Balancing act

Once upon a time, I thought I knew what people meant when they spoke of a balanced offense, at least sort of.  There’s the old Mike Bobo version of balance, where you start squirming when your run/pass ratio gets out of whack, and there’s the Mike Leach definition, where balance is about spreading the ball around to your playmakers as opposed to worrying about whether that’s accomplished by running or passing.  In any event, the point to being balanced is that you’re trying to prevent a defense from keying in and making your offense one-dimensional and thus supposedly easier to stop.

Now we can add to that balance, Gary Danielson style.  Danielson has famously struggled to come to terms with the success of the spread offense.  What to say about the success Auburn is having running the ball this season, so much so that it’s ignoring the passing game like a Paul Johnson wannabe?  Well, hey, you can chalk that up to a mutant vision of balance.

“Let’s talk about Auburn and the word balance,” Danielson said. “Alabama really strives for balance. They believe in it. They believe it makes them better at the other part of it. When they’re running it, they think it makes them better at passing. When they’re passing, they think it makes them better at running.
“But Auburn’s definition of balance is different. They’re definition of balance is you have to be balance(d) enough to what the defense is giving you. And they believe they can run the ball enough almost in a wishbone-esque way that when they have to throw the ball they can do it and they’re good enough to do it.
“But they don’t have to  do it until (the defense) tells them they have to do it. That means committing so many men to the run game that the level of passing sophistication doesn’t have to be the same as Alabama’s, LSU’s or Georgia’s. They can throw it differently.”

Ho-kay.  That just strikes me as doing what a good offensive coordinator should do, which is figuring out the matchups that favor your team the most and exploiting them until the defense stops them.  That’s no small thing, as anybody who’s read this post and agrees with me can attest.  But balance?  Eh.  Going into today’s game, the Tigers are running the ball 71.2 percent of the time, less often than only New Mexico, Air Force, Georgia Tech, Army and Navy.  As that linked article indicates, they’re running at that level because they’re doing it very, very well and their opponents aren’t able to stop it.

Yeah, I know Marshall won the Mississippi State game at the end with his arm.  But that’s not where Auburn is right now.  What I can’t figure out is what happens if Georgia’s defense forces Auburn to become less reliant on the running game.  There’s a balance that’s a little mysterious to me right now.  And maybe a little scary, too.  Perhaps the best thing that the Dawgs handle the run and Malzahn stays too stubborn too long by sticking with it.  The problem with that is that he’s too good a playcaller not to adapt.

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8 Comments

Filed under Auburn's Cast of Thousands, Strategery And Mechanics

8 responses to “Balancing act

  1. W Cobb Dawg

    “Alabama really strives for balance”. Sorry Gary, I don’t get that impression at all. I think we’ve learned from bitter experience they’ll run all day if you don’t shut em down. Same goes for awbie. Run until the D proves they can stop it – good coaches go with what works until the opponent stops them consistently. Bama and awbie are running teams that pass occasionally or when forced pass. Needless to say, the Dawgs need to have success against awbie’s running attack today.

    • AusDawg85

      Why do I get this uneasy feeling we may very well shut down Auburn’s running game enough to make them throw…and find they can exploit our D so much we consistently give up big plays all afternoon? 3rd and medium yards to go may give our D real fits…will Gus go with option, PA pass, or bring a new wrinkle of throwing off the option (which is what I would do against us, exploiting our LB’s and safeties).

      • Russ

        That’s my fear too. Auburn threw for nearly 300 yds against A&M ( a worse defense than ours for sure) and I worry they will do the same to us. When we play 10 yards off of every receiver, the passing game becomes very easy. I guess we have to hope to hold them to FGs while we score TDs.

    • Derek

      Alabama’s offensive philosophy is a mirror image of our own. The biggest difference is that their o-line allows them the advantage of going run first if necessary against quality opponents. What you saw in the seccg was that we could get after the passer a lot better than we could stop the run, so they went with more runs in the second half. Then they hit us with the go ahead TD on play action.

      As far as suggesting that the spread is as good as the uga or Alabama approach, I say whoever is dictating has the advantage. If auburn runs when the defense takes away the pass and throws when the run is taken away, then you are still giving the defense the opportunity to dictate how they want the game to be played, ie the defense identifies its strength and your weakness and plans accordingly. I’ll take the pro-style offense that dictates to the defense.

      As far as the suggestion that “balance” is a bad word I think that it’s simply misunderstood. The purpose of balance is not mathematics as far as numbers if plays or percentage of production, but is an attempt to force the defense into as advantageous position as possible: a vanilla defense. If you can force a team to play conservatively so they have best chance if defending the breadth of your play book, then you are winning. You can only do that when you can run and pass with equal ability in all down and distance situations: that is balance and that is deadly.

  2. sniffer

    All the game break-down this week has left me exhausted. Simply said, I think todays game is a shoot-out. Maybe not 42-38, but 30-28 or 28-27. Don’t think they can stop us and don’t think we can stop them, consistently. Hell, it might be another 4 overtime affair…

  3. Scorpio Jones, III

    All this “football 101″ stuff is interesting.

    I wonder if the Bitches strive for balance? Seems balance to them is to make Georgia fans suffer the slings and arrows of outragious fortune until they lose interest. (The Kharmic Bitches lose interest.)

    I think what the Kharmic Bitches find most enticing is phony hubris.

    I think the Bitches read around on the various football blogs, found Georgia fans and read stuff about national championships and Aaron Murray for Hypeman and etc, etc, etc and broke into gales of laughter…

    But wait, you say, if the Bitches are turned on by phony hubris, why have they not slapped Bama around, God knows Bama fans (some, well most of them, indicate hubris.)

    Because while hubris gets the Kharmic Bitches all sweaty and baring their fangs, what really excites them is teams whose fans live in “shoulda, woulda” land.

    Bama fans don’t live in “shoulda, woulda” land. Bama fans have real hubris. For Bama fans, shoulda and woulda is not something they have to deal with often.

    If we can beat Awbun, we will. If we should, or could, we will.

    Gus Malzahn seems like a pretty smart feller, well Mark Richt is a pretty smart feller, too.

    It is said that greatness only comes by overcoming adversity.

    What we have here is an opportunity.

  4. Balance is the ability to run most any play in the game plan in most down and distance (see Auburn 2011 for a really good example) and expect success even if that means punting.

  5. fetch

    I feel the true key balance in football is not so much as to stay on it, but keep the other team off it.