LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Offense is the rage in college football these days.
Clemson dropped a 73-point noogie on Georgia Tech last Saturday.
When Nick Saban won his first national title at Alabama in 2009, the Crimson Tide averaged 32.1 points per game. In four games this season, Bama has averaged 48.5.
Nationally, 13 teams are averaging 40 or more points. Last season, eight did, and the 2019 numbers included teams from the four leagues that have yet to play this season.
Offense, offense, offense.
I get it, get it, get it.
But I’m not ready to dismiss defense. Neither is Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops.
Football is a game of trends and copycats. It’s time to argue that Stoops has found a niche by winning with a style that would make Bear Bryant nod: with barbed-wire defense.
One team ranks in the top five in the Southeastern Conference in scoring, rushing, passing and total defense.
That team is Kentucky. (Time to interrupt the praise with the news that the Wildcats will be without defensive lineman Quinton Bohanna for at least one game because of a knee injury suffered at Tennessee on Saturday. Stoops said Bohanna will return this season but he was uncertain when.)
As Alabama, Florida and everybody else races to make the scoreboard tilt, Kentucky has twisted its season back from the brink as one of the SEC’s most determined and dangerous defensive teams. The Wildcats have done it by wrecking Mississippi State and Tennessee sacks, short-yardage stuffs and turnovers.
MSU scored two points against the Wildcats. In its three other SEC games, the Bulldogs averaged 24. Tennessee scored seven points against the Wildcats. In its three other SEC games, the Vols averaged 29.
After its first two games, Kentucky allowed seven touchdown passes without an interception. After four games, the Wildcats have allowed seven touchdown passes with nine interceptions. Arkansas is the only FBS program with more (10) picks.
“It’s just result of our overall team defense,” Stoops said. “Good things happen when you have all 11 guys in good position.
“But let’s be honest: Some of it is the bounce of the ball.”
Let’s be completely honest. Nearly every other SEC team has emphasized offense. The four hires this season were all offensive guys.
Kentucky is doing it a different way. The ProFootballFocus website grades video from every game every week. PFF picked two Kentucky players — linebacker Jamin Davis and cornerback Kelvin Joseph — for its Week 7 team of the week.
Two weeks ago, after the Wildcats stumbled against Auburn and Ole Miss, Kentucky looked fast-tracked toward a 3-7 season.
The latest full-season projections from ESPN’s Football Power Index and Jeff Sagarin’s computer formula have the Wildcats at 5-5, favorites against Missouri (on the road Saturday), Vanderbilt and South Carolina and underdogs against Georgia, Alabama and Florida.
At 3 p.m., Kentucky was favored by 5 1/2 for its game at Missouri at 4 p.m. Saturday. Don’t tell Stoops that the Wildcats have won five straight against the Tigers. He does not want to hear about that. Stoops will tell you that Kentucky’s winning streak against Missouri is as meaningless as the Wildcats’ losing streaks to Tennessee and Florida were.
Better to look at this: In three games, Missouri has thrown one interception, best in the SEC. The Tigers quarterback is Connor Bazelak, a freshman from Dayton, Ohio, that Kentucky pursued as a recruit.
Missouri made a coaching change after last season. The Tigers switched from a defensive guru (Barry Odom) to a Eli Drinkwitz, a guy who earned the job because of the offensive numbers his team put up at Appalachian State last season.
Consider it another sign that the trend in the SEC is to go, go, go on offense.
In seven-plus seasons at Kentucky, Stoops has shown there is another way to do it.
“When all 11 guys are doing what they’re supposed to do and playing hard, good things happen,” Stoops said.
Copyright 2020 WDRB Media. All Rights Reserved.