Outlier, or nah?

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.


Filed under BCS/Playoffs, Strategery And Mechanics

27 responses to “Outlier, or nah?

  1. Granthams Replacement

    The CFP mirrors the NFL. Not many teams in that league are successful without an elite QB.


  2. Hogbody Spradlin

    “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?”
    Something I imagine you know, but a necessary condition isn’t always a sufficient condition.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Derek

    Getting there isn’t the same thing as winning the four team tourney.

    The team that can throw and catch the ball downfield has a huge advantage AMONG the qualified teams.

    Not all of the teams who have made it into the playoffs threw the ball well. The ones that won it did tho.

    The most consistent formula for beating the best teams in the playoffs is throwing it well 55 to 65% of the time in the first half, get a lead, then flip the script, own the los and rtdb.

    I don’t know that Xichigan is so good that we need that formula tonight. If we do, we got issues.


    • miltondawg

      Was listening to a podcast on the gambling side of the two games today earlier in the week. One of the people had a take that made me pause and re-listen. In no world right now are there more than maybe a handful of people that legitimately think that if Bama and Michigan square off in ten days Bama is only a 1 point favorite or the game is a pick ’em, but essentially between Georgia -6.5 in the SECCG and Georgia -7 or -7.5 against Michigan depending where you look Vegas is telling you that (i) the SECCG was a blip and Georgia should beat Michigan by a touchdown or more, or (ii) Georgia has issues that go beyond the stacked up blue chips all over the field. As to the second possibility, whether it is scheme, Kirby loses his mind in big games, or Georgia consistently doesn’t coach up the most important position on the field is anyone’s guess.


      • Derek

        To me, today comes down to which team’s qb is most comfortable. If stet is up to playing within himself and the game plays out in such a way that he doesn’t have to play above his abilities, I think we win by a good bit.


      • divingduck7

        what podcast?


    • SmokeaterDawg316

      “Not all of the teams who have made it into the playoffs threw the ball well. The ones that won it did tho.”
      Yes, yes and more yes to this post. If you think winning a Natty without CONSISTENT EXCELLENCE in passing isn’t a thing, you’re very mistaken.
      Yes, D is essential, and yes, rushing is essential, but when the chips don’t fall your way and you’re down by 10 or 14 or worse in the first half, you need a consistent, calm sniper in the pocket to light up some fire or you lose motivation. THAT is the difference between us (for decades) and the damn elephant men. Once a team busts a couple hot plays off, we lose all motivation and never can catch up with no effective passing game.
      A few captains or seniors hollering at the rest just cannot always re-motivate from behind.


  4. mg4life0331

    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?

    He answered that in the blog.

    Once you reach the playoffs, most teams are extremely hard to run the ball against.

    Which is why some of us around here have been bitching a lot about the QB situation.


  5. sundiatagaines

    If Bama doesn’t win it this year, we may look at the Joe Burrow team as the outlier. Oklahoma and Ohio St have been slinging it in the Playoff Era, but the only time they won it all was Ohio St with a 3rd-string QB and game-changing tailback. I’m fine with our approach. I’d rather err on our conservative side than turn too much focus on skill guys and go soft in trenches.


    • Derek

      Cardale may have been a 3rd stringer but he played very well and a helluva lot better than Blake Sims.

      Aren’t Watson, Lawrence, and Mac Jones similar to Burrow?

      If there is an outlier its Jake Coker handing off (a lot) to Henry, but that’s been awhile. Jacob could stretch the field when called upon too.


      • sundiatagaines

        I feel like Dabo and Saban intentionally build defenses and keep them front and center. Then they branched out and found the right OCs and QBs. But the defensive focus remained constant. I think Kirby is doing the same, just some bad hiring (Coley), bad timing (Fields), and bad evaluation (Mathis, and maybe JT in this camp too).

        Other coaches seem to want to build the offense first and the D comes along for the ride. Riley, Malzahn, Kelly, Leach, Mullen, maybe even Day? I’ve seen even less success from those guys than I do Kirby.

        Maybe Stet can be our Cardale Jones this year. If not, we remain in a good position for next year. A lot of those other offensive coaches can’t say the same.


        • The evaluation on JT wasn’t wrong – he got hurt, and Kirby stayed with Bennett not to upset the apple cart once Daniels was healthy.


        • Derek

          You have to be able to run the ball, stop the run, play special teams etc…. Being a complete, balanced team is how you get to this position.

          What tends to separate the teams who get here are superior qb/wr combos. The reason is pretty straightforward.

          You can’t bully really good teams and great qb/wr combos have a huge advantage over dbs. Meanwhile, not so great qb/wrs end up out of their comfort zones and making mistakes rather than plays.


  6. Anon

    Am I wrong in thinking McConkey could be the key to winning this game? Is he healthy?



    Alabama could have easily lost 3 regular season game, I think they can be had..

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Not a professional commenter here, and I’m gonna pull for the Dawgs (even if they started Ladd McConkey at QB today) but I am gonna say my piece and STFU. Stetson is a good QB. He’s not a Bama QB or a tOSU QB or a Clemson QB. And I’m not talking about this year. I get it that tOSU is not in the playoff. That’s not the point. The point is there is one team to beat here for the Dawgs and that’s Bama. And nobody in recent memory has done that, in the playoffs, or any other game of consequence for that matter without an elite, top level, Heisman caliber QB. I don’t hate Stetson Bennett – but Stetson Bennett does not inspire confidence. We have what could be – could be mind you – elite, top level, Heisman caliber QBs on our roster. That inspired confidence. But they are on the bench, in perpetuity. Up and until the Tennessee game, where JT did not play I believed “this is our year”. I had no doubts. In the face of the remainder of the season and playoffs with Stetson at QB – my belief has been we have a chance to win it all. A chance that I can’t quantify, but that logic and reason tell me is smaller than if JT were the QB. This might be our year, gang. It just might.


  9. ASEF

    QB isn’t as important when you can win matchups all over the board elsewhere.

    QB becomes more important as those favorable matchups dwindle. A great QB can negate deficits elsewhere on the roster. A merely good QB isn’t going to do that for you.

    That’s especially true in the college game, where the rules tilt consistently in favor of the offense and specifically the passing game.

    All of this is duh, but Georgia will have to win a natty sailing into those headwinds. Which it can do.