It's never easy to know how to feel about your team after a spring football game. Did our quarterback just go five-for-20 with two picks because he's doomed past all hope for even mediocrity, or because WE HAVE THE BEST DEFENSE OF ALL TIME? Some fans actually try to answer that question. It never works out.
Last year, I had to cover Northwestern's spring game. I was slightly disinterested in covering a sparsely attended exhibition. Plus, instead of playing a real game with teams and stuff, it was offense vs. defense, with the scoring based on some convoluted system briefly explained by the PA and a sheet distributed to the media. It was all fun and games, except it wasn't fun, and it wasn't really a game.
Then, something magical happened. Third-string quarterback Zack Oliver tossed a lazy screen, and backup defensive end Chance Carter jumped the route. He sprinted to the end zone for a pick-six - or so we thought. Carter was awarded five points for the interception, and 12 - 12!!!!! - for the defensive touchdown, making it a rare pick-17.
And thus began my fascination with SpringPoints. For whatever reason, some teams opt not to just pick sides and play, choosing instead to come up with SpringPoints scoring systems for various on-field accomplishments. They sort of provide competitive balance, but better serve as semi-sensical outlines for weird models of sports in which one team truly does always play offense and one always defense. My point is, they're all stupid.
Here's a few SpringPoints scoring systems we found:
This almost makes sense: Oklahoma and Boise State
Boise State and Oklahoma have used the same scoring system, presumably stemming from the "hahaha do you remember the one time I used all those trick plays to beat you in the Fiesta Bowl" voicemails Chris Petersen probably leaves for Bob Stoops once every two or three weeks.
Offense: American football rules.
Defense: Six SpringPoints for touchdown, three for turnovers and fourth down stops, two for sacks, one for three-and-outs and field goals inside 25-yard-line.
Having the offense's scoring system just be the regular scoring system is a stroke of genius. Most coaches probably only consider it for a few split seconds before realizing their jobs entitle them to be 72 percent insane. It's a little weird that you get as many SpringPoints for forcing a three-and-out as you do for letting the other team get in the red zone, but I get the point. And shouldn't forcing a long field goal be worth points too?
Arbitrary field position matters: Stanford and Notre Dame
These smartypants came up with a system for scoring that varies how much drives are worth by how far down the field the offense got.
Offense: Pretty much football.
Defense: Before 50-yard-line: seven SpringPoints for turnover, four for stop. After 50-yard line: three SpringPoints for turnover, two for stop, one for forced field goal
The problem here is that spring games typically don't feature kickoffs, via which a team's starting field position is typically determined. Stanford just gave the offense the ball at the 37-yard line every time. So there's a big difference between giving up a first down and giving up a little bit more than a first down.
I really like imagining a world where this is a real sport, where 100,000 fans just go NUTS when a team gets the ball past the 50-yard line. Wait, did I just describe an LSU home game?
Moar SpringPoints: Penn State
JoePa had always just had regular scrimmages, but Bill O'Brien switched it up.
Offense: Regular, plus two SpringPoints for 15-plus yard plays and two SpringPoints for two consecutive first downs.
Defense: Seven SpringPoints for touchdowns, six for turnovers, four for sacks, two for TFLs and one for three-and-outs.
Six SpringPoints for a turnover and four for a sack seem unnecessarily high, but every time you add random SpringPoints to one side, you have to add random SpringPoints to the other as well.
Gettin unnecessarily specific with it: Nevada
Sure, some of those systems listed above make for a reasonably competitive game, considering the absurdity of it all. But does it accurately reward how difficult all of the things in question are? Chris Ault did not think so, and hence we had some convolution:
Offense: Regular, plus two SpringPoints for a 20-yard passing play, a 15-yard running play or a conversion on fourth down and one for a first down.
Defense: Six points for a touchdown, three for an interception or three-and-out, two for recovering a fumble, recording a sack, TFL or fourth down stop, and one for a forced fumble.
Yes, somebody must've said, "IT'S DOWNRIGHT UNFAIR that 17-yard passes and 17-yard runs are worth the same amount of SpringPoints, and I WON'T STAND FOR IT." Not to mention that picking up a fourth down (two points for the conversion, one for getting the first) is worth the same as hitting a field goal, which would finally put to rest the debates about whether to kick or go for it.
Descent into Calvinball: Jim Tressel
In his last year at Ohio State, Jim Tressel found he didn't have enough linemen to have a real, honest-to-goodness scrimmage, lest his best defenders absolutely go to town on hapless walk-on left tackles. Instead, he put the starters vs. the starters, and my goodness, the rules he came up with are a thing of beauty.
Offense: Regular, plus one SpringPoint for each first down and each play of over 20 yards
Defense: 12 SpringPoints for defensive touchdowns, 7 SpringPoints or 3 SpringPoints for interceptions and fumble recoveries, depending on the situation, 3 points for blocked field goals and fourth down stops before the 50-yard line, 2 for sacks, failed 2-point conversions, and fourth-down stops past the 50-yard line, 1 for TFL's , forced punts, and blocked PAT's
This, friends, is the work of a lunatic, or someone so advanced we can't possibly comprehend it. On Tressel's one hand, we have extremely detailed rules for even the unlikeliest of scenarios: if there's a blocked field goal - never happens - it's three SpringPoints, but if there's a blocked extra point - really never, ever, ever happens - it's just one SpringPoint, not to mention the attention to whether the fourth-down stop happens before midfield.
And on Tressel's other hand, anarchy. Was that turnover worth three or seven points? THERE ARE NO RULES. In this sadistic raffle, only Tressel decides who truly deserves SpringPoints and who does not.
Sadly, dystopia died when Urban Meyer took over. They now have, you know, a spring game.