Kicking and Screaming

Three trends that will continue in college football… it or not.

Chip Kelly’s been gone a couple of years and Ohio State is back atop college football.  Think this signals a return to the old school ground and pound Saturdays of yesteryear?

Hell to the naw!!

Everything you’ve been loving about college football is going to continue.  The scoring, passing and college free agents are here to stay.

Pace of play has been the topic du jour at conference meetings across the country this offseason.  Nick Saban complained about opposing teams snapping the ball too quickly and not allowing his defense to substitute, thereby endangering the health of his mountainous front three.  Translation:  I keep my defensive linemen at a ridiculously unhealthy weight so would you please change the rules to help me win ANOTHER national championship.  This is the football version of subverting the “Hack-a-Shaq” strategy.  And that’s just what hurry up offenses are, a strategy.  The average football program doesn’t have the kind of strength required to block 300-lb linemen and 250-lb linebackers so they use quickness and push the tempo.
Not to mention, think about the rhythm and confidence developed by an offense when they get the defense on it’s heels.  This is what happened to the Tide against Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl.  Cardale Jones got that offense rockin’ and ‘Bama was playing more of a reactive game than the attacking style that won Saban three championships in 4 years.

It gave us a pretty exciting semi-final, too.

And since we’re talking about these speedy offenses, could we now accept the Spread Offense and shotgun as legit and productive options?  I know most of the blue-hair boosters and ex-jock commentators spend game days singing the praises of the wishbone and power-I of “the good ole days” but sports (like life) moves forward and innovation happens.  Many coaches point to the rules changes to pass interference and how tightly most games are called as a motivating factor in spreading the field and playing toss-up.  Some teams like to allow athletic quarterbacks (read: football players) the space and option to use their feet to create opportunities.  Just look at Kansas State, Ohio State, TCU and several other programs who have had success getting their quarterback out of the pocket.  Other teams use the space created by shotgun formations to allow their quarterbacks to see the defensive alignments and have additional time to make decisions.  And, dammit – it’s exciting!

And when Saban wasn’t lamenting the unfair advantage created by quick snaps, he was butt-hurt about the transfer rules in the SEC.  Other AD’s were critical of the increase in transfers altogether while most coaches were able to prohibit transfers from attending rival schools by not releasing them from their scholarships.  The problem with all of the above is that many of the transfers are graduates looking to attend graduate schools or pursue additional degrees.  They all look like assholes for trying to control a young man who has done everything right in the “student” part of “student-athlete”.  The more intriguing question is whether conferences and the NCAA will have the stones to formally restrict a legitimate practice…..especially when coaches can recruit and then abandon kids for a new job.  I’m betting the Power 5 conferences and NCAA will back away from any real action on transfers since the negative P.R. will outweigh any possible positive.  Who knows…..maybe transferring players will create the offseason intrigue and offensive power the NFL enjoys every year.

All of these new wrinkles to America’s new national sport have met opposition and skepticism, mainly from traditionalists and vested interests.  As with any innovation, there will be speed bumps and U-turns, but there will also continue to be excitement and (best of all) David’s beating Goliath’s.