“There are just so many freebies in the college game.”

When it comes to strategery, I’m always a sucker for contrarian talk, so this Barton Simmons/Bud Elliott discussion of whether teams will be able to find a market inefficiency with the run game as teams recruit to stop the pass is right up my alley.

Along the way, they make a lot of interesting points, such as Simmons’ note that the inside linebacker position has become deprioritized (“They’re just kind of there. You have to put somebody at linebacker to occupy some space.”), but ultimately I think Elliott makes the best one:

I can’t wholly dismiss the idea that we could go back to smashmouth. But there has to be a reason to go back. And to me, the only two reasons would be either a rule change which makes passing more difficult, like a roll back of the illegal contact stuff, or if we were to reach peak passing efficiency, where clearly we have topped out and it starts to backslide as defenses figure it out. I know there is a lot of narrative about teams running base dime and base nickel, but passing games keep getting more efficient every year despite defenses recruiting specifically for a half-decade to stop them. There is no evidence that defenses are figuring it out, and in fact it is going the opposite way. Until we reach a point where passing becomes less efficient, I can’t see it happening.

The rules create so much incentive to throw the ball that it’s practically counterproductive to ignore them.

Of course, it would be the most Georgia thing ever if Smart allows his offense to evolve to take advantage of that, only to have the NCAA finally amend the downfield blocking rules, for example, to lessen the advantage.  Not that I think that’s gonna happen.  Everybody loves scoring too much.

4 Comments

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4 responses to ““There are just so many freebies in the college game.”

  1. benco04

    It’s the last sentence you wrote. The cat is out of the bag with several aspects of modern football and scoring.

    1) protection—at all costs—of players from hard hits, QBs and WRs in particular. I’m not lamenting this aspect, as CTE is a brutal affliction and I’m glad football at large is taking this relatively seriously.

    2) downfield “blocking”. Confusion amongst pass defenders is at an all time high, particularly with such a dismal rate of calling pick plays. Horizontal stretching of the field by receivers near the line of scrimmage is extremely effective these days.

    3) pass interference. It’s a way of sustaining drives. Stop and go routes, back shoulder throws, they’re all designed to result in either a completion or a beat defender making a mistake with their momentum.

    Every major sport in the country scores at mkre efficient rates than in the past. Whether it’s the focus on launch angles and juiced balls in baseball, the modern focus of the three point shot in basketball, or the odd-man-out matchup driven pass offenses in football, scoring makes fans happy and games go longer.

    I’m not saying that running the football is dead. I’m saying that the old school construct of heavily delineating between passing and running is dead. Passing the ball IS running the ball now. And vice versus.

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  2. dawg100

    The downfield blocking rule is bad, as it opens up to interpretation that which does not need to be open. Lineman should stay behind the line on a pass play. That has been a fair rule for years. Now I see lineman out PAST the receiver and not called.

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    • Castleberry

      Amen – was just coming in to make the same comment. It complicates the officiating to let them go three yards downfield. Keep it simple.

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  3. In my view things will alter when we start to see WR’s that are 5’11” to 6’1″ and around 215 to 235 lbs that can play WR like Xavier Williams, or Ja’Marr Chase, but can shift behind the QB and run like Nick Chub or Najee Harris.

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