This is an interesting juxtaposition:
The first thing that stands out about the chart is the number of quarterbacks leading top-25 teams. Of the top six rushers, five are leading teams that reside in the top 10 of the AP Poll and seven of the top nine are on top-25 teams. The other relevant part of the list is the ranking by passing grade of all of the top runners. Only Louisville’s Lamar Jackson ranks as a top-30 passer among the top 10 runners in the nation and only Houston’s Greg Ward, Jr. joins him in the top 30 if expanding to the top 20 rushers in the nation. Yet those quarterbacks are still leading potent offenses based around their ability to run the ball, and in many cases, their passing stats look great due to the number of easy throws created within the system, even if the passing grade that accounts for timing, accuracy, and decision-making doesn’t match those stats.
The reason these offenses are prolific without having great passers is because college ball in the spread era is all about the numbers.
The running game comes down to simple mathematics. Once the ball is handed off, 11 players on defense are deployed to stop 10 players on offense, everyone has a gap to play, and in theory, there should be an extra man available to tackle the ball-carrier. The running quarterback has changed the math in defensive football as he essentially evens up the game and the threat to run the ball makes it 11-on-11, negating the defense’s advantage. Coaches have found creative ways to use this in their favor, having quarterbacks “option” off unblocked defenders, “blocking” them out of the play without actually using a blocker. This is old hat by now as offenses have taken this concept to new levels every season with new ways to option off different players, combining it with misdirection and motion, or adding in “run-pass options” which are running plays that have the ability to become a pass based on how one or two players react to the run action at the snap. Oh, and then coaches decided to add an up-tempo element to all of these concepts, essentially making defensive players react to all of these moving parts quicker and while fatigued.
When you add all of this up, it’s very difficult to play defense in college football today and because it’s so difficult, it no longer takes a precision passing game to move the ball down the field. Just having a quarterback that can challenge the defense as a runner creates open rushing lanes for running backs and wide-open passing lanes for quarterbacks as the defense simply tries to keep up with the multiple options presented on any given play.
That doesn’t mean you can’t play elite offense with a throwing quarterback. It just means that you’ve got a bigger margin for error when a defense has to account for that extra runner.
Pretty amazing — an almost 1500-word piece on how Alabama changed its defense for the better after 2012 without a single mention of Kirby Smart.
It’s reassuring to know that the brain trust at Georgia saw through the public perception of “it’s Saban’s defense” to get the man they wanted.
To be fair, I doubt the truth on Smart’s role in fashioning the ‘Bama defense is anywhere near that absolute. I also doubt that anyone at Butts-Mehre who had a hand in hiring Smart had the first clue about how to gauge that.
Blind faith is what makes religion run. It’s not the best guiding principle for managing a football program, though.
It’s not easy to lose a game in which you go +5 in turnover margin. It’s virtually impossible to lose when you combine that with not one, but two, defensive touchdowns.
That’s not an exaggeration.
How was this miracle achieved? Well, I don’t want to get into all the gory details, but suffice to say this might be the single dumbest play call I’ve ever seen.
A fake punt. On fourth-and-nineteen. From your own end zone. With the kicker running. Whoever called that shouldn’t have been allowed back on the team bus after the game.
From now on, I will judge the degree to which a call is boneheaded by measuring it against this play. It’s my new go-to gold standard. Thanks, BYU.
Too bad Art Briles couldn’t take that attitude beyond his offensive system. For Baylor, anyway.
Maybe the reason Greg McGarity didn’t call Tom Herman last fall was because he didn’t like all that kissing stuff.
Given that early Mike Bobo used to drive me nuts with his counterproductive insistence on balance in his play calling, it’s only fair to shake my head over what Kirby said yesterday about his offensive game plan.
In a win over South Carolina Sunday, Georgia was dominant on the ground — they racked up 326 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 50 carries, while Eason went 5 of 17 for 29 yards and a touchdown. This week, Eason took advantage of soft coverage while Vanderbilt held Georgia to 75 rushing yards on 35 carries.
“We were trying to establish the run still in the second half because when you become one dimensional, pass-pass-run, pass-pass-run, you’re predictable there and they just rush you,” Smart said. “It’s frustrating anytime you’re not successful and we look at everything internally, but to be honest with you, I thought the kids had an opportunity late in the game to run the ball and the offensive line wanted to do that and we weren’t doing that with much success.”
The problem with that line of thinking, as Smart and the rest of us discovered much to our chagrin on the last play of the game Georgia ran, was that Vanderbilt never gave up on selling out to stop the run.
I don’t get what’s so hard about taking what the other guy is willing to give you until he shows otherwise. Maybe it’s something about the Ray Goff coaching tree.
If I had a dollar for every one of you out there who insisted that Georgia should have spiked the ball in the 2012 SECCG so that the coaches could remind the players not to do what Conley did with the tipped pass, I’d be a richer man.
Too bad your advice doesn’t mean shit in the heat of battle. Take, for example, what happened on the key play of today’s game, the screen pass Vandy hit to Ralph Webb for a big gain that set up what turned out to be the winning score.
Vanderbilt gained 75 of its yards on one drive: Its first of the fourth quarter, which gave it what turned out to be game-winning touchdown. And it was set up by a play that encapsulated the frustration of Smart, now a head coach but a defensive coordinator at heart.
It was third-and-12 from near midfield. Vanderbilt had been struggling on third downs, and had not pass protected well. Georgia coaches knew that, and anticipated Vanderbilt would try a delayed screen. They would counter by putting one man on the tailback. In fact, defensive coordinator Mel Tucker told his players before the drive started.
But when it happened just the way Smart and Tucker predicted, tailback Ralph Webb was still free, caught the ball, and gained 37 yards down to Georgia’s 11-yard line. The man who was supposed to be on Webb, whom Smart didn’t name, just “got lost in the shuffle” during the play.
“It was a call we practiced for the screen,” Smart said. [Emphasis added.]
Well, fuck me.
If this game were as easy as we believe it is sometimes, we’d all sign million dollar coaching contracts instead of whining in the comments section of a football blog.