It’s a matter of instinct, it’s a matter of conditioning,
It’s a matter of fact.
You can call me Pavlov’s dog.
Ring a bell and I’ll salivate. How’d you like that?
— “Brian Wilson”, Barenaked Ladies
I confess. I can’t help it – Mandel posts something and I’ve got to take a look, to wade through the banal observations in the hopes of striking gold with some point he makes that defies logic or common sense.
Fortunately, he tends not to disappoint.
And there’s pressure, too, because Michael Elkon has become as sadly conditioned as I am. It’s become a race to see who’s first with the mockery. So in all fairness, you should probably check out his latest, um, reaction to Mandel’s piece from yesterday before reading further, since he did beat me out of the gate. Plus, it’s a tasty savaging.
I did have a couple of thoughts of my own to add, though, as Michael’s gone with more of a macro approach to his ridicule while I want to smack some specific points Mandel raised in his mailbag.
First of all, the idea that the counter-cyclical nature of college offenses is something that just popped into Mandel’s head is either laughable – it’s a concept that’s been openly and intelligently discussed in a number of blogs from Heisman Pundit to Matt Hinton’s old Sunday Morning Quarterback site – or an indication of how little Sports Illustrated’s college football sage actually thinks about the sport he’s responsible for covering. (Although, to be fair, Mandel does have to spend a fair amount of time pondering which B-list starlet he and his faithful readers are going to drool over in his mailbag each season.)
But the dumb part that really caught my eye with his analysis of the spread and pro-set offenses was this – on the one hand he notes that there are fewer programs that run “traditional” offenses these days because
… there are only a handful of programs fit to run that type of offense. There’s a reason teams like USC, LSU, Georgia and Ohio State continue to be successful with traditional offenses: They have the best players. To run a productive, I-formation offense, a team needs big, bulky linemen, a true tight end, a couple of power runners and, preferably, a 6-foot-5 drop-back quarterback — all of which are becoming increasingly scarce at the high-school level…
but then goes on to pose the musical question
What, then, can a mid-level team do now to gain back that “edge?” Why not go back to a power offense?
With whose players? I mean, if mid-level programs got away from I-formation football because getting the proper personnel to run it successfully was a hopeless task, what’s changed exactly?
Mandel doesn’t say, of course. And the example he chooses to illustrate his point – “Keep an eye on Bobby Petrino at Arkansas” – isn’t exactly what most folks from Montana would call a mid-level school. (Nor is Petrino being paid like a mid-level coach, for that matter.) Further, it’s not the case that Petrino is changing his offense out of contrarian concerns, or out of any concerns at all; he’s doing the same stuff at Arkansas he was running at Louisville.
A stronger argument would be one that asserts that the schools who have continued to run pro-set offenses may find themselves in an even stronger position to exploit defenses that are constructed to stop the spread because of personnel mismatches. But that’s not Mandel’s point.
Until next time… it’s back to the Crush, Stewart.