Sunday, September 20, 2009

Week 3 NCAA Football Recap

Week 3 of the NCAA College Football season yielded surprises, though probably not patently obvious when looked at from the sheer angle of wins and losses.

True, USC lost, but that wasn't totally unexpected. Pete Carroll finds ways of losing to underdogs early in the season. Usually it is to the likes of an Oregon/Oregon State, but this time it was to the Washington Huskies. The Huskies were on my preseason Team to Watch list for this very reason. I thought Steve Sarkisian was going to have a rather quick turnaround of the Huskies. I did not think they would upend the likes of USC this soon, but I think Washington might be an up and coming team in the next few years when Sarkisian gets some recruiting going, and with a win against USC, that will start happening.

BYU got blown out by Florida State. Again, not a huge shocker there. BYU was in the top ten, but that was after beating Oklahoma when their top QB went down. I knew BYU was overrated, and it was simply a matter of time until a mediocre or better team brought them back to reality.

The rest of the Top Ten games were largely unremarkable with the possible exception of Tennessee-Florida. Florida still won but were held to under 25 points in the Swamp. Had Tennessee had a smoothly running offense, I think they could have made that game even closer than what it was. I was watching that game, and Tennessee was respectable against Florida for the first time in a while.

What caught my eye in that game was something that isn't going to show up on most Sunday morning edition news headlines, but I think Tennessee did something quite remarkable actually. They found a way to effectively contain the Spread-option offense for a full 60 minutes, which has inexplicably baffled defensive coordinators around the country for about 5 years now. The spread offense has become really trendy for hotshot young coaches to implement for this very reason. I think every coach in the SEC is going to get a copy of this game film and mimic what Monte Kiffin was doing on defense. What he was doing was not really rocket science, nor do you have to have superhuman athletes on defense to pull it off. He was basically spreading out the secondary in a spread-option defense. This is similar to what was done to contain the Nebraska-style Power Option defense about a decade ago, but it had what I could only describe as a Tebow scramble containment ribbon, basically a modified Tampa 2 defense he ran in the Pros.

Basically he was alternately floating the free safeties and linebackers in a type of bungy cord ribbon to react if Tebow tried to scramble. It wasn't perfect, Tebow still scored and made some big plays, but his big play prowess was minimized. And that's the kicker. Heretofore, defensive coordinators have tried to fully contain Tebow by doing silly stuff like putting too many men in the box and variations like that with a complete zone read, but in doing so they ignored the running back option part of the spread and Tebow hits the zone seam. Teams that get sucked into this were mauled, and defensive coordinators have been repeating that fallacy over and over. I'm getting way to technical here for purposes of a blog entry, but suffice is to say, watch Florida's opponents for the rest of the season. I am willing to bet you will see a shift towards this modified Tampa 2 defense when they are playing Florida. It is for this reason that the Spread offense is never seen in the Pros because its really not that difficult to defend if you know how to do it.

In other scores, Nebraska lost a heart breaker to Virginia Tech. They led most of the 2nd half, and the defense did really well. I know when they had the opportunity in the 4th quarter with 1st and Goal on the 5 and walked away with no points that it was going to haunt them. You don't get into a 1 or 2 point scrap with a Frank Beamer team at home and win. Beamer has a magical way of pulling points out of his ear in the last minute of a game to win, even if the team as sputtered for 55 minutes of the game. This was one of those games if they played it ten times, both teams would probably have won 5 times. It was a toss up and VT got lucky, especially with that touchdown the Huskers scored that got waved off without review, when the replay clearly showed it was a touchdown. But in any event, I think that loss might actually do Nebraska good. They know they can play with the big boys now, but the sting of that loss will keep them from getting complacent going into the next big game. Barring meltdown, I think they can beat Missouri this year.

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