Interesting proposition from Michael Elkon:
Alexander’s line about forcing change where no natural pressure exists had me thinking about college football. I remember having a conversation with a friend three years ago about how USC, Texas, and Florida were poised to dominate college football in the coming years. They had the coaches, the systems, the fertile recruiting bases, and the rivals in turmoil to ensure a series of meetings with crystal balls on the line. Leaving USC and their NCAA issues aside, as recently as two years ago, Texas and Florida were both coming off of years where they lost only one game: to national champion Alabama. In the summer of 2010, we read numerous writers opine that both the Horns and Gators were moving away from the spread styles (pass-based for Texas and run-based for Florida) that they had favored in favor of more conventional, power-based attacks. (I remember Tony Barnhart being especially pronounced in making this point, but I cannot for the life of me find a link to verify my memory.)
The results of this forced evolution (maybe devolution is a better term) have been disastrous. Here is Florida’s national rank in yards per play from 2008 forward: 3, 2, 78, 67. And here is Texas’s: 13, 57, 78, 67. Both Florida and Texas had a style that worked for them and then have gone away from that style, whether by recruiting decisions or scheme. They had evolved into approaches that moved the ball and then chose to eschew those approaches for something new. Two years later, they are both picking up the pieces from those decisions to force change.
Here are a few things I wonder about in response:
- How much of this evolution is forced by decision and how much by scheme change? Note that Florida’s decline starts in Corch’s last season – you know, the one when Tim Tebow had already moved on to fame and fortune in the NFL. (Also note that Florida’s national ranking in ypp actually improved under Weis this season.)
- How much did Jeremy Foley buy into Meyer’s recruiting? After seeing the post-Tebow decline begin, Florida’s AD elected to jump in with both feet and hire a guy who was intent upon changing to an offensive scheme for which Florida was presumably lacking the right kind of personnel.
- One of the few things I’ve agreed with Heisman Pundit about is the success of contrarian offensive scheming. If most of the defenses you see are structured to stop spread attacks, is there not some value in running a pro-style power game? It sure seems to have worked for the top two teams in the conference this season. Plus, a pro-style scheme works particularly well for programs which are ultra-successful at recruiting (see, again, Alabama and LSU), which is something that Florida certainly can claim to be.
- Given that, how much time do you allow the evolution process to work out before declaring success or failure? (If you’re a Georgia fan, you’re probably shrieking “Two years!” about now.)
- I’d like to hear Michael’s explanation for where Michigan fits into his theory.