From HeismanPundit, on The Top Programs in College Football:
… Urban Meyer has helped transform the SEC from a conference that used to run neanderthal, run-head-first-into-a-brick-wall offenses to one that is not afraid to spread the field and air it out.
From Sunday Morning Quarterback, on Mid-Major Monday: ¡Viva la Bone!:
… the current promulgation of the spread/spread option was based on the early, experimental success of Randy Walker, Joe Tiller, Hal Mumme, Mike Leach and Rich Rodriguez at schools with serious deficits in talent, much like Georgia Tech’s in relation to the rest of the ACC and the BCS leagues as a whole. This is part of the same cyclical struggle: as the optimal window begins to close on the subversive deception of the spread and spread option, the great talent-maskers of the last two decades, the pendulum will begin to swing the other way — while Texas, Florida, Michigan, Auburn a cavalcade of first-rate recruiting powers are taking the “defend the entire field and the running quarterback” concept mainstream, less talented teams that relied on surprising defenses with the unfamiliar week after week must begin looking for a new edge.
That’s the thing about innovation: it tends to begin on the fringe. Schools that couldn’t match up on talent – particularly depth of talent – found help in offense schemes that leveled the playing field somewhat in two specific ways, as SMQ notes.
First, while depth might be an issue for these teams, it’s not like they were completely bereft of talented skill position players. Running a spread scheme gave these teams a chance to isolate these players in space which provided opportunities to exploit better defenses in ways that more conventional offensive schemes might not be able to employ. It’s an effective way to maximize the effect of limited personnel resources.
Second, there’s the novelty factor. When you run the only offense of its kind that your opponents are likely to see over the course of a season, and those opponents only have a week or two at best to prepare for what you’re going to throw at them, that lack of familiarity can help to level the playing field, as well.
But what happens in a conference like the SEC where teams like Florida aren’t using the spread to equalize differences in talent levels and where, in one form or fashion, it’s becoming the offense du jour?
Now admittedly, I’m being somewhat provocative with my post header here – when you’ve got a QB like Tebow who was born to run the spread option, you’d be crazy not to deploy it – but as the spread, er, uh… spreads, it gets easier to defend as defensive coordinators refine concepts and personnel to go after it.
And that may already be happening. Florida, which led the conference last season in scoring at a 42.5 ppg clip, saw its offense held to 17, 24 and 23 (remember, one score against Georgia came on a pick six) points in its three conference losses to the three schools that finished one-two-three in scoring defense in the SEC.
So how will a more finessed approach to moving the ball hold up in the SEC? I’m particularly interested in seeing what happens at Auburn in the next couple of years. Tony Franklin is essentially importing Mumme-ball to the Plains, with a few wrinkles added (utilizing a running QB being the most signficant). This year, he’s got a throwing quarterback with a bad shoulder and a running quarterback who isn’t a consistent passing threat. Will Auburn move the ball more on offense than it did last year? And if it does, will that translate into more wins?