Pace is the new spread, continued.

I enjoy Gary Danielson’s CBS color work greatly, but, man, when it comes to bigger picture stuff, the guy can be a colossal muttonhead.  Mainly, it’s because he’s so bloody stubborn about recent offensive wrinkles.  His feelings about the spread offense are well documented – and for some time now – but he’s also got a thing about hurry-up offenses, especially when it comes to how they impact Nick Saban.  That, too, is nothing new.

His latest observations about the Alabama-TAMU game are particularly incoherent.

“I’m just not all in on this, OK,” Danielson told The Tim Brando Show. “I have to admit I am more old-school on this than probably everybody else. Speeding up play and tempo has gotten too much credit for why teams are doing well.”

The analyst cited Texas A&M’s win over Alabama last season as an example. He says it wasn’t the pace, but the inability for the Crimson Tide, who lost 29-24, to substitute personnel groupings.

“Tempo had nothing to do with that game,” Danielson said of the Aggies’ win. “There was no hurry up in that game. The reason, I think, Nick Saban doesn’t really love the up-tempo game is because he feels he has an advantage because he’s good with substituted defenses. …

“What that offense does when you go to the line of scrimmage is keeps Nick from using all of his weapons in his mind.”

So tempo had nothing to do with that game, except limit Saban’s use of his resources.  Got it.

This is even better.

Danielson has concluded the better team will win if there are more plays in a game, despite the fact that it is the underdog running the faster pace. He cites basketball as an example. An inferior team, he says, in basketball slows the pace, it doesn’t speed it up.

“I think when you play 100 plays, Alabama is going to win way more often than the underdog,” Danielson said. “I just don’t see where it is that much of an advantage.”

Gary, I’ve got news for you:  Alabama’s gonna win way more often than the underdog, regardless of the number of plays run in a game.  The real issue is whether running more plays gives the not-Alabamas of the college football world a better chance to win games.  And given that of the 23 teams that ran over 1000 plays last season (and, yes, I know that’s not the most precise metric to use, but I’m too lazy to dig deeper right now) only one posted a losing record, I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that it does.

Coaches want to win.  If you’ve got fewer resources available than Nick Saban, you get creative and try to get the most out of what you’ve got.  This approach is growing because it works.  If that offends Danielson and his old-school sensibilities, that’s how it goes.

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24 Comments

Filed under Strategery And Mechanics

24 responses to “Pace is the new spread, continued.

  1. Biggus Rickus

    Actually, if you wanted to refute Danielson you’d need to analyze whether or not running more plays led to more upsets or closer games between underdogs and favorites. I suspect there is a small advantage to the up-tempo style, but I’d be surprised if it’s hugely significant.

    • Not necessarily. One of those 23 schools I mentioned was Oregon. Not exactly an underdog these days.

      • Biggus Rickus

        Right, but Danielson’s point is that the better team will win regardless of the number of plays run. Oregon being an elite program (for now) and winning with an up-tempo offense doesn’t really refute that claim.

        • True, but doesn’t 22 out of 23 teams running at a faster pace sporting non-losing records suggest that there’s at least some linkage?

          • Biggus Rickus

            It indicates that at comparable levels of talent it is an advantage up to a point, all other things being equal (namely, the ability to execute and your coaches being competent in general). I suspect it’s a bell curve. If your talent level is terrible, the left side of the curve, all the tempo in the world won’t keep you from going 2-10 or worse. In the middle, a 3 to 9-win team will likely improve by at least one win. At the elite end, the right side of the curve, you will win no matter what your style is.

            • gastr1

              But you’ve got to acknowledge that, from a purely anecdotal perspective, it stands to reason that talent disparities would be minimized when the more talented side is tired and cannot substitute, or tired/cannot substitute/has several plays run against them they would prefer to have different formation or personnel/cannot read the offensive formation and make a proper defensive call.

              Honestly, you’d have to abstract the evidence pretty far to not recognize the inherent obvious advantages to an offense that does not allow a defense to react (and how that would minimize talent gaps to at least some degree).

              • Biggus Rickus

                I am not arguing with the fact that increasing tempo gives an offense an advantage over a defense. I am arguing that it is possible that it doesn’t improve the chances for an upset and that the Senator didn’t use the best statistic to disprove Danielson’s contention that the better team will win regardless of tempo.

