team who is really starting to capture the imaginations of old school fans and little old ladies who pine for the voice of Lindsay Nelson and his Sunday morning replay is Notre Dame. They are winning with scores that might not resemble the Texas A&M-Louisiana Tech game but would warm the cockles of Ara Parseghian’s heart.
I’m skeptical myself, but that won’t stop the television ratings.
I’m a bit old school myself. Sure, I like high scoring games. They’re fun. As a bettor I have faint hopes of covering no matter how many scores my team needs to produce. That’s part of what makes the college game so great.
I long for the days when third and 2 was a running down. I like to think my defense can actually win a game, not just break serve. Spread offenses, shotguns and pistols are great, but I don’t mind waiting for basketball season to see a team score 70 points.
Chris Andrews has over 30 years of experience as a bookmaker in Nevada. You can follow him on Twitter@AndrewsSports. Chris has a dedicated thread in the Pregame.com forums, answering your questions and more. Contact Chris at [email protected].