Mike Lantry, 1972
fee fi foe film
Illinois took the field at Camp Randall Stadium last weekend hoping that a game against a struggling Wisconsin squad was just what they needed to turn around a nightmare season. After keeping it close through three quarters in which neither team could move the ball, they gave up 21 fourth-quarter points en route to a 31-14 loss. The Badgers, which entered the game averaging just 309 yards of total offense, put up 427 on 7.4 yards per play; the Illini could muster just 284 yards of their own.
As you can see, first-year head coach Tim Beckman couldn't bear to take in such a performance without putting in a lip-full of dip. Like pretty much every other decision made by Tim Beckman this year, this was stupid:
Illinois self-reported a level 2 secondary violation to the Big Ten Conference after coach Tim Beckman was seen chewing tobacco during Saturday's game against Wisconsin.
The NCAA prohibits the use of chewing tobacco for coaches, game officials and players during practice and games.
"It's a bad habit, and one that definitely will be corrected," Beckman said on Tuesday.
Illinois football, ladies and gentlemen!
[Hit THE JUMP for the full breakdown and definitely not more pictures of Beckman channeling his inner redneck. No, definitely not more of those.]
Previously: Fee Fi Foe Film: Notre Dame vs. Purdue
Purdue didn't exactly help the Big Ten's reputation by allowing Marshall to hang around in an eventual 51-41 victory last weekend. This was an odd contest, as depending on how you look at it, the game was either closer than score indicated—Marshall outgained Purdue 534-443—or not as close as the score indicated—the Boilermakers had a 42-14 halftime lead and their yardage was held down due to two Purdue pick-sixes.
After going over the film, I came away impressed with the way the Boilermakers utilize their playmakers on offense, and wholly unimpressed with their defense outside of their two best players, NT Kawann Short and CB Josh Johnson. Let's go to the breakdown—apologies for the lack of video, as no torrent of the game was available.
Photo credit: Purdue Exponent
Spread, Pro-Style, or Hybrid? Very much a spread. Purdue goes to the I-form as a changeup—utilizing it much like Michigan, hoping to break big plays on play-action—but otherwise operate entirely out of the shotgun.
Basketball on Grass or MANBALL? The Boilermakers mixed a fair amount of zone running—including the zone read—with gap blocking principles, and didn't heavily rely on one or the other.
Hurry it up or grind it out? Purdue has a slightly higher-than-average pace, though they looked downright slow compared to Marshall's Oregon-like hurry-up.
Quarterback Dilithium Level (Scale: 1 [Navarre] to 10 [Denard]): Starter Caleb TerBush is the least mobile of Purdue's three quarterbacks—Rob Henry being the fastest above the injured Robert Marve—but he's still a marginally effective scrambler. Purdue will run some zone read and inverted veer, and TerBush often keeps, especially on the latter. He won't make defenders miss on the second level; he can eat up chunks of yardage and break the pocket under pressure. I'll give him a 5.
Dangerman: Purdue's offense centers around getting the ball in space to a bunch of undersized but quick receivers, and their go-to is Antavian Edison, who leads the team with 285 yards and five touchdowns on 24 receptions; he's also carried the ball eight times this year, though managing only 17 yards. He's a quick slot-type and the recipient of a variety of screens and end-arounds.
It's tough to key on Edison, however, because Purdue uses fellow receivers Gary Bush and O.J. Ross in exactly the same way. Bush and Ross combined for 16 catches, 152 yards, and three TDs (all by Bush) against Marshall, most of those coming on screens.
Zook Factor: Nothing particularly Zook-like from Danny Hope in this game. Bummer.
HenneChart: Another new feature this week—Brian's HenneChart will now appear in these posts. Here's TerBush's performance against Marshall, with only throws downfield charted (forgot to chart screens until it was too late to keep track, though those are taken out of the Downfield Success Rate anyway):
TerBush didn't have a great game when asked to throw downfield; most of his reads were simple, largely off play-action, and he still missed several receivers. While he only had one bad read (didn't see a waiting safety on a deep out for a near-pick), he had pretty significant accuracy issues, turfing a couple throws and badly overthrowing his tight end on a crossing route for an interception. He had a couple pinpoint throws on the run; for the most part, however, he isn't asked to do much beyond throw screens, and there's a reason for that.
