Headline’s probably a bit misleading, because there are a lot of lessons — not just one. If you’re a coach or a crazed fan of a team, though, there’s seemingly one takeaway about this being the game — the final game of the first playoff format — that should resonate.
If you rank all the NCAA D-1 football programs by “points per minute,” here’s what you get as the top six:
Notice anything off the top?
The two teams playing for the championship are ranked (1) and (6); Baylor was this close to getting in that final four, and they’re ranked (2). The other team that got left out of that equation, TCU, is ranked (5). Marshall, ranked (3), went 13-1 this year. With the exception of Alabama — which tends to win with defense — and FSU — which was undefeated, but not necessarily a very good team — this list above has some of the best programs of the year on it (and Western Kentucky, which went 8-5).
Now compare this to a chart of an ol’ standby metric, that being “time of possession:”
That list has some successful teams — MSU, Wisconsin, LSU, and Arkansas (which ended well) — but by no means did any of those teams really sniff the final four and the first-ever CFB playoffs.
Broader lesson, then? If you want to win and win a lot in modern college football, play fast.
Nick Saban, potentially the gold standard of CFB coaches in the past 10 years or so, has basically come out in opposition (fear?) of fast, wide-open offenses — which tend to be the types of teams that beat his teams (think Johnny Manziel, OSU this year, etc.)