The weekend that defense died in college football

Texas A&M tops LSU in record-tying 7 OTs (4:59)

Texas A&M forces OT on a last-second touchdown then prevails in the seventh overtime, tied for most in FBS history, on a two-point conversion to beat LSU 74-72. (4:59)

Throw a shovel of dirt on it. Say your goodbyes. Make your words so flowery that you'll need to water them every day. This was The Weekend That Defense Died. It was an ugly demise, although hardly unexpected. The patient has been ill for years.

Hold your wake. Sit your shiva. Light your pyres. In lieu of flowers, please send a memory of your favorite third-down stop. If you can remember seeing one.

It's hard to pinpoint a time of death. The doctors wrote Do Not Resuscitate on the chart after that abomination of a game Friday night in Morgantown, when No. 6 Oklahoma and No. 13 West Virginia, two of the best teams in the Big 12, ran 155 plays from scrimmage and combined for three punts. Combined total yards: 1,372. Final score: Oklahoma 59, West Virginia 56. Time of game: Endless.

The death rattle could be heard on Saturday afternoon in the Horseshoe, when No. 4 Michigan brought the best defense in the nation to No. 10 Ohio State. That best defense, which played as if it had never seen a wide receiver run a horizontal route, allowed 62 points and 567 yards.

The Buckeyes scored touchdowns on four consecutive possessions in the second half, and would have made it five if head coach Urban Meyer had so desired. Ohio State reached the Michigan 7-yard line in the final minute before taking a knee twice, the cruelest insult of all. You can't stop us, but because we're nice, we'll go ahead and stop ourselves.

And then, the last breath, the seven overtimes in Kyle Field on Saturday night. No. 7 LSU and No. 22 Texas A&M matched each other score for score, overtime for overtime: five touchdowns, five conversions, two field goals, until the Aggies stopped the Tigers on a two-point try.

You would think, in a sport where they give as many scholarships on defense as on offense, that perhaps one team could stop the other, even from the 25-yard line. It happened once, on the very first overtime possession. The Aggies pushed the Tigers back 7 yards. However, LSU kicker Cole Tracy hit a 50-yard field goal, and it was as if both defenses decided, what's the point? The next 13 possessions -- seven for the Aggies, six more for the Tigers -- yielded 10 touchdowns and three chip-shot field goals.

Final score: Texas A&M 74, LSU 72. Final curtain. Cue the dirges. Rest in pieces. If defense were a college football team, the coach would have been fired Sunday morning. And probably the athletic director, too.

OK, this isn't the first time that defense has gone dormant. I understand that outside of TCU, they haven't played defense in the Big 12 since Ndamukong Suh stuck his hand in the ground at Nebraska. I get that no-huddle offenses hold an advantage. You don't have to know an X from an O to know the damage an offense can inflict by spreading the field.

But no, something different happened in Week 13 of the 2018 season.

For one thing, the teams referenced above, the ones with cleat marks in their defensive chests, are not teams having bad seasons. They are among the best in the nation, coached by some of the best defensive coaches in the game. Don't believe me? Ask their salaries.

LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda is the highest-paid assistant coach on God's green earth. He makes $2.5 million per year. His counterpart in the next coaching booth, the Aggies' Mike Elko, pulls in a reported $1.8 million annually; Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown, $1.4 million.

For another, this wasn't some random October Saturday. This was Rivalry Weekend, the three days when America gathers around the TV, turkey drumstick in hand, to watch games that matter no matter the record. And this year the games actually mattered.

Ohio State and Michigan played not only for the Big Ten East championship, but in what amounted to a College Football Playoff elimination game. Oklahoma and West Virginia played for a slot in the Big 12 championship game. LSU had a New Year's Six bid at stake.

You can date this to the advent of the up-tempo spread. You can date it to 2009, when the rulesmakers allowed offensive linemen to move 3 yards downfield on a pass that traveled beyond the line of scrimmage.

"There are very few teams that play good defense anymore," Alabama head coach Nick Saban said earlier this season. "The rules in college football favor the offense so incredibly. ... They go fast, and that makes you line up on defense, in what you're going to play, fast. So then they look at the sidelines and say, 'OK, they're lined up in this. So what's the best play we can run against that?' It's like one side gets to take the test with open book, and the other side doesn't."

To be fair, defense is not dead on Saban's side of the field, where 300-pound men run like deer and corners shorter than 6 feet are as rare as losses. It is not dead at Mississippi State, which held Alabama to a season-low 24 points. They don't even play defense at Army. The offense holds the ball for 39 minutes, 15 seconds a game.

Pretty much everywhere else, defense has bled out, an accumulation of injuries, death by a thousand cutbacks.

You would think this is the time for the rulesmakers to step in and restore some balance between offense and defense, as they have done since the days of Walter Camp and Amos Alonzo Stagg: You would think this is an issue tailor-made for the NCAA Football Oversight Committee, which, according to the NCAA website, shall "provide direction to the NCAA Football Rules Committee regarding playing rules."

The chair of the committee, Shane Lyons, said Monday night that there has been neither hue nor cry for adjustments to help the defense. "Everybody loves the fast-paced offense," Lyons said.

Lyons, by the way, is the athletic director at West Virginia, which made the entire interview pretty much like asking Mark Zuckerberg about reining in social media. I told Lyons I found the Mountaineers' game Friday night unwatchable, and to his credit, he laughed heartily. He pointed out that everyone loved the Rams' 54-51 defeat of the Chiefs last week.

Well, yes, everyone loves dessert, until it's all you're served.

West Virginia scored 41 and 56 points in its past two games. Lost them both. And nothing is wrong with college football. Any chance of the rulesmakers restoring balance to the game appears as dead as defense.