As Nick Saban himself has admitted, offense has surpassed defense in college football. Here’s a look back at the top Power Five offenses from the last decade of football, according to Rivals national columnist Mike Farrell.
1. LSU 2019
When the 2019 season ended with LSU winning the national championship, the Tigers had a legit case to be considered the best offense in the history of college football. LSU faced seven top 10 teams by season’s end and had a staggering point differential of 26.5. The 2019 LSU offense saw four of its players taken in the first round (Joe Burrow, Justin Jefferson, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Ja’Marr Chase) with Terrace Marshall landing in the second round.
LSU’s opponents had an average defensive ranking of 52.93 out of 130 qualifying programs in points allowed per game, but that ranking is not indicative of how truly dominant LSU was on offense. The Tigers dropped 37 points against Georgia’s top five defense and 42 points against Clemson’s top five defense as well.
2. ALABAMA 2020
Alabama followed up LSU’s historic 2019 campaign with an outstanding offensive effort of its own. Even without star receiver Jaylen Waddle, who went down with a season-ending injury, the Crimson Tide averaged an unfathomable 48.5 points per game. Heisman winner and first-rounder DeVonta Smith led the offense alongside fellow first-round picks Mac Jones and Najee Harris, with first-rounder Alex Leatherwood heading up arguably college football’s best offensive line.
Alabama mustered a point differential average of 29.1 against an average scoring defensive ranking of 60.46. No one seemed to have an answer for the Alabama offense all season, even elite defenses.
3. OREGON 2012
When thinking of high-powered Oregon offenses, Marcus Mariota, LaMichael James, Kenjon Barner and De’Anthony Thomas are just a few of the names that immediately come to mind. If it were not for Alabama winning the SEC and Notre Dame going undefeated in 2012, the Ducks very well could have had a shot at the national title, in large part due to their explosive Chip Kelly-led offense.
Oregon was very well-balanced in 2012 as it also featured a top 25 scoring defense. The Ducks averaged 49.6 points per game and a point differential of 28. Oregon’s 2012 opponents had an average scoring defensive rank of 57.4 which isn’t great but not awful as well.
4. OKLAHOMA STATE 2011
Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon headlined Oklahoma State‘s talented 2011 offense. Many believe that LSU and Oklahoma State were on a collision course for the national title game before the Cowboys lost a late-season trap game to Iowa State.
The Pokes faced five top 25 teams that season, outscoring them by an average of 11.4 points. Oklahoma State averaged 48.7 points per game, which was good enough for first among Power Five schools. The average scoring defensive rank of Oklahoma State’s opponents was 74.2 which is not good, but they played who they played and the Pokes still had an impressive point differential per game of 21.9.
5. OKLAHOMA 2018
Oklahoma always seems to be near the top of the list when it comes to scoring offenses. In fact, the popular consensus among a lot of college football media and fans that the Sooners could be the next college football dynasty if they could muster an average to above average defense to pair with their explosive offense.
The 2018 Lincoln Riley-led OU offense scored 48.4 points per game, but only had a 15.1-point differential thanks its lackluster defense. This offense featured 2019’s first overall pick, Kyler Murray, and first-round picks Hollywood Brown and CeeDee Lamb. The average scoring defense rank of Oklahoma’s opponents was 63, which is not a surprising figure from the Big 12.
6. OKLAHOMA 2017
Oklahoma’s 2017 offense was as good as it gets when it comes to star power. The team featured two No. 1 overall picks (Baker Mayfield, Murray) and other future NFL selections with names like Lamb, Brown, Mark Andrews, Orlando Brown and others.
This team had no problem finding the end zone as the Sooners averaged 45.1 points per game, enough to be No. 1 among Power Five teams. The average scoring defensive ranking of Oklahoma’s opponents was 62.8 , just a hair better in 2018.
7. BAYLOR 2013
The only Power Five team that could score more points per game than the national champion Florida State Seminoles, Baylor put up some monster numbers in 2013. Bryce Petty, Lache Seastrunk and Antwan Goodley headlined a strong Bears squad that had a very good shot at College Football Playoff but fell just short.
Baylor averaged 52.4 points per game that season and had a spectacular points per game differential of 28.9. The average scoring defensive rank of 2013 Baylor’s opponents was 59.8.
8. OKLAHOMA 2016
See a trend here? Oklahoma led all Power Five programs in scoring offense in 2016 on the backs of players like Mayfield, Samaje Perine, Joe Mixon, Dede Westbrook and countless others. This was the Sooners’ lowest-scoring No. 1 offense, as they “only” mustered 43.9 points a game.
In 2016, Oklahoma’s opponents had an average scoring defensive rank of 64.2, while the Sooners had a point differential of 15.1 points per game.
9. BAYLOR 2015
Many people forget how truly great Baylor’s offense was in the early half of the past decade. In fact, 2015 was not the Bears’ only claim to a scoring offense title; they did so the two previous seasons as well.
In 2015, the Baylor offense featured future Auburn transfer Jarrett Stidham and future NFL receiver Corey Coleman, a large part of the reason Baylor averaged 48.4 points per game. The team would end the season No. 13 in the final AP Top 25 with a record of 10-3. The defense was ranked No. 81 in the country, a very noticeable impediment to what could have been a very strong team otherwise.
The 2015 Baylor team faced a scoring defensive average of 86.2, with the best opponent having a defensive rank of No. 29, so it’s is no wonder why their offense performed so well. In fact, the Big 12 defenses were so bad this season that the league produced three of the four top scoring offenses in the country.
10. BAYLOR 2014
Just like the year after, Baylor sits at the top of the list among all qualifying programs when it comes to scoring offensive rank. In 2014, the Bryce Petty-led Baylor offense averaged 48.2 points per game, with a very formidable point differential amount of 22.7.
Baylor would have a strong season behind this high-powered offense, finishing the season with a Big 12 title and Cotton Bowl appearance against Michigan State. The defense was average at best, allowing 25.5 points per game. This offense if paired with an above average defense – at least – would have had a shot at the College Football Playoff. Baylor’s opponents average scoring defensive rank was 73.2.