There are reports that Robert Marve may give it a go this weekend despite another ACL injury. He's a more dynamic playmaker than TerBush and has a better arm; he's also prone to forcing the ball into coverage. He was splitting reps with TerBush before the injury and wouldn't be a significant upgrade or downgrade.
[Continue on to the rest of the breakdown after THE JUMP.]
PREVIOUSLY: FFFF—Notre Dame vs. Purdue
Notre Dame enters their contest against Michigan with an unblemished record and one of the year's most impressive victories—a 20-3 thumping of Michigan State in East Lansing—to their credit. Despite breaking in a new starting quarterback, the Irish have impressed on both sides of the ball, meaning we get another September full of "Is Notre Dame Back?" headlines and, on a more positive note, another hyped up matchup with the Wolverines.
Before I get into the film breakdown, let's take a moment to enjoy this quote from the ND-MSU game. Kirk Herbstreit dropped this gem while discussing the answer to the game's trivia question (Brady Quinn holds the ND-MSU record for most passing yards in a game from the '05 MSU overtime victory):
"That was the 'Bush Push' year in '05. That was a great year for Notre Dame."
The new standard for a "great year" for the Irish: A 9-3 season most easily identified by a soul-crushing loss. Delightful.
Anyway, on to the breakdown.
Spread, Pro-Style, or Hybrid? Brian Kelly is one of the coaches most synonymous with the spread offense, though he's not as much of a pure system guy as Rich Rodriguez or Dana Holgorsen. Kelly adjusted his offense back when Cincinnati went from statuesque pocket passer Tony Pike to scrambler Zach Collaros, and he's done much the same with the transition to Tommy Rees and Everett Golson—ND throws in a fair amount of under-center plays and is more run-heavy than Kelly's Cinci outfits.
Basketball on Grass or MANBALL? Basketball on grass—the Irish running game almost entirely consists of inside and outside zone.
Hurry it up or grind it out? Right in the middle, actually. Notre Dame's adjusted pace last year was 47.9%, just a tick below the national average (50%, obvs).
Quarterback Dilithium Level (Scale: 1 [Navarre] to 10 [Denard]): Golson earned the starting nod in large part because of his mobility—he's at his best when throwing on the run or making plays with his feet. He showed off his wheels against MSU, escaping the pocket and getting the edge on a six-yard TD run in the second quarter. Brian Kelly doesn't give Golson much in the way of designed runs, but he's dangerous when he breaks the pocket—I'll give him a 7.
Dangerman: Tight end Tyler Eifert finished second to Michael Floyd in all three major receiving categories last year with 65 catches for 803 yards and five touchdowns, and he's started the year with eight receptions for 120 yards and a TD. As noted by The Only Colors, Eifert is basically a wide receiver now—he lines up on the outside or in the slot, and if he has his hand in the dirt—rarely, at this point—it's as an H-back. He gives Golson quite a security blanket at 6'6", 251 pounds, and is a tough matchup for defensive backs and linebackers alike.
Quite surprisingly, Eifert didn't record a catch against Michigan State, but I don't expect we'll see that replicated going forward.
Zook Factor: The Irish punted on 4th-and-7 from the MSU 48, which earns some Zook points, but with a first-year starter at QB against a great defense that's pretty understandable.
[The rest of the breakdown after THE JUMP.]
Lovable coaches all around in this one
Since the Fighting Dukakises don't pose a serious threat this week, I decided (okay, Brian decided) that it would be a good idea to take a look ahead with this week's film study. Notre Dame and Purdue faced off last weekend in South Bend, giving us a look at a pair of future opponents; the Irish came away with a 20-17 victory that was closer than expected.
A quick overview: Neither team could get anything going on the ground while Notre Dame's vertical passing attack far outstripped Purdue's dink-and-dunk approach, leading to a 376-288 advantage in total yards for the Irish. The Boilermakers managed to hang around, however, and tied the game at 17 late in the fourth quarter after corner Josh Johnson made a stellar effort to strip the ball from ND QB Everett Golson. Golson was shaken up on the play, so it was much-maligned QB Tommy Rees who led the game-winning drive for a field goal in the waning seconds. Yes, that Tommy Rees. I'm seriously, you guys.
[To the breakdown, after THE JUMP.]
Michigan faces one of football's most distinctive offenses, the Air Force triple option, this weekend at the Big House. To get an idea of how the Falcons operate on both sides of the ball, I went back and watched their matchup with Notre Dame from last season, a 59-33 victory for the Irish. How can Michigan slow down the powerful Air Force rushing attack and take advantage of their 3-4 defense? Read on for the breakdown.
