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Sports

February 20, 2014

Limiting college football's offense creates clear winners and losers

(Continued)

The push behind the change officially falls under the claim of player safety. That seems logical at first blush; more plays would increase the risk of more injuries. However, there's no definitive evidence either proving or refuting that assumption.

Research suggests the number of injuries to offensive and defensive players aren’t that much different. Dave Bartoo, founder of the trend analysis website The College Football Matrix (www.cfbmatrix.com), cites size and speed as the primary factors that lead to player injury.

One point in his analysis seems most noteworthy: From 2009 to 2012, teams in the Big 12 Conference averaged more snaps played on offense and defense than any other conference. Yet, they had the fewest player starts lost to injury on offense and defense, as well as the lowest injury rate per play on offense and defense.

It’s easy to see that programs built around strong defensive units favor a more controlled game. Opposing coaches looking for an edge – or an offense built around a surprise play or trickery – must be more imaginative to get that edge.

Coaches of teams favoring no-huddle offenses are always devising new ways to outscore the opposition. Defensive-minded coaches - more conservative by nature - play to get the lead and then let the defense take over.

In the end it is a balancing act. Some teams score so quickly or turn the ball over on downs just as fast, that their defense gets little time to rest and subsequently wears out.

Former Louisville coach Charlie Strong received criticism for intentionally slowing down star quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.  Once his team got a lead, Strong preferred to let the clock run and allow play calling to become more conventional. His harshest critics said his style may have cost Bridgewater a chance at winning the Heisman Trophy.

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