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Monday, March 02, 2009

Assorted Links and Notes

1. Trojan Football Analysis has some great stuff about Nebraska's mid-1990s running game. Check it out here, and here. Highly recommended.

2. Michael of the Braves & Birds sports blog and EDSBS respond to my analysis of risky and conservative stragies for underdogs and favorites. Both make good points, particularly regarding whether Spurrier was a good example of a favorite who overplayed his hand. I can't say I disagree; I think there are certain games where Spurrier overplayed his hand but I didn't mean to say that all losses were his fault for being too aggressive (and yes, the defense was awful some of those years). Briefly though, some of the interesting comments mentioned that a corrollary to my point is that underdogs also ought to shorten the game -- high variance is smoothed out by a lot of trials. So an underdog wants to get the game going, be aggressive early, and get the hell out of there if the luck bounces their way. It's the Vegas-principle: if the odds are against you, and you keep playing, the House (i.e. the Big House, or maybe the Swamp, or some other location) will win.

Now, what makes that interesting is that being aggressive often means passing more which can also extend the game with clock stoppages. (Though the newish clock rules still confound me.) Finally, some commenters pointed out that it's a bit nebulous how much this applies to slight underdogs or favorites, like when Florida plays a mid-level SEC school. My sense is that the underdog should still be aggressive from the start, but if they get a lead that vastly changes the probabilities and, as a result, the strategy. (If the Citadel gets up by 7 or 14 in the first quarter they are still likely to lose if you factor in talent.) But all that will have to be fleshed out in the future. Glad that the post sparked some thought.

3. Michael Weinreb of ESPN Page 2 has chimed in on the recent decision to ban the A-11 offense. His verdict? The ban stifles "progress," which goes essentially undefined. Let's hear from Weinreb as to why:

Given the media attention this thing has gotten, it would not surprise me if there is an element of jealousy involved. But I do think this is about something bigger, something more than merely a single bylaw, or even a single offense. (Otherwise, isn't any sort of motion or play-action or halfback pass also inherently "deceptive"?) This is about progress, and what it means for the future of football, and there are certain officials on that rules committee who apparently have a sincere concern that offenses like the A-11 -- offenses that spread the field to its edges -- will, indeed, ruin football as we know it.

Needless to say, I think this syrupy salvo a tad overwrought. But, hey, I must think that the spread isn't real football to believe that, right?


Anonymous said...

re: Nebraska run game -- someone on the old message board for Homer Smith noted a site once where a Husker fan had gotten hold of a playbook and put up a lot of stuff. The most interesting insight was the simplicity of using inside zone blocking for all their option game as well.

Love Osborne's old numbering system. My HS coach used the same one from the 60s to the 90s.

As for Spurrier -- he was a master at Florida of exploiting his advantage. He could take a small edge and put up huge scores. Similar to what Peyton and the colts can do.

DoubleB said...

But how do you "get the hell out of there" if "luck" bounces your way early? That's the real trick for an underdog.

Theoretically, you'd try to control the clock with a running game. But if you could do that in the first place, you A) probably wouldn't be a big underdog, if at all, B) may have chosen to do that in the first place to shorten the game from the opening kickoff, or C) run an offense that naturally controls clock (Georgia Tech).

How many possessions can a team really save by attempting to control the clock doing something they aren't good at doing in the first place? I just don't see a scenario where a team averaging a pace of 15 possessions a game can all of a sudden alter it to make it a 10 possession game in the 2nd quarter when they have a nice lead.

Paradoxically, I think as a severe underdog you keep the petal to the metal for as long as you can until end game scenarios begin to come into play.

DrB said...

I was wondering if you could take look at attacking cover 3 and blitz packages that primarily play 3-3 behind it, since you have more of an offensive perspective.