I get the impression that number 34 is a big fan of number 27.
Daily Archives: September 10, 2015
Over at Georgia Sports Blog, Tyler looks at the mess the NFL is grappling with over Deflategate and wonders if there’s a lesson to be learned by college football.
He starts by noting that there’s a structural difference between the two that benefits the people in charge of college football.
The biggest thing protecting college athletics, particularly the cash cow that is college football, is the autonomy of the conferences. Will that become the reason the NCAA, with their ongoing publicity and discipline investigation failures, ceases to exists?
If you don’t think it’ll happen because of the money involved, remember, the NFL is the most profitable sports league in the world.
Eh, maybe. True, the colleges don’t speak with one voice on every issue, as does the NFL, but let’s not take that too far. The NCAA is an organization made up of schools and, as we’ve seen over the past few years, it has become increasingly sensitive to the wishes of its P5 membership, wishes that are mainly driven by – you guessed it – the almighty dollar.
It’s also reasonable to expect that college football would speak more with one voice if it possessed a key attribute the NFL enjoys, an antitrust exemption. But that’s a story for another day.
Where I do think Tyler’s on to something is with his second point.
As Will Leitch put it: “People love football. But they hate the NFL.” I don’t buy that all people hate the NFL, but there is a substantial minority of football fans that are starting to treat pro football they way they treated MLB after the strike in 1994. They just stop caring.
That’s me, brother. I was a huge baseball fan back in the day – season tickets, annual trips to Spring Training, trips to games in other cities, Rotisserie Baseball play – but I flipped a switch the day the news came out that the World Series was cancelled. (I’m probably the only person in Atlanta who didn’t watch the ’95 World Series.) And I’ve never looked back since.
Shutting down your premier event over a money squabble is a dramatic and effective way of proving to your fans that you really don’t give a shit about them. And from my selfish standpoint, it was a message that I could no longer trust the owners (and the players, honestly) with my passion as a fan. Once you cross that barrier, it’s hard to care again. And I never have, even though I still appreciate the game of baseball from a historical perspective.
All of which gets me around to pondering the subject of what college football’s existential crisis might look like. I know some of you see full-blown player compensation as being the trigger for that event, but it’s a little more complicated than that for me. And that’s mainly because college football has made incremental changes to its nature for years now. I’ve watched the shameless race over conference expansion/realignment and the expansion of conferences into the broadcast business and the havoc that’s wrecked on scheduling and traditional rivalries. I’ve seen the way the people running the conferences are fumbling the issue of trying to balance the need to attract television audiences while keeping asses in the seats. None of that individually is as bad as cancelling a season, but absorbed as a whole, it’s certainly enough to take a toll on my support.
Add to that the combination of arrogance and stupidity that marks both the NCAA and its member schools in allowing certain issues to fester in the courts instead of dealing with them in a proactive manner and you’ve got the perfect storm. All of which is my way of saying that while I don’t know exactly what will be the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back, I have no doubt that there’s one coming. There’s simply too much derp, greed and money to expect otherwise.
This is interesting. Sankey announced at SEC Media Days that the conference was creating a working group on player conduct; the conference has now named the members of that group. That’s not the interesting part. This is:
“Student-athlete conduct is a topic of serious concern for leaders in higher education today because the actions of a few individuals can have a devastating effect on the reputation of an entire program and institution,” said Loftin. “The SEC is taking a proactive position in addressing this issue by analyzing contributing factors as well as considering practical measures and best practices to positively impact student-athlete conduct now and into the future.”
The working group will review and discuss existing NCAA and Conference policies governing student-athlete conduct and related eligibility outcomes; standards for institutional fulfillment of expectations associated with SEC transfer requirements for personal conduct; as well as University and athletic department best practices and policies governing conduct of students and student-athletes.
In addition, the group will look at issues and policies arising in other conferences which may inform decision-making within the SEC; State and Federal legislation related to student discipline and reporting; drug testing policies and procedures; and other related issues as determined by the working group. [Emphasis added.]
Is that a hint that the conference might consider a more uniform approach? I’m skeptical, but who knows?
Those of you who were asking me yesterday about Greyson Lambert’s release should watch this clip from Chip Towers and Seth Emerson previewing the Vanderbilt game. During part of their conversation, you can see film of Georgia’s three quarterbacks throwing in practice. Compare Lambert’s motion with Ramsey’s motion and you’ll get an idea of what I was referring to. Lambert’s kind of lanky and it takes just a little longer for him to get his throw off as a result.
It’s not a bad release. (Remember the hitch Mettenberger had in his throwing motion when he came to Georgia? That was a bad release.) It’s not the most efficient, either. Yes, we’re talking split seconds here. But when you aren’t the most mobile quarterback in the world, sometimes those split seconds are a big deal.
Nice preview piece from Jake Rowe, particularly about Vanderbilt’s tendencies on offense…
1st Down: Under new offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig, who spent the two previous years with Wisconsin, Vandy ran the football on just over 62 percent of its 1st down opportunities against Western Kentucky.
2nd Down: This down, across the board, is much more balanced. There’s a slight tendency to pass on second and long but second and short and second and medium are both down and distances where the Commodores were balanced a week ago.
3rd Down:: Vandy ran the ball 67 percent of the time on third and short and passed it 70 percent of the time on third and long against Western Kentucky. There were only two third and medium plays for the offense and Ludwig kept it on the ground both times.
… and defense.
1st Down: Now that Head Coach Derek Mason is calling the shots defensively, Vanderbilt has gotten more aggressive on first down. The Commodores like to stunt and bring pressure on first down.
2nd Down: Vandy’s defensive aggressiveness has also been ramped up on second down. The Commodores like overload blitzes on second and long and run blitzes out of their nickel sets if the nickel defender is set to the boundary.
3rd Down: This is another situation where Vanderbilt has shown a tendency to take advantage of a nickel defender or a cornerback being set to the boundary. Twist stunts and interior pressure also seems to be more prevalent here, too.
Mason may have his shortcomings as a head coach, but he’s an excellent defensive coordinator. And I do worry about his approach on first and second downs if Schottenheimer sticks with the same tactics he used in the opener. Georgia didn’t throw much on first down then and if Vandy intends to sell out against the run on first down, Mason might very well have some success putting Georgia’s offense in a second down hole consistently. As I mentioned before, the ‘Dores did a good job against the run last week, so it’s not out of the question.
Lambert facing repeated second-and-nines, or second-and-eights, and dealing with frequent blitzing is something I’d rather see Georgia avoid. (Although that does sound like a recipe for Screen City.)
It’s about time to move on to Vanderbilt, but before I do, I just want to point you to Cory Brinson’s look at how the defense played in the opener.
If you’re Jeremy Pruitt, you know you have a ton of speed and talent on the defense – and it showed in the first half of Saturday’s game.
Also, if you’re Jeremy Pruitt, you know you have a ton of youth and inexperience on defense – and it showed at the end of the 1st half and start of the 2nd half of Saturday’s game.
My takeaways from his post are that ULM did a good job exploiting that youth and inexperience on its two scoring drive with its play designs, and that Georgia’s pass rush was just a tick slow from blowing that up on a couple of occasions.
Also, I’m down with his Quincy Mauger love: “Cannot believe the progress this guy has made – definitely my candidate for the Damian Swann Redemption Trophy.”
The good thing about the game is that you can coach up inexperienced players. You can’t teach talent. And Georgia right now has plenty of both on defense.
Here’s the deal. Last year, I wrote about Tennessee’s Big Plays Against the Georgia Defense. Up until that point, Georgia’s defense had been having some pretty big lapses in coverage – but, they were playing better, just not smarter. The difference I see in this team is a lapse in judgement – not smarts or talent. This defense is sickening with the amount of speed and talent, they just need to know when to be aggressive – i.e., when to go for the ball vs. the tackle. There is a little bit of inexperience showing through, but with the pass rushing abilities and the talent we have, I just have a hard time believing that the above drives will be the norm. With the improvement I saw last year after that UT game and the things above that need addressed, I have little worry that Pruitt will have already corrected each and every one of these errors.
It will be interesting to watch for signs of those corrections this week in Nashville.
Andy Staples watches Kevin Kelley’s team – you know, the one that (almost) never punts – go to Highland Park (Texas) High to win a game convincingly against an opponent that hadn’t lost at home since 1998 and can’t help but wonder about something.
• The Bruins don’t win because they don’t punt or because they attempt onside kicks every time or because their receivers routinely lateral on plays that aren’t the last one of the game. They win because of the attitude Kelley’s approach instills on Pulaski Academy’s sideline and the mindset it instills on the other sideline. The Bruins always play as if they’re down 10 with 90 seconds to go. Think about all the points you’ve seen scored in that type of situation. The offense plays as if it has nothing to lose. The defense tightens, playing to protect the lead rather than to advance the cause. That’s every minute of every Pulaski Academy game.
• Why hasn’t some college coach whose team is perpetually doomed by history and circumstances tried this? Instead of playing conventionally, losing and getting fired every three-to-five years, why wouldn’t David Beaty at Kansas or Darrell Hazell at Purdue try something dramatic in an attempt to close the talent gap between their teams and their opponents? Nearly every great football innovation has come out of an attempt to close a talent gap. Turning the psychological tables the way Pulaski has might be the next great innovation.
The crazy part about Kelley’s system is it isn’t crazy at all. It’s based entirely on math. Each yard line has an expected point value. Each down-and-distance has an expected rate of success. Punting average is easily calculated, as is punt return average. Years of football data have created these numbers, and while they differ between high school, college and the NFL, they do not differ as much as you might think. It’s fairly easy to use these numbers to create a do-I-go-for-it-on-fourth-down formula similar to the do-I-hit probability combinations in blackjack…
… So, why are college coaches—especially the ones whose teams are likely to lose most of their Power Five-versus-Power Five games anyway—so reluctant to try something the math suggests could work?
It’s not because math is hard, especially in this day and age of iPads and support staffers. It’s because most coaches have an incentive to be cautious. The pay is good and there’s always the next job around the corner if the current one doesn’t work out. You don’t want a reputation of being that guy, the one who gets known for having used a crazy strategy to try to win. It’s so much safer to hire retreads like Karl Dorrell and predictably lose with an offense that couldn’t get out of its own way.
The irony, of course, is that there are examples of contrarian thinking paying off on the college level. As Staples observes,
Some coaches have done just that, but that requires imagination on their part and faith on the part of the administration that hired them. Georgia Tech’s Paul Johnson is the only Power Five coach who runs the option as his base offense. Despite middling results before he got there and academic requirements that limit which recruits he can take, Johnson has won an ACC title. Last year his team went 11–3, won the ACC Coastal Division and pushed then unbeaten Florida State to the limit in the ACC championship game. The option takes away the need to recruit blue-chip quarterbacks, allowing Johnson to pull from the far deeper pool of athletic high school quarterbacks who would have otherwise been moved to tailback or safety in college. It also changes the math for offensive linemen. It’s tough to find ready-made 315-pounders. Alabama and Ohio State are going to get those guys. But the option puts a premium on speed and athleticism for linemen. There are far more lean(ish) 265-pound high school linemen who might grow into 300-pound monsters, and Johnson can recruit from that pool.
I’m not going to claim there aren’t limits on how far Johnson can go with the triple option. But it’s hard to argue that Georgia Tech isn’t a more successful program right now than Vanderbilt, even taking into account the relative strengths of the conferences they play in.
Take a chance, fellas. What do some of you have to lose? And who knows? You might even find that your fan base likes it.
The spread offense – it’s not just for passing anymore.
… The NCAA record book shows that FBS teams averaged 176 yards rushing per contest last season — the highest total since 1980. According to STATS, through the first full weekend this season, FBS teams averaged 194.5 yards rushing per game, up from 191.1 the first weekend last year. Regardless of the run or pass emphasis of today’s offensive systems, spreading the field has created running lanes that coaches are now more willing and prepared to exploit.
“The old thing was, you spread to throw,” Rodriguez said. “I think people are spreading to run just as much as anything else. You’re getting really talented guys with the ball in space, so numbers are up everywhere — passing yards, rushing yards.”
As recently as 2006, teams rushed for just 140.1 yards a game, the lowest average since 1939, and teams ran just 35 times per contest, the lowest total since the NCAA began keeping track.
You can point to factors like the hurry up and the increasing numbers of running quarterbacks, but in the end, a lot of this gets down to what a spread offense dictates to a defense.
The fear of the spread passing game has opened up the run.
“You have to defend more guys on the perimeter,” Arkansas State coach Blake Anderson said. “The perimeter screen game is integrated in almost everybody’s offenses. You’ve got to cover everybody now, you can’t just load up the box, so the run looks are better.”
… Offensive coaches have found that spreading the field makes it difficult for defenses to disguise their plans. Adding up-tempo and no-huddle elements to the spread makes it difficult for defensive players to get into proper position. That helps the run game as much as the passing game.
“When you run a lot of plays at different speeds, it’s tough on defenses to make a lot of adjustments,” Oregon State offensive coordinator Mike Baldwin said. “They get into certain calls and they get stuck in those calls. We put the defenses at a disadvantage because they don’t have the multiple adjustments they can do when you’re in a huddle.”
It’s a nightmare, I tells ‘ya!
It’s also one of the things I love so much about the college game, the variety of ways we see offensive coaches skin the cat.