@#!(*$^@% research…

HeismanPundit, on “Some Basic Principles on the Gang of Six“, June 28, 2005:

7. You must have offensive formations and plays that regularly confuse the other team’s defense
This is understood by just watching the games…

HeismanPundit, from “The BCS Title Game and the Supremacy of College Systems“, January 9, 2007:

…I’ve been touting the importance of scheme in college football since before the 2005 season when I extolled the offenses of Florida, Boise State, Louisville, Utah, Cal and USC–the original Gang of Six. I felt these schools were utilizing some extraordinarily effective offensive systems that enabled their programs to succeed well beyond the levels that their talent would normally provide…

Jonathan Tu, at 82 Sluggo Win, brought my attention to a blog I hadn’t read before, ArtofTroy’s USC Trojan Football Analysis. It’s an accurate title – this guy brings new meaning to the word “exhaustive”. He’s charted every play from Southern Cal’s ’06 season, and it looks like he’s dug pretty deeply into every game of the Carroll regime.

So, needless to say that when he posts that the “I Formation has been a staple of the USC offensive play book for decades. Since Pete Carroll arrived I have sampled its usage and it has hovered around the 40% of the total offensive snaps…” (emphasis added), I have to sit up and take notice.

As he notes in the very next sentence, in most years the I formation is the primary formation called by the USC offensive coordinator under Pete Carroll – a group that would include the legendary Norm Chow. (Evidently it was relied upon less in ’06 because the Trojans couldn’t keep their fullbacks healthy.)

All I’ve got to say after absorbing this is that if running the “I” for a plurality of your offensive sets is enough to elevate you to geniushood, we ought to start referring to the SEC as the “Einstein Conference”.

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8 Comments

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8 responses to “@#!(*$^@% research…

  1. The “I” will never die. Perhaps it’s not the base set, but what they’re doing out of it that caused HP to include them in his set?

  2. I don’t want to put words in HP’s mouth, but I’ve got to believe that one thing that made a big difference was that USC ran the “I” with two Heisman Trophy winners in the backfield.

    That’ll usually help.

  3. Heismanpundit

    Once again, you are lucky that there is a thing called Google Alerts, or no one of importance would be aware of your continuing obsession with me.

    But, since we are on the subject of USC’s offense and you bring up that very informative blog, perhaps you would find it worthy to read what the guy writes there. I find this particular bit on Norm Chow to be interesting and completely in tune with the very point that you attempt to belittle:

    http://usctrojanfootballanalysis.blogspot.com/2007/02/norm-chow-video-summary.html

    I’ll quote you the money bit:

    The 49ers and Bill Walsh emphasized a lot of motion in the NFL a few years back and a lot of that has trickled down to the college ranks. Motion makes the play look different, it helps you get better blocking angles on some plays, and it sometimes makes the defense declare its defense (i.e. man versus zone). I’ll put the fullback in motion, the tailback in motion, the x, the y, the z receiver all of them will go in motion. Anything to help confuse the defense, make them declare the defense, or disguise the play.

    80% of our pass offense is about eight different pass plays for simplicity but because of the motion and the formation changes it looks like 80 plays to some people. For example we’ll put a guy in motion and throw the slant route. We’ll do this out of a one back 2 TE set, a two back set, a three receiver set, etc. I’ll put the receivers on the one side and then on the other. Anything to make it “look” different to the defense so they have to keep guessing.

    So while you are right that USC basically runs an I-Formation, when Norm Chow was calling the plays, he disguised things as much as possible to make it look different. This is why USC was included in the Gang, because Chow was so damn good at doing it. Once Chow left and it became apparent that his way of thinking was not being continued, I took USC out of the Gang. As you can see, this is also the reason why no SEC teams outside of Florida were included, mainly because there’s very little attempt at deception in those offenses. This is a very key difference in my point–when I say sophisticated, I do not mean complicated.

    So, no, most of the SEC does not belong in this group as only a couple of the offenses rely on deception.

