Over at mgoblog, Ian Boyd’s guest post analysis of tonight’s Orange Bowl starts with this:
Nowadays you typically have to throw the ball at a high level to win the National Championship.
Once you reach the playoffs, most teams are extremely hard to run the ball against. Everyone is loaded up with blue chip defensive linemen and savvy linebackers, it’s why they won their conference (or came close) and made it this far in the first place.
Beating these teams, who have elite personnel and weeks to study your run game, requires a high level, pro-style passing attack (dropback, progression passing ideally from 11 personnel). There’s only so much a defense can do against a great drop back passing game from the spread, the perfect throw beats good coverage.
Judging from the comments I’ve read here in the wake of the SECCG loss, no doubt that is an observation that resonates with many of you.
There’s only one thing about it that nags at me a little bit. If throwing at a high level is what it takes to win a natty, how come Ohio State isn’t in this year’s CFP? Where’s Oklahoma? Or Pittsburgh, for that matter?
As Ian himself notes,
There were two teams in college football this season with a Championship caliber, pro-style passing attack.
One of them went down in Michigan under snowfall, pass-rush, and quarters coverage. The other is on the other side of the playoff bracket from the Wolverines. The Cincinnati Bearcats are actually close but are likely missing the rarest and most difficult ingredient to a top shelf pro-style passing attack…a high caliber offensive tackle play.
Alabama is the one remaining pro-style passing team with the sort of trump card firepower to feel great about navigating the playoff bracket.
Georgia? They do two things very well which tends to excite college football punditry but doesn’t win Championships. They run the ball pretty well and are extremely difficult to run against.
Alabama probably takes this thing for the same reason they overcame Georgia in the SEC Championship. The Bulldogs’ abundance of massive, athletic defensive tackles and blazing fast linebackers couldn’t stop Bryce Young from throwing the ball down the field to Jameson Williams.
This year’s CFP field is littered with teams that don’t meet Ian’s standard, starting with both participants in tonight’s game, as well as Alabama’s opponent this afternoon. Yet here they all are.
Now, I’m not crazy enough to say the 2021 season is proof that an elite passing attack isn’t all people are making of it. But I’m more than willing to consider that 2021 may be something of an outlier in that regard. Maybe it’s as much the Year of Not-So-Elite Passing Attacks as it is the Year of Alabama Excellence. Sadly, there never seems to be much of an outlier to that.