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In College Football, Offense Is Flashy, But Defense Wins The Game


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin, and it's time now for sports.


MARTIN: The Bears - the Baylor University Bears that is - well, they did some trouncing this past week. They beat Oklahoma 41 to 12 on Thursday. And this trouncing got our own Mike Pesca thinking whether this season could be a big moment not just for Baylor but for every great college offense going forward forever, till the end of time. Good morning, Mike.

MIKE PESCA, BYLINE: A referendum, if you will.


MARTIN: Explain yourself, sir. Why are you fixated on Baylor?

PESCA: Baylor is good. How good? Before the Oklahoma game, they were rolling up over 700 yards a game. Now, it's down to 686, but that's still amazing. They're scoring 61 points a game. They're this unstoppable juggernaut. How do they do it? Let's analyze Art Briles' offense. And yet, you know, by next week they might crack the top five. College offense - there's a lot of reasons why colleges are ranked where they are. But at this moment, it does seem that the old adage, which, especially in the NFL, has been disproven that defenses win championships, is still bought into in college. And you look at this Baylor offense that's doing amazing space-age things, and people admire it and people marvel at it and no one is saying it could possibly win a championship. And in fact, to be fair, they probably won't get a chance to play for a championship.

MARTIN: So, why? Why is this not true?

PESCA: I think that they're - well, I don't know if it's not true. I think the biggest reason is recent history. Alabama has been the best defensive team. And when that happens, you still buy into the old adage that defense wins championships. So, I think that - my theory, my general theory, is that offenses are far ahead of defenses in college football with the possible exception of the Alabama defense. And the Alabama defense is so stocked with NFL talent, is so stocked with fast players who could neutralize just about any offense, they may be the lone exception. So, I don't know if that defenses do beat offenses, or we should assume that, but maybe we should still assume that Alabama and their defense could beat a great offense.


MARTIN: Now, you say this whole thing about defense is winning. This has been disproven in the NFL?

PESCA: I think so. I think that, you know, in the '70s when there was ball control offenses and the Steelers had a great defense and all these teams with great defenses were winning. That's when it got established. Also, we'd like to think that it's through. I think sports fans think that there is a little bit of, I don't know, ethical justice in the fact that the stout, reliable defense beats the pop and the flash and the sizzle. But lately, the great offensive teams have had a very good advantage. You know, you look at the strength of the recent Packers. Even the teams with good defenses that have won the Super Bowl always have good offenses, like the Giants.

MARTIN: OK. You got a curveball today?

PESCA: I do. I take you to Bakersfield, California, the home of hockey. What? The ECL, which used to be the East Coast Hockey League. OK. It makes no sense, and neither does this. Tonight, the Bakersfield Condors are wearing a jersey that honors Abraham Lincoln, because we're getting up to the 150th anniversary of the Lincoln Gettysburg address. So, there is Lincoln on the uniform, there is the Condor mascot in a Lincoln hat. There is a Bud Light logo also. But they're being skating around to honor, I don't know, four scores and two coincidental minors ago.

Now, this has caused a lot of - I wouldn't say concern - but more like what a heck is going on here? And the Condors have to do what they have to do. They're 1-7 in the league. But I say they should take it further. I say they should assign members of Lincoln's Cabinet's names to the back of every jersey. So we can see Salmon P. Chase. Everyone's going to want to be Caleb "Blood" Smith, secretary of the Interior, skating out there against your Stockton squad.


MARTIN: I'm confused. NPR's Mike Pesca. Thanks, Mike.

PESCA: That's what I do. You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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