College football's offensive explosion continued in 2018 with more new records set
The sport's two most efficient passers ever played against one another in the College Football Playoff
The offensive revolution is occurring at such a dizzying rate that current redshirt seniors could be considered expert historians on the subject. Consider that the three highest-scoring seasons in college football history have all occurred since 2015.
That includes 2018 when teams averaged 29.56 points per game, the third-most ever. That figure was behind only 2016 (30.03) and 2015 (29.65).
It didn't stop there, based on the preliminary NCAA's statistics compiled through the 2018 season*. Since 2012, the game has now seen its top five seasons nationally in scoring, touchdowns per game, yards per passing attempt, completion percentage, yards per play and rushing yards per play.
Those are six of the 14 offensive categories tracked annually by the NCAA.
In a sense, we are watching offense take over the game in real time.
"I think a lot of it is people running very efficient offense," Washington State coach Mike Leach said. "They're using the whole field and getting it in everybody's hands. And it's not just through the air."
The numbers also show Oklahoma finished with the highest-scoring season in five years. The Sooners averaged 48.4 points, the most since Baylor averaged 52.4 in 2013.
If you don't think offense has taken over the game. Consider those Sooners got to the College Football Playoff with the worst defensive numbers (108th in total defense) for a team ever playing for a championship in the BCS era (since 1998).
Twelve teams averaged at least 40 points in 2018, tying for the most since at least 1989.
Specifically, it can be argued the passing game has never been more efficient.
In 2018, the record was set for yards per passing attempt, 7.397, surpassing the previous mark set all the way back in 2016 (7.391).
It was also the third-most accurate season for quarterbacks in terms of completion rate -- 59.9 percent. Yards per play was second-highest ever, 5.78. Touchdowns per game were No. 2 all-time, 3.77.
The offensive explosion continues
The top five seasons in these six offensive categories have all occurred since 2011. Bolded stats are records.
Russell Wilson's pass efficiency record from 2011 (191.8) -- a mathematical mix of yardage, interception ratio and touchdowns thrown -- has been surpassed four times since 2016. In back-to-back seasons, Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield first passed Wilson (196.4 in 2016), then passed himself the next season (198.9). Both Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa (199.4) and Oklahoma's Kyler Murray (199.2) beat out Mayfield in 2018. For the first time since 2011, two players in same season hold the top two marks in history.
Not surprisingly, the Big 12 led the country in scoring for the fourth consecutive year (32.3 points per team). The SEC seemed to join the revolution, however, finishing second (32.2).
How times have changed. The SEC had four teams in the top 22 in scoring in 2018. Two seasons ago, there was one SEC team (Alabama) in the top 23.
Last season, Nick Saban oversaw the highest scoring Alabama offense in history (45.6 points per game). That number broke a 73-year old team record. Alabama's 92 total touchdowns beat the previous old school record (74) by 18 -- 1.2 per game.
Since 2015, the SEC leads all 10 FBS conferences having improved its scoring average 13.2 percent. The Pac-12 once dominated average scoring signifying its ability to attract top quarterbacks that fit perfectly into the climate-friendly offenses of the West. But since 2014, Pac-12 average scoring is down 14.2 percent. In 2018, it finished seventh among FBS conference averaging only 28.5 points.
- College football averaged 400 yards in total offense per team for the seventh consecutive year (407.1).
- Average passing yards per game surpassed 230 yards for the sixth time in seven years and for only the seventh time ever.
- The Citadel passed for 0 yards twice in 2018. It finished 1-1 in those games, first beating Western Carolina, 38-24, then losing to Alabama, 50-17. The Tide outpassed the Bulldogs in that game 381-0.
- Ohio State has run the most plays combined the last two seasons -- 2,160.
- Clemson won its last 10 games by at least 20 points and by an average of 33 points.
- If he gets cleared, UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton will be the leading returning career passer in 2019 at 9,659 yards.
- A special "atta boy" to Texas State linebacker Bryan London II, who is back in 2019 with the nation's leading returning career tackler (341) for a defense that has finished 117th, 103rd and 53rd nationally in total defense during his three seasons.
* The NCAA compiles one set of statistics that includes teams in the process of reclassifying to FBS. The final official stats published in the annual record book will not include marks from reclassifying teams moving up to FBS. Therefore, those final stats may vary slightly from year to year.
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