September Football: Are the Defenses Ahead of the Offenses?

Courtesy of Jim Feist

You have to remember that in September it's more likely that defenses are ahead of the offenses in pro and college football. This might not seem the case when you watch Texas A&M bomb South Carolina, 52-28, or Florida State squeak by Oklahoma State, 37-31, in the first week. However, that's not always the case, either.

The defenses are more ahead of the offenses than you might think. There are new coaches, offensive coordinators and quarterbacks on many schools and learning the intricacies of new playbooks can take time. Washington, for instance, has a new coach in Chris Peterson and they didn't exactly tear it up in the opener against a bad Hawaii defense, squeezing out a 17-16 win.

Washington's new QB, Jeff Lindquist, was 10-of-26 for 162 yards. "We didn't play nearly as well as we think we can play," said Petersen, who left Boise State to take over Washington. "I think it's going to be a big wake-up call."

Even when Steve Sarakasian was here two years ago in the opener the offense was out of sync in an unimpressive 21-12 win over San Diego State. That offense returned a boatload of talent, including QB Keith Price, who a year earlier had 33 TD, 11 INTs on an offense that averaged 40.8 points, 231.6 yards passing and 208.6 yards rushing.

Steve Spurrior's high-flying passing attack at South Carolina? Well, they didn't start the new season finding the end zone much scoring 28 points on a rebuilding A&M defense that was dreadful a year ago. This is nothing new. Just two years ago in the opener Spurrier's team offense was anemic in a 17-13 win over Vanderbilt, failing to cover as both teams had less than 277 yards of offense. "Maybe it's good for us," Spurrier said at the time. "You look at the preseason press, we thought we were hot stuff. Then we almost got that stuff beat out of us."

And Clemson? The Tigers blew the doors of opposing defenses last year, but with new faces on offense they never got going scoring 21 on Georgia with just 291 total yards. Historically offenses can start slower than you might expect in September football. It's far more difficult to organize an offense and get it running in tip-top shape than it is to get a defense up to speed. Offense requires timing with a quarterback and his receivers and tight ends, while offensive linemen have to work hard in practice to develop chemistry and blocking assignments correctly. All of that takes an enormous amount of time, patience, practice and teaching skills from coaches.

Defense is a little different, with much simpler playbooks. Think about what happened when Notre Dame brought aboard Coach Brian Kelly a few years ago, who ran exciting no-huddle offenses at Central Michigan and Cincinnati. The opener was no offensive show, a 23-12 Irish victory over Purdue as both offense was less than spectacular.

Another Kelly comes to mind a year ago, you may recall, when a high-powered Oregon offense under then first-year coach Chip Kelly laid an egg at Boise, getting 8 points and 152 total yards. Kelly had been running wide-open offenses as the coordinator which was a reason he got the job when Mike Belloti moved up to the AD's office. Eventually the offenses clicked, but not right out of the September gate.

NFL offenses will be interesting to watch in September because of all the young quarterbacks (Nick Foles, Shaun Hill, Geno Smith, Bryan Hoyer) and one changing teams (Matt Schaub, Ryan Fitzpatrick).

In the NFL offenses busted out in 2007 and the last few years with many record setting performances. Yet, go back to the opening week of the 2007 NFL season and the unders ruled by a whopping 11-5 edge. In 2006 the unders were 11-5 in the first NFL week. In 2008 the high powered offenses of the Saints, Colts and Patriots combined for 24, 13 and 17 points in Week 1 and in 2010 the unders went 9-7, with expected powerhouse offenses like the Colts getting 14 points, the Bengals 7 and the Texans 7. This preseason in August, the unders ruled in Week 1, as well.

Another factor to keep in mind is that the NFL changed the rules a few years to aid the offense, outlawing the "horse collar tackle," bringing in the "Brady rule" to prevent QBs from getting hurt, and enforcing the five-yard rule, which was designed to help wide receivers get downfield faster, as opposed to being mugged at the line of scrimmage by linebackers and defensive backs.

A defensive player can still bump the wide outs when the ball is snapped, but has to be careful not to after the offensive player advances five-yards past the line of scrimmage, otherwise a penalty will be called. It is not easy being a defensive player in the pros anymore!

All of which makes another interesting year for sports bettors who play totals. Will the defenses be ahead of the offenses in September and early October? Keep a close tab on yardage and totals in September and early October. Scoring and unders can rule early in the season, but that can change when the offenses begin to get more in sync.

For more tips and sports betting information, check out Jim Feist TV

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