  4. Exactly how much SEC ball do you watch, HP?

    “For example we’ll put a guy in motion and throw the slant route. We’ll do this out of a one back 2 TE set, a two back set, a three receiver set, etc. I’ll put the receivers on the one side and then on the other. Anything to make it “look” different to the defense so they have to keep guessing.”

    Even Tennessee was doing much of this last year. (Just ask Cal. Or Georgia.) So was LSU. And why isn’t Spurrier on your list?

    As for your point about who belongs in the group, let’s go back and look at some of your criteria:

    “1. You must have exhibited offensive dominance, reflected in blowout wins becoming routine occurrences.

    2. You must never have been shut down by an opposing team’s defense–unless it too was a member of the Gang.

    3. You must have a very efficient passer.

    4. You must be able to run the ball with success when the other team knows you will be running.

    5. You must be able to pass the ball with success when the other team knows you will be passing.

    These previous two points can basically be boiled down to this: a team can not be one dimensional.

    6. You must throw to your tight ends or running backs with regularity and from your base formation.”

    I assume that to be a member of the “Gang”, all six must apply. If that’s the case, how does Florida qualify?

    In that same post, you go on to say that “(t)he fact that most SEC offenses–save Auburn–do not throw to their tight ends or backs creatively or with regularity out of their base formations lends us to believe that teams like Georgia would be at a distinct disadvantage against a team like Boise State. The point is granted by many that Boise may be able to move the ball at least somewhat on Georgia. What many then point out is that Boise will not be able to stop Georgia, since Boise is not known for its defense. But, we believe that the disadvantage to UGA from seeing the system thrown at them by Boise’s offense will be greater than the disadvantage thrown at the Boise defense by UGA’s rather vanilla offense. In other words, Boise’s defense won’t be seeing anything it hasn’t seen, while Georgia will be seeing things for the first time. This should enable Boise to control the tempo of the game, especially early on. The only remaining question is this: Is UGA’s talent advantage so overwhelming that Boise can’t overcome it with its scheme? Given Boise’s performances against teams like Oregon State and Louisville–teams with pretty good talent–and Georgia’s trouble with teams like Ga. Southern and Marshall–teams with less talent than Boise–I would answer that question in the negative. Throw in an erratic D.J. Shockley in his first start and Georgia may be playing things even more conservative than usual, which of course will play right into Boise’s hands.”

    Skip the fact that you spectacularly misdiagnosed how that game played out – how could you claim to be familiar with SEC ball and not know how Georgia utilizes the TE in its offense? That’s only been a staple in the Dawg game plan since Jim Donnan’s regime!

    Back to your post:

    “8. You must have a modicum of talent.” Really. Is that all USC and Florida have?

    When you write BS like “I felt these schools were utilizing some extraordinarily effective offensive systems that enabled their programs to succeed well beyond the levels that their talent would normally provide…” about schools like USC and Florida, which, along with Texas, have been the three most consistent recruiting powers in college football over the past five years, how can you honestly not expect someone to question that?

    Or put it this way – just how much worse would Florida be if it ran a more conventional offense? And why?

    Look, I really don’t have a bone to pick with you on some of your broader points about offensive schemes. It’s just when you try to apply them in ways that strain credulity as to particular teams that I differ with you. In particular, you have a blind spot about the SEC and as long as you can’t admit that, it’s going to be pretty easy to make fun of it. Even if you are tone-deaf when it comes to sarcasm.

    By the way, even with Google Alerts, I don’t think anyone of importance is aware of my “continuing obsession” with you. ;) I do look forward to future posts from you about the “Gang”, though.

  5. Heismanpundit

    >>>Exactly how much SEC ball do you watch, HP?

    —Pretty much all of it. How much college football do you watch outside the SEC?

    >>>Even Tennessee was doing much of this last year. (Just ask Cal. Or Georgia.) So was LSU. And why isn’t Spurrier on your list?