Spread, Pro-Style, or Hybrid? None of the above. The option offense deserves its own category. Air Force operates primarily out of the flexbone and I-formation, and the design of their offense revolves almost entirely around the threat of the triple option.
Basketball on Grass or MANBALL? Both, actually. The option requires linemen, backs, and receivers to carry out a very specific set of blocking assignments, and those change depending on the defensive alignment: Tremendous has a great breakdown of when Air Force goes zone and when they utilize "veer" blocking—the rule of thumb is they go zone against 7-man fronts and veer against 8-man fronts. Air Force—whose starting linemen weigh an average of just 255 pounds—also requires their players to cut block like they're the '98 Denver Broncos. Mind the knees, boys.
Hurry it up or grind it out? A new category this week, as it was an oversight to not include a section on the pace of each team's offense. Air Force rarely huddles, utilizing a fast tempo (61.4% adj. pace in 2011) and a variety of formations that they run with the same personnel to catch defenses off guard and keep them from making substitutions. Here's an example from the Notre Dame game; Air Force runs a fullback dive from the flexbone, then quickly transitions to their triple-stack I-form and gets a big gain from another fullback run:
Just 22 seconds elapse from the time of the first snap to the second snap, yet Air Force is able to run from two entirely different formations while utilizing the same personnel group. It's paramount that the defense get their plays in quickly and communicate between snaps or the Falcons will eventually break one big.
Quarterback Dilithium Level (Scale: 1 [Navarre] to 10 [Denard]): Falcon senior QB Connor Dietz started three games as a redshirt freshman in 2009 and has otherwise served as a backup until this season. He did see the field some last year, averaging 6.6 yards on 38 carries, and rushed for 74 yards and a touchdown on seven carries in Air Force's season-opening win over Idaho State. The Falcons produce system quarterbacks and Dietz fits that mold; he isn't an elite athlete, and in an offense that relies on ruthless execution that doesn't prevent him from amassing some pretty impressive stats. I'll give him a 6, which turns into a functional 7-8 when the offense gets rolling.
Dangerman: The beauty of this offense is it doesn't rely on any one player to bear the load—14 Falcons tallied at least one carry against Notre Dame, 11 against Idaho State. If I must choose a focal point, however, it's running back Cody Getz. The flexbone formation features a fullback—or "B" back—lined up behind the quarterback, with two wing-backs—"A" backs—on the end of the line, a step back from the line of scrimmage:
Getz is one of those "A" backs (SB in the graphic above)—he's usually the pitch option and often motions into the backfield before the snap. While he rushed for just 102 yards in 2011, he's already surpassed that total in 2012 after picking up 218 yards and three touchdowns on 17 carries in the opener. At 5'7", 175 pounds, Getz is by no means big, but he's a senior well-versed in the system and has the speed to make teams pay for giving him the edge.
Zook Factor: Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun—a former Falcon quarterback under the tutelage of Fisher DeBerry—knows his team must play aggressive to overcome size and talent deficiencies, and therefore will never be confused with Ron Zook. In just the first half, the Falcons go for 4th-and-2 the ND 32, attempt a surprise onside kick, go for 4th-and-2 from their own 42, and successfully fake a punt on 4th-and-6 from their own 35.
After one half of football, I'm already a huge fan of Troy Calhoun.
It's no secret that Air Force will run, run, and then run some more. Last year, they ran 81.9% of the time on standard downs (national average: 60.0%) and 61.1% on passing downs (33.3%). The offense is designed to get positive plays on every down and stay "ahead of the sticks"—maintaining reasonable down-and-distance situations so the run is still the primary threat. Air Force finished in the top 37 nationally in all three advanced rushing stat categories (S&P+, Success Rate, PPP+) and were a top-60 offense, but on passing downs their efficiency plummets near the bottom of the national rankings. The key to stopping the Falcons is forcing them into obvious passing situations; this is, of course, much more difficult than it sounds.
The basic play of the Air Force offense is the veer option. Fisher DeBerry's entire 1998 Air Force playbook is available online; this diagram comes straight from its pages:
Before the snap, one of the "A" backs (in this case, the one on the left) motions into the backfield, arcing behind the fullback and into a pitch relationship with the quarterback