College football is a high-scoring sport. In 2016, the average score first surpassed 30, and in recent years it’s been as high as 40. There are a number of reasons for this trend – and they’re not all due to the Big 12 having no defense (jokes aside – we’re aware that trend has been bucked more recently). Below are some of the reasons why college football sees higher average scores than the NFL.
College offenses have become increasingly sophisticated in recent years. Teams are using more spread offenses and passing attacks, which can lead to more scoring opportunities. Plus, there’s been a general shift in philosophy toward an offensive focus (see: Oklahoma’s success, the increasing offensive focus of the SEC, Pac 12 coaching hires, etc.)
College football players are bigger, stronger, and faster than ever before. Some of this is due to the same improvements in training and scouting we’ve seen at the pro level, and some of this is due to increased competition. This increased strength and agility allows them to make more plays and score more points.
While this has also occurred at the NFL, rule changes have definitely favored increased offense. This isn’t a new trend – there’s a reason college football games in the early 20th century had scores as low as single digits (though we haven’t forgotten the 3-2 Mississippi State – Auburn affair). Protection of the quarterback is one of the main reasons, as well as extremely forgiving (to the offense) pass interference rules.
This is a greater contribution to massive blowouts than high scoring games, but talent discrepancy is MUCH higher at the college football level than the professional level. Part of this is scheduling (for example, Alabama will always play an FCS team), but part of it is just due to there being far fewer high-level players than the pros, where everyone is high-level to a degree.
The trend of high scoring games in college football is likely to continue in the years to come. As offenses continue to improve and athletes continue to get bigger, stronger, and faster, the average score for a college football game is likely to continue to rise.
Here are some specific examples of high scoring games in recent years:
- In 2018, Texas A&M and LSU combined for 146 points in a 74-72 game that went into seven overtimes.
- In 2016, Pitt and Syracuse combined for 137 points in a 76-61 game.
- In 2015, Oklahoma and Baylor combined for 148 points in a 65-83 game.
These are just a few examples of the many high scoring games that have been played in college football in recent years. The trend of high scoring games isn’t going away anytime soon – well, unless you only watch Wisconsin football games.