    –No, Tennessee and LSU were not doing much of that. If you ask Cal, you will notice that most of Tennessee’s offense in that game consisted of Robert Meachem breaking free of an attempted tackle by a corner with one hand and running to the end zone. Did you watch that game? What, exactly, did you think Tennessee did that was so creative? I assume that you acknowledge my point about lack of creativity, as you use the qualifier “even” when referring to the Vols and Tiger offenses (as in “Even they used…”)

    >>>I assume that to be a member of the “Gang”, all six must apply. If that’s the case, how does Florida qualify?

    –Florida, I will grant you, is a special case. I wrote the criteria before the Gators played a down under Urban Meyer. I keep the Gators in the group because their offensive scheme retains the characteristics that I laid out, only the personnel wasn’t right. Hard to run that offense with a guy like Leak and no running back to speak of. Nonetheless, I believe we saw a good glimmer of what that offense can do when it moved easily against Ohio State.

    >>>>In that same post, you go on to say that “(t)he fact that most SEC offenses–save Auburn–do not throw to their tight ends or backs creatively or with regularity out of their base formations lends us to believe that teams like Georgia would be at a distinct disadvantage against a team like Boise State.

    —Remember, I wrote this before the 2005 season and I noted that the SEC was in flux. At the time, not many SEC teams used their backs and tight ends in the passing game, but that is slowly changing.

    >>>Skip the fact that you spectacularly misdiagnosed how that game played out – how could you claim to be familiar with SEC ball and not know how Georgia utilizes the TE in its offense? That’s only been a staple in the Dawg game plan since Jim Donnan’s regime!

    —Sure, I was wrong about that particular game. The oddsmakers were wrong, too, as were many UGA fans who thought it would be a close one. I actually noted that the key point was whether Boise’s scheme was enough to overcome UGA’s talent. The answer was clearly no. However, seeing what Boise was able to do with Oklahoma on a neutral field a year later I think salvages many of my points, mainly that a team like Boise has the kind of scheme that equalizes many talent deficiencies. This is undeniable.

    As for the tight ends, there is no doubt that UGA has had a run of very talented tight ends. They have caught a lot of passes in the UGA offense. However, I am not talking about WHAT the tight ends are doing in the offense, but HOW they are being used. I do watch SEC football and, while UGA’s tight ends in particular are used a lot in the passing game, they are not, in my opinion, used to the creative extent as other more sophisticated offenses.

    >>>>“8. You must have a modicum of talent.” Really. Is that all USC and Florida have?

    —Well, this should be an easy point. The Gang of Five/Six (depending on the year) is my group of offenses that are, in my opinion, doing the best at combining scheme and talent. Obviously, a team like Navy has an interesting scheme, but it is pointless to include them as they do not have a lot of talent. There are a lot of interesting schemes in college football, but the Gang is my group of teams that do it best. Your implication is that somehow I am conveniently choosing teams that have a lot of talent to prove my point. Well, USC, despite it’s vast talent, is no longer in my Gang any more because of the changes to its offensive scheme. Again, HOW an offense does things is more important than WHAT they are doing.

    >>>When you write BS like “I felt these schools were utilizing some extraordinarily effective offensive systems that enabled their programs to succeed well beyond the levels that their talent would normally provide…” about schools like USC and Florida, which, along with Texas, have been the three most consistent recruiting powers in college football over the past five years, how can you honestly not expect someone to question that?

    —When I wrote that about USC, it was on a 34-game win streak and had won back-to-back titles. At USC’s level, these were accomplishments beyond what USC’s talent would normally provide. USC, without its scheme, goes 11-2 just like it did last year. With a great scheme and the talent mixed together, it gets to win 34 in a row and 59 of 65 or whatever it is. As for Florida, it had the same talent under Zook and it was mediocre. Now Urban Meyer comes in and introduces a new scheme and within two years has a national title. Perhaps that same talent would have won a title without Meyer’s scheme, but perhaps not. Right now, you have to give the benefit of the doubt to Meyer. And you conveniently forget the other teams in my group, namely Cal, which has just had the most successful four-year run in its history, Louisville, which is now a national power and Boise, which just went undefeated. Without a shadow of a doubt, these teams’ offensive systems have created a level of success well beyond that which their talent would normally provide. Still think it’s BS?