                • Biggus Dickus

                  On the other hand, why would they do it in the first place if it didn’t give them an advantage of some sort?

  2. timphd

    Wow, incoherent barely describes that paragraph.

    • gastr1

      Senator was being gracious toward a fellow he typically likes, methinks. GD has just illustrated for all why he’s in the booth rather than in the game.

  3. SCDawg

    If he said he thinks hurry up spread offenses leave the defense on the field too long, that’d be fine. There is pretty good evidence to show that defense wins championships. His comments don’t make a lot of sense.

  4. paul

    As Dan Aykroyd would say, “Jane you ignorant slut.”

  5. I don’t think he was saying the spread is ineffective, I think he was just trying to make the point – which he did imprecisely at best – that the spread may be effective, but for different reasons than we may think. Specifically, that the advantage gained from the spread wasn’t as much from the additional plays, or the players conditioning and lack thereof – which are often cited as reasons for why the spread has flourished – but rather, that they limited a defense’s ability to make adjustments, something Saban (and Grantham, for that matter) is quite good at. I’m giving GD the benefit of the doubt here.

    • Sanford222View

      I was going to say this as well. I think Danielson’s point was TAMU had success against Bama because they didn’t substitute much and lined up quickly after each snap to not get off another play quickly but to limit Bama’s personnel changes. It is the same thinking the Dogs used when not spiking the ball at the end of the SECCG. I guess what he was trying to say but didn’t do very clearly is can basically use that strategy with any scheme. You don’t have to run the spread to not huddle and signal in plays from the sideline preventing the D from substituting.

      • I think Danielson’s point was TAMU had success against Bama because they didn’t substitute much and lined up quickly after each snap to not get off another play quickly but to limit Bama’s personnel changes.

        Which means that tempo had something to do with the outcome of the game.

        • Yeah I agree he does kind of seems to blur the line between saying he’s old school – which I read to mean he really doesn’t like the spread for aesthetic, fuddy-duddy reasons – and saying that it’s not effective.

          He sounds like a lot of other commentators I’ve heard that look down their nose at the spread because it’s “not real football.”

      • gastr1

        It’s been noted that Oregon essentially has been running a power running offense the last 6-8 years, full of sweeps and inside counters, right? Y’all are aware of that? There is nothing–NOTHING–new in Oregon’s play package. It’s all in pace.

  6. If Alabama has to defend 70 plays with a fresh lineup each play, they will win most the majority of those battles. There are few teams that can line up and compete with Alabama on a play-by-play basis talent-wise.

    If Alabama has to defend 100 plays with limited substitutions, you limit what Saban can do schematically (play more base defense instead of exotic blitz-coverage schemes), and you keep tired players on the field… hopefully in a personnel grouping that is favorable to you. Pace particularly affects the defensive front. If you can keep those big guys out there running around, it slows down the pass rush and the penetration in the backfield. That gives the quarterback more time, opens up more possibilities for the offense, and helps a disadvantaged offensive line.

    If you are outmatched, pace can compensate for your talent disadvantage. If you are equal or better, pace can be a big advantage because you’ll run more plays than the opposition, and theoretically you will win more of those battles than you lose. If he thinks A&M just lined up and whipped Alabama… he is misremembering.

  7. Go Dawgs!

    Using basketball analysis as the basis for your football theory seems… really stupid, Danielson.

  8. Derek

    I guess Gary didn’t watch a lot of Loyola-maramount back in the day.

    I don’t mind debating this issue from a “taste” standpoint because I’m more than happy to share the fact that it makes me want to puke to see a team in shotgun formation on the 1 yard line, but the reality is that the slread and up tempo offenses give less talented teams a chance AND that the reason satan doesn’t like it is that it neutralizes his advantage (talent and depth). He couldn’t give a rats ass about injuries.

  9. Cojones

    Take a gander at the injury feedback vs # of plays (“fast” teams vs “slow” teams) at Mr SEC. He reviews Steele’s workup along with the stats website.

  10. AusDawg85

    What I find interesting having watched the replay of the SECCG is that Alabama went to a hurry-up pace on offense…and Danielson marveled about this. It very likely had a lot to do with why our front 7 wore down on those running plays in the 2nd half.

    So score 1 for Saban being a hypocrite too I guess.

  11. By Georgia We Did It

    “Muttonhead” and “Bloody Stubborn”…are you blogging from across the pond?