It is often said that football consists of three points of emphasis and all three are equally important, with the three points being offense, defense, and special teams. Any team can score touchdowns, but can they kick the extra point? Can they cover punt returns when they punt inside their own 20 yard line? Lastly, can they kick a 44-yard field goal as time expires to win the game? These are important and seemingly overlooked aspects of a game that can have a monumental impact on momentum, morale, and the final score. Today, we take a look at two underlying factors for both Cincinnati and San Diego State: coaching and special teams.
Tommy Tuberville vs. Rocky Long
To say these men come from different coaching circles is an understatement. Both have been coaching for over thirty years and both have a few championships under their belt, yet Tuberville stands out as significantly better due to his experience as a head coach for over 15 years, in comparison to Long who has 14. Yes, I know what you're thinking when I say his experience is better when he only has a year over his opponent, but the experience isn't from how long he coached. It comes from where.
I believe that college football is college football anywhere and that all teams deserve respect, yet I also believe that playing in a conference with tremendous top-to-bottom depth has to count for something. Ten years of coaching at New Mexico is not as impressive as nine at Ole Miss. Granted, Long is still a proven head coach who has had an impressive turnaround at San Diego State, but he isn't on the level that Tuberville is in specialization and strategy. Tuberville has excelled in just about any position he has had, but he has always been known for his offensive schemes. His ideology behind the air raid and his success at coaching it outweighs the skill set that Long possesses as not only an offensive coach, but also a defensive coach. The simple fact is that the Bearcats have a pretty significant advantage going into the matchup on the sideline. Rocky Long is not incompetent by any means, but he is no Tommy Tuberville.
Statistically speaking, nothing really stands out on the stats sheet for either team in an overwhelming way. The biggest factors that could come into play would be punting and kicking. From an offensive success standpoint, the Bearcats have punted a mere 41 times this year for a net average of 40.9 yards. In comparison, the Aztecs have punted 73 times on the year for a net average of 37.1 yards. Long story short, the Bearcats punt less often than the Aztecs do and when they do it is for more yards and is therefore more effective.
The kicking aspect is a bit more delicate and by delicate I mean borderline even. The Bearcats are 21-of-27 on the year kicking field goals for an average of 77.8 percent. Meanwhile, the Aztecs are 17-of-22 for an average of 77.3 percent. That is a vast difference of 0.5. On their extra points, the Bearcats have attempted 49 and made 48 for an average of 98 percent, while the Aztecs are perfect on their 51 extra point attempts on the year. Morale of the story is that both teams are incredibly efficient kicking the football.
The third and final point to go over is both teams' overall efficiencies on special teams. According to ESPN's index, the Bearcats come in at a mere 106th while the Aztecs clock in at an impressive 21st. This is a margin that has to mean something significant right? I wouldn't buy into it, considering the top twenty teams don't even have a playoff team within them (closest being Alabama at 33rd). The consensus here is that, all things considered (offense, defense, special teams/coaching), the Bearcats seem to have the edge on paper, so why not in Vegas?