Photo via Thomas B. Shea, USA TODAY Sports
By: Hunter Cooke
October 25th, 2016

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It’s like a law of nature. Every single time someone in the Big 12 plays, there’s some football purist who smugly sits in the corner and points out how no one in the Big 12 plays defense, and that makes other conferences more enjoyable to watch for “real” football fans. Nothing is more annoying than the guy or girl who acts like they appreciate football more than you because they can notice that a defense is on the field.

Those people are the worst, partially because of their sneering demeanor and partially because most of the time they’re just flat out wrong. I’d consider myself a fairly educated football viewer, and it pains me to watch poor football. However, just because there’s a low number of points on the screen doesn’t mean that there was good football played. In the same way, just because there’s a high amount of points on the scoreboard, it doesn’t mean that “these durn kids don’t know how to ball anymore” and that defense is gone forever.

A small amount of points doesn’t necessarily mean that the defenses are playing well. In the same way that it’s not exactly the pinnacle of analysis to point out that a quarterback is playing well when he hasn’t thrown an incompletion, it’s not the pinnacle of analysis to say that there is good defense being played when there’s a low amount of points.

People say they like defensive slugfests, but when you actually watch those games, the quarterbacks are overthrowing passes, the offensive line acts as a 5-man human sieve, and wide receivers are forgetting where to line up. In the same way that there’s nothing impressive with winning a fight against a guy who won’t stop running into walls and punching himself, there’s nothing impressive about stopping an offense that would struggle to let out a fart in unison.

At least in a shootout, I know for sure one side of the ball is playing well.

It takes a lot of practice and execution to be able to complete a timing route over the middle, it doesn’t take any to watch a running back drop a swing pass. No, not all shootouts are like that, and not all defensive struggles feature zero offense, but those held up by the same “purists” as golden images of what football should be are yawn-inducing, and entirely populated by bungles on the biggest stage. The 66-59 Oklahoma-Texas Tech game on Saturday night was decried as a travesty against the sport itself, a blight on the good, wholesome name of football. Here’s what Bob Stoops had to say about it:

Patrick Mahomes, who was scrambling for his life, constantly shucking off defenders, was an unstoppable golden god that night. He dropped over 800 yards on the Sooners, yet still lost because of an admittedly terrible defense.

So, why then, were Oklahoma fans collectively losing their minds over their defensive performance?

Was it because they couldn’t see that some of the throws Mahomes was making were well-defended, and Mahomes just put the ball in the exact perfect spot? Did the 35 incompletions and 1 interception get lost in his 88 pass attempts? Did they black out in a fit of rage every time he improbably escaped a tackle, only to throw for yet another first down?

The very same people that are decrying a transcendent, record-breaking performance are trying to tell you that Sunday Night’s 6-6 snoozefest between the Cardinals and the Seahawks was a well played game. They’re trying to tell you that they honestly enjoyed two teams screwing around close to midfied, punting, and missing field goals in overtime was better “technical football.”

It’s never holistic. Oklahoma-Texas Tech featured some terrible, awful defensive drives. It also featured some really good ones that were simply overcame through the sheer will of a transcendent college football player. Seahawks-Cardinals? A dull, plodding affair throughout that featured shaky playcalls and even shakier offensive execution. So which was it in the case of the Hawks-Cards? Were the defenses god tier, locking down opponents whenever they’d breathe on the wrong side of the line of scrimmage, or were both offenses better served by putting Yakety Sax over the game film?

There’s no real way to “prove” which one is better, as both have merit. Watching Alabama dismantle opposing offenses is as enjoyable to me as watching Texas Tech drop 50 every single game. They’re both worthy of praise, and neither of them “disparage the game” in any way.

Shootouts are great. Shootouts are fun. Shootouts feature fundamental play and execution on another level at times, just like defensive struggles do. Stop disparaging shootouts. You’re just ruining the beauty of college football for the rest of us.

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