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Football Goes in Cycles: 2015 Edition

Discussion in 'Buckeye Football' started by Jaxbuck, Jul 20, 2015.

By Jaxbuck on Jul 20, 2015 at 7:43 PM
  1. Jaxbuck

    Jaxbuck I hate tsun

    On November 18, 2006, #1 Ohio State and #2 Michigan played in the most-hyped edition of The Game in its long and storied history. The Buckeyes entered the contest with a scoring average of 36 points, while the Wolverines, with the nation's #1 rushing defense, allowed only 12 points per game. Something had to give.

    During that game, Ohio State exploited a fundamental issue with the Michigan defense, namely a lot of big slow linebackers and defensive backs with questionable coverage skills. Lloyd Carr and his defensive staff had assembled a group that was very adept at stuffing the inside running game, but was susceptible to misdirection, edge pressure, and a dynamic passing attack. The Buckeyes were successful in exposing Michigan's defense to the tune of 42 points and 503 yards of total offense.

    On the other hand, Ohio State showed in that game that their own defense was trying to evolve into the kind that could stop a high-powered offense, but subsequent events soon proved that the Buckeyes weren't anywhere near ready for a good challenge.

    After beating Michigan to complete a perfect regular season, Ohio State earned a berth in the 2006 National Championship Game against the Florida Gators. In that game, Ohio State's, and consequently the Big Ten's, reputation was destroyed by Urban Meyer’s spread offense. The 41-14 ass-kicking gave ESPN a chance to drive clicks with their "SEC Speed" marketing campaign.

    Now nearly a decade later the narrative has changed, from "SEC Speed" to "SEC Big Boy football". Led by conference stalwarts Alabama, LSU, and Georgia, the ground-and-pound offenses of the current SEC are very similar to the slow, plodding offenses that the B1G used to specialize in. In other words, the kind of offenses that gave the B1G the reputation as a substandard, un-athletic, behind-the-times football conference.

    As a result of the paradigm shift in the SEC, the kings of Big Boy Football (Alabama) are highly specialized in stopping it. The Crimson Tide are built to stop one-dimensional conference foes like LSU, not dynamic spread teams like the 2006 Florida Gators or the 2014 Ohio State Buckeyes.

    Since 2008, Alabama has an incredible 84-11 record (.884 winning percentage) and three national championships. During that span, the Crimson Tide have finished no worse than 10th nationally in rushing defense (with five top-5 finishes), and no worse than 12th in total defense (with six top-5 finishes). Twenty-four Alabama defenders have been drafted into the NFL in the past seven years, with eight being selected in the first round and four more being selected in the second round. Needless to say, Alabama has had a top-notch defense during the Nick Saban era.

    However, even a genius like Nick Saban can have his flaws. By my count, only 5 of the 14 teams in the SEC run a hurry-up, no huddle offense, but that style of play has simply shredded Saban's "Big Boy" defense in recent years. The first chinks in the Tide's armor were exposed by none other than Johnny Manziel, who had 345 total yards in Texas A+M's 29-24 upset win over Alabama in 2012. The next year, the Aggies' mobile quarterback was a one-man wrecking crew against the Crimson Tide, accounting for 562 total yards and 5 touchdowns, while rangy wide receiver Mike Evans took the top off the Bama defense with 7 receptions for 279 yards, an unbelievable 40 yards per catch. Although the Tide survived the Aggie onslaught, 49-42, the vaunted Alabama defense surrendered more points in a game than it had in a decade, and the most total yards (628) ever.

    In 2014, the Bama defense continued to show signs of weakness in relatively narrow wins against West Virginia (393 yards), Tennessee (383 yards), and Mississippi State (428 yards). Then the Tide imploded against Auburn (44 points and a school-worst 630 yards, including 456 through the air) and Ohio State (42 points and 537 yards).

    So why has Alabama, a supposedly great defensive team, had such egregious lapses during the past few seasons? Alabama's roster is full of overgrown LB's (starters average 259 pounds) and run-stuffing safeties (starters average 217 pounds). It is also devoid of elite pass rushers or lock down corners. Why? Because Bama's defense is built to stop between-the-tackles running attacks like Georgia and LSU, not diverse spread attacks that pressure a defense both vertically and horizontally like Auburn and Ohio State employ.

    Urban Meyer, the master of the spread offense, should know how to defend one. Meyer has installed a smaller, quicker, more mobile defense (DL's averaged 278 pounds; LB's 242 pounds; safeties 207 pounds) that is designed to create TFL's and negative plays but sometimes gives up big plays and quick scores. Meyer's philosophy is essentially the polar opposite of the Saban's approach, which involves keeping everything in front of you with a wall of humanity with big guys crashing down hill to make plays.

    It would seem Meyer’s philosophy is the right one, at least when it comes to stopping dynamic spread offenses. That being said, as the title states these things are cyclical. It takes time to change the roster from one thing to another, and I for one have no doubt that Saban is smart enough to see this, and that he is actively making the adjustments necessary to stop the spread. In the meantime, Saban is going to be vulnerable to spread offenses much as he has been over the past three years, ever since Johnny Football first exposed his defense.
     

Comments

Discussion in 'Buckeye Football' started by Jaxbuck, Jul 20, 2015.

    1. charlohiottean
      charlohiottean
      I'm going to have to give this essay a D-. While well researched and presented, it's obvious Jaxbuck had "help" from his parents on this project.
    2. Jaxbuck
      Jaxbuck
      [​IMG]
      charlohiottean and Saw31 like this.
    3. GulfCoastOSU
      GulfCoastOSU
      It is interesting that when the Big Ten was using big defenses to stop the inside run, it was called slow. When the SEC does the same thing, we call it Big Boy Football.

      If Tressel was still the coach, I'd like to think that we would of still won a NC since 2011. With the "slow" guys. I'm probably wrong and underestimating just how difficult it is to win, but I would still like to think it. So I'm thinking it.
    4. Dryden
      Dryden
      Not hard to think it. If the 2003 team had MoC they probably get to defend their title. By November the 2005 team, IMHO, was the best team Tressel had during his entire tenure. 2010 team could have beaten anybody on any given Saturday, and the 2011 team would have been loaded.

      Biggest thing that doesn't change is I don't see B1G teams getting the 330 pound NTs and 8 deep DL rotations like Alabama and LSU always seems to have.

      The SECs strength wasn't ever really quality, it was quantity. That quantity was put to use by grinding teams down over four quarters, which is negated by running tempo and not substituting. Meyers genius isn't the scheme, it's the identification and utilization of players like Harvin, Heuerman, Elliott, and Marshall that can line up in four different spots on any given play.

      Would Tressel ever line up MoC in a receiver spot four wide with Hartsock in the backfield?
      jlb1705 and muffler dragon like this.
    5. Saw31
      Saw31
      :slappy:

      No way a chick with that nice of an ass came up with this by herself...


      On a serious note...Well Shit...I have no serious notes.

      The Buckeyes also have 52% more teeth per player than Alabama. That has a lot to do with it also. And I won't even mention the 98% less cousin fucking...
    6. Saw31
      Saw31
      On an actual serious note...

      This may not be cyclical. With the emphasis on offense (a decade of rule changes favoring the offense), this may be how football is played from here on out. People want scoring and some coaches have figured it out quicker than others. Urban's got the athletes to run around on defense to at least put up a few stops, create the turnovers etc, that defenses have to do now. No more decapitations of the slot receiver when he goes across the middle. No more head shots to the wideouts that used to give them the alligator arms. No more slamming a QB to the ground after he's released the ball.

      I still love this game, but I was always a 'defense first' guy. 10-7 games did not offend me. Those days are over. 48-35 games are the present and future...
    7. muffler dragon
    8. Taosman
      Taosman
      I would have been happy with Tressel still as head coach but his flaws took him down.
      Meyer is better. Does Meyer have any major flaws now?
      As a long time fan I've experienced many heartbreaking loses and seasons.
      This season scares me because I've seen too many "loaded" teams fail.
      I'd be fine with an early loss and a big comeback season.
      Once again this teams big "ace in the hole" is depth that few teams can match over a long season. That will guarantee a great record and a top Bowl game.
      But the margin for error on this team's expectations is sky high.
    9. Jaxbuck
      Jaxbuck
      I am a defense first guy as well. My opinion on the offensive era we see today is due to a couple of macro trends;
      1. Better coaching and player development in High School. As a father of a baseball player I can tell you this with 100% certainty, the access to high level training and development kids have now is something we could never have imagined when Woody was telling people you will have 1 loss for every freshman you start. They come out of HS ready, willing and able to pass the football which wasn't necessarily the case all the way into the mid to late 90's.
      2. This era is getting back to more of 1950's style football (split T, single wing etc) which puts more emphasis on versatility (remember single platoon days?) vs specialization. The incredible amount of flexibility built into modern offensive (and defensive) schemes also puts a heavier and heavier emphasis on players who "know the game"/have good instincts/"are just football players" etc (pick your phrase).
      So as an example, OSU takes a FB with limited physical tools and makes him the Mike LB mid season of his SR year and it makes a huge improvement from the bigger, faster, stronger guy with less honed instincts for the game.

      Also take our friend Trey DePriest. 250+LB guy who ran a 4.96 40 at his pro day. He was, I believe, undrafted yet an all-SEC guy who basically played in every game every year while at Bama. Why? Because he's built to stop the run in the box, prototypical ILB for a 3-4 defense. This year Bama starts to move to a 4-3 (which requires a smaller, rangier player) and he gets badly exposed.

      I'm generalizing of course but that's just my .02 on why offense is on top right now and why I think the cycle is coming full circle for SEC "big boy football."
      Saw31, jlb1705 and muffler dragon like this.
    10. southcampus
      southcampus
      Good stuff.

      The SEC West has such a mixed bag of teams led by very talented coaches. Malzahn and Sumlin on one extreme with Bert and Saban on the other. You mentioned that Saban's teams are designed to stop the inside run game and bully downhill offenses. And while they held the Arkansas and the LSU's to relatively few points this year, those games were still very much in doubt. So what exactly are they doing really well these days?
    11. Jaxbuck
      Jaxbuck
      They are still deep and talented. They still present an extreme change-up/style contrast to the smaller/faster/more versatile teams. Scores are close in most games due to the nature of their offense (grinding rush attack that eats clock) see Tresselball. They still have all the resources and coaching skill and experience necessary to make the proper changes, it just takes some time.

      The flip side of the coin that I outline above is that Bama/LSU/Wisconsin can get out in front, keep your high powered offense harmlessly on the sidelines and physically maul/demoralize your defense in the process of long time consuming drives. Then their defense keeps everything in front of them and makes that last minute drive your offense needs, extremely difficult. We've all seen it play out both ways before.
    12. jlb1705
      jlb1705
      I think characterizing it as size and power against tempo and athleticism is a false dichotomy and a step behind what has actually been happening. The reason Ohio State was so good down the stretch last season is that even though they were fast and versatile and on the cutting edge tactically, they were also mean and physical. That second part is key, and it's something that no other spread offense program has really been able to do at the highest level except (arguably) Auburn. The lack of a physical edge to go with the sophisticated attack has been the thing that has kept programs like Baylor and Oregon from getting over the hump. Oregon has played for a national championship twice in the last several years, and each time faced teams that were also on the cutting edge offensively. Both times Oregon has been the team that has lacked the physicality to go with their sophistication.

      While the trend toward these uptempo, wide-open offenses certainly exists, when it comes to championship football it only has a foothold so far. I'm not yet ready to say "the tide has turned" (pardon the pun) and that big boy, I-formation football is dead. Ohio State has a template for an effective power spread. Auburn will likely be in that mix to an extent as long as Gus Malzahn is there. Is Gary Patterson building something like that at TCU? Time will tell. For now though, there are a lot of spread, up-tempo teams that are missing part of the championship formula.
    13. Jaxbuck
      Jaxbuck
      No question, the quality of the athletes running the schemes ultimately decides the outcome.

      Bama can beat the piss out of teams with lesser talent and the "right" scheme.

      It has more difficulty with Auburn and OSU who put the same caliber athlete on the field with them. Then, it does become a style/scheme clash. I agree that size vs speed is too simplistic.
    14. 808 Buck
      808 Buck
      Not to take this off-track, but I wonder if kids specializing in one sport has something to do with the development of this cycle, if you want to call it that. The hardest position to fill for most high school football teams is the quarterback spot. The prototypical pocket passer is your longer (6'2'', 190 or so) type of athlete. Well, dependent on where you live, that kid (the really good one) is probably a baseball pitcher or if he's a little taller, a basketball player. As kids started specializing more and more, you saw these kids giving up football to chase the other dream. So, what did high school coaches do? They put their best athlete, who usually is a great runner with some passing skills, at QB and schemed accordingly. Another position tough to find is Tight end. Again, you are looking at a basketball type kid to fill that position. Can't find the tight end types, so you go with what you have an abundance of - smaller, quicker kids and make them slots. More and more coaches started going to the spread to give themselves a chance. So in terms of player development, colleges have less of a pro-style pool to pick from. I really believe that specialization, the increasing amount of offseason 7 on 7, and more high school coaches getting college coordinator positions led to this.

      Then again, what the hell do I know. One thing I do know is that the Jimmies and Joes beat the X's and O's most of the time. As Jax stated above, it's when the Jimmies and Joes are equal that we see true coaching.

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