Blogs and Commentary

posted 11.05.2012 at 1.26 p.m. by Matt Forman

More Offense a Must? Football Ratings Say 'No'

Like party politics, its roots run deep, and separates where you stand on the sport's direction at the collegiate level. Throughout the last year, discussions about pace of play in lacrosse have evolved beyond water cooler conversation. Now, more directly, it's: Are you pro- or anti-shot clock?

Some say the game has slowed to a snooze, after three straight low-scoring Division I men's national championship games that averaged 13 combined goals per game. Others say the game needs no change, or only minor modifications to truly embrace the "fastest game on two feet" moniker.

After this Saturday's stacked slate of college football games, and the corresponding viewership numbers, what say you? It's a question I've been thinking about...

Among the games kicking off at 8 p.m. Eastern, about 10.42 million fans watched Alabama-LSU on Saturday night, while 2.97 million watched Oregon-USC and 2.93 million watched Kansas State-Oklahoma State.

All three were conference rivalries. All three matched ranked opponents against each other. Why did the defensive dogfight, Alabama-LSU, significantly outdraw the offensive track meets?

If you flipped back and forth between Alabama-LSU and Oregon-USC, like I did, it literally looked like the Pac-12 game was played on fast-forward.

Oregon and USC combined to score 113 points and racked up nearly 1,350 yards of total offense. Alabama and LSU: 38 points, about 750 yards of offense.

What are the implications for, or correlations to, lacrosse?

Do folks really care about seeing a high-scoring game with offensive fireworks, if the game is crisp, clean and hard-fought? Do college football fans have more brand loyalty, or general brand interest? Or were folks simply caught up in the rankings, the No. 1 vs. No. 5 game must be better than No. 4 vs. No. 17? Did the channel the game was played on — CBS has a long-standing arrangement with the SEC, Fox is newer to the college game — have an impact?

Earlier this fall, when I asked U.S. men's national team and Furman head coach Richie Meade, also the chair of the USILA, about the proposed rules changes, he said: "Alabama played LSU last year in college football, the supposed 'Game of the Century.' Nobody scored a touchdown. [The final score was 9-6.] And it was like a billion people watched it on TV. Nobody minds watching Alabama play football, and all Alabama cares about is killing you on defense. They just beat you into the ground until you let them score."

Would any college lacrosse fans rather watch Notre Dame-Maryland game than a Virginia-Syracuse? As Lacrosse Magazine's Joel Censer outlined last year, folks were fawning over the idea of seeing another up-and-down, transition-happy 22-21 thriller.

So what can we learn, if anything, from Saturday and college football?