    >>>Or put it this way – just how much worse would Florida be if it ran a more conventional offense? And why?

    —-If Florida ran a more conventional offense, it would go 9-3 or 10-2 every year, would have an occasional 8-4, and would, on occasion, challenge for a national title when all the chips fell properly. Instead, they are now set to dominate the SEC (as I predicted) and will be a national championship contender every year under Meyer.

    >>>>Look, I really don’t have a bone to pick with you on some of your broader points about offensive schemes. It’s just when you try to apply them in ways that strain credulity as to particular teams that I differ with you. In particular, you have a blind spot about the SEC and as long as you can’t admit that, it’s going to be pretty easy to make fun of it. Even if you are tone-deaf when it comes to sarcasm.

    —-I think you will find that I am very articulate when defending my beliefs. I am not plucking them out of mid-air or out of my ass. That does not mean I am always perfect in my application of those beliefs. I clearly erred in regards to the Boise-UGA game. But I do not have a blind spot regarding the SEC. I am not the only one to note the scheduling issues or the offensive issues that the league has. I watch a ton of college football, probably more than anyone out there who has a blog. I call them as I see ‘em.

    >>>By the way, even with Google Alerts, I don’t think anyone of importance is aware of my “continuing obsession” with you. ;) I do look forward to future posts from you about the “Gang”, though.

    —Fair enough. I do think, for all your talk about my ‘blind spot’, you will find you have a pretty big one when it comes to my argument. I think a lot of people mis-characterize my points and get bogged down in partisan issues. For some reason, it bothers SEC people when I noted that Meyer would change the culture of the league. It’s happening just as I said it would. Just ask LSU, which is now going to a spread, too.

  6. Damn it! I just spent an hour writing out a response to your comment, HP, and it didn’t post.

    Thanks for the thoughtful response, but it doesn’t convince me.

    Your arguments for which schools are in the “Gang” and which are not strike me as arbitrary and subjective. For example, why Cal and Louisville, but not West Virginia? And why is Boise State’s win over Oklahoma significant, but its blowout loss (with the same scheme and most of the same personnel) to Georgia not?

    If it’s about scheme and talent, why is Boise State in the “Gang”, but South Carolina (at least as talented, at least as well coached) not? If you’re going to point to records as a justification, do you really think BSU could play in a power conference without losing at least three or four games a year consistently?

    I give you credit for finally admitting that Florida is a “special case” for you. But if Meyer, with his middling offensive results so far, is “changing the culture” of the SEC, why didn’t Saban – who hired an OC after Miles did – grab someone who is married to the spread option? For that matter, why didn’t Mark Richt do something similar when he gave up the OC reins at the end of last year? (God knows, if there’s any school that could be guilty of looking for some way to close the gap with Florida, it’s Georgia.)

    Do you really believe that Meyer is more feared in the SEC as an offensive guru than is Spurrier? Or that he’s gotten better results based on his scheme than Spurrier?

    If Florida’s disappointing results on offense are due to having less than ideal personnel to run Meyer’s scheme (we’ll skip your other, ludicrous suggestion that Meyer deliberately chose to hold his offense back the last two seasons), why do you think Florida’s record would have been worse these past two seasons if it had run a more conventional offense that would have presumably been better tailored to its personnel?

    I ask these questions not because I’m partisan, but because I don’t find much depth to your position. You claim that you aren’t plucking your arguments out of mid-air, but in a lot of cases, it’s hard to see otherwise.

  7. Atlchris

    What was the score to that UGA vs UF game… or maybe the USC vs UF game? Meyer revolutionizing the league? I think not…

  8. Again, the Gators were fifth in scoring in conference play last year (even Georgia was more prolific). They were much better under Larry Fedora, who’s coming to Athens as Oklahoma State’s OC, by the way.

    Compare the impact on the conference of Meyer’s offense in his first two years with that of Spurrier’s. It’s not a close call.

    He’s an excellent head coach. But as far as saying he’s “changing the culture” as to offensive schemes in the SEC based on his first two seasons, I don’t see it.