I came across an interesting Reddit thread a couple of weeks ago I thought I’d share. Its premise is to rank all P5 teams’ seasons since 1998 in order of opponents’ regular season winning percentage. The top team might surprise you a bit.
20 Highest Opponent Win %
||Opp W %
||2009 Mississippi St.
||2004 Texas A&M
||2004 North Carolina
||2010 Notre Dame
||2016 Florida St.
That was no cheap accomplishment by the Gators, either, as a commenter in that thread points out.
People forget how ridiculous 2012 Florida’s resume was at the end of that regular season. Wins over (using final BCS ranking):
- #8 LSU (10-2)
- #9 Texas A&M (10-2)
- #10 South Carolina (10-2)
- #12 FSU (11-2, ACC Champ)
The only loss was by 8 points to #7 Georgia (11-2), for a total of 4-1 against top 12 opponents.
Meanwhile, in the regular season Georgia played two teams that were in the final BCS top 25: South Carolina (L, 7-35) and Florida (W, 17-9), then had the close loss to Alabama in the SECCG.
While I do understand why Georgia fans were upset that they landed behind UF in the final BCS rankings and missed out on the Sugar Bowl, it’s pretty hard to deny how strong UF’s resume was.
Now, Florida’s 2012 season may not have been pretty, but it was effective. It was also peak Muschamp. Per another commenter,
It was Muschamp’s ideal style of football. Excellent defense and an offense that hogs the ball, minimizes turnovers, and eats clock. It makes for a relatively small margin for error and means winning games by 2 scores or less is common even against inferior opponents.
His offensive strategy was basically “don’t fuck this up for the defense” instead of “we should try to score points.” And it was the only season where that kind of strategy actually paid off to any extent.
One reason it worked so well was that the Gators finished +15 in turnover margin that season (actually, +17 in the regular season). It was a result that Muschamp would never approach again during his Florida tenure.
Anyway, reading this, all I could think in reaction was that it all sounds like Kirby Smart’s mantra for the 2016 season. (Let’s not forget the regard Smart holds for Coach Boom.) Georgia finished 8-5 behind a +8 turnover margin; all other things being equal, how would Smart’s first season have turned out had the Dawgs matched Florida’s 2012 result in that department?
All of which brings me to a Chris Brown post from several years ago (don’t ask me how my mind works) that raised some relevant points about how to recruit for a power ball approach in a spread age. Start with this:
For the truly elite-level recruiting teams, I think the agnosticism of pro-style treats them well because they basically recruit incredible players and then figure out the system and scheme later. Moreover, spread offenses, option offenses, and really any pass-first offense (including West Coast attacks of which I’d put Georgia in the category) require very good quarterback play. Alabama and LSU are basically designed to win in spite of their quarterbacks; Nick Saban does not want to return an all world defense with a bunch of five-star playmakers and lose because his QB was a junior and had some “growing pains”, which absolutely happens at every level. In other words, if you get be a top 5 recruiting team every year, it’s not that you want to be pro-style it’s that you want to be “system neutral.” They can get superior talent and can fit plays around those incredible guys. Note that this isn’t the same as “fitting your scheme to your players,” because we’re talking about first round draft choice guys not guys with certain strengths and certain weaknesses. I leave aside whether pro-style is truly more attractive to recruits or not. [Emphasis added.]
With that bolded quote in mind, go back and read something I posted about what Saban wants out of his offensive coordinator this season. And then think about what that means for Jake Fromm’s chances to wrest the starting job away from Jacob Eason this season.
Chris finished that post with
… The deeper your roster, the more you can play around with guys, move them around, and try to dedicate them to certain things. The less you have the more constrained you are to get into what you want to do, whatever it is. That said, I think for most players, the difference in what they are asked to do in a spread versus a pro-style scheme is vastly overrated, particularly in the case of run-first spread teams.
Ultimately I think the question is a good one but maybe too complex to even answer. I do think quarterback is the X factor for every single college and pro team nowadays, with extremely rare exceptions. The most “pro-style”-ist pro teams need great quarterbacking, but teams like LSU and Alabama do not. The reason: compared to their opponents, LSU and Alabama are simply much better teams, advantages that pro teams and very few, if any, other college teams have.
That is where I believe Kirby Smart wants to go, which is why you should watch his recruiting in a particular light.
Yes, I know there’s been a great deal of talk about how he’d like to sign a dual-threat quarterback. I even credit him with making a sincere effort in that regard. But it’s more likely that Smart is simply looking for another bullet in the holster than a wholesale makeover of Georgia’s offensive scheme. The bigger question to ask at this point is whether he’ll succeed at accumulating enough talent to get away with not having to worry about his quarterback fucking things up for the defense.