Guerry Clegg

Guerry Clegg: Defense wins championships, or does it?

A few thoughts on college football

"Defense wins championships." How many times have you heard that? That may be the most overused and misunderstood cliche in sports.

Complete teams -- or at least the closest thing to complete teams -- win championships. Think back to January in the BCS championship game. Florida State and Auburn combined to average 1,020 yards in total offense and 81 points per game. Yes, the Seminoles also led the nation in fewest points allowed and finished third in total defense, whereas Auburn was mediocre in both respects.

Yet, if not for a botched kickoff coverage -- props to Levonte Whitfield for his 100-yard return, but the lane was wide enough for a marching band to get through -- then the Tigers could have won the national championship with a defense that allowed 420 yards and nearly 25 points per game.

Georgia was perhaps one play away from playing for -- and likely winning -- a national championship two years ago. But the Bulldogs were just a shade above average defensively.

No doubt, defense matters. It matters a lot. But more than ever, college football has become an offensive game.

Auburn should be better defensively than it was last season. The players understand Ellis Johnson's system better, and the Tigers are deeper in talent. But if they win the national championship, it will be because of their offense -- which has a chance to be the best the SEC has ever seen.

If Georgia wins a national championship with a new quarterback and an overhauled defense, will Mark Richt suddenly be viewed as a great coach? Maybe.

There would be some irony to that. This is not one of Richt's most talented teams. The offense should be very balanced, especially if the line falls into place.

But tight end has been a big part of Richt's offenses, and Jay Rome has to prove himself. There's a scarcity of talent on defense.

But this might be Richt's best opportunity yet given the schedule. Clemson and South Carolina are both breaking in new quarterbacks. Tennessee and Florida may still be a year or two away from contending in the East. Vanderbilt has to adjust to a new coach, and Missouri lost Dorial Green-Beckham. Arkansas replaces LSU as one of the Bulldogs' West Division opponents.

Not that the schedule is easy, mind you. There's no such thing as an easy schedule in the SEC. But the schedule breaks fell their way this year.

We could be looking at an epic matchup Nov. 15 when Auburn visits Sanford Stadium.

A follow up note about Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops taking a shot at Texas A&M's non-conference schedule. Of the Big 12's 30 non-conference regular season games last season, only five were against either teams from one of the other four major conferences, plus one game each against BYU and Notre Dame. They played

eight games against Football Championship Series (formerly Division I-AA) teams. And they lost two of them.

The SEC needs to develop some consistent and uniform disciplinary policies, especially in the area of marijuana use and transferring within the conference after getting kicked off a team.

The fact is a large number of college students are going to use marijuana regardless of the rules or ramifications.

The conference needs a disciplinary panel to review transfer requests of players who have been dismissed from another school.

-- Guerry Clegg is an independent correspondent. You can write to him at sports@ledger-enquirer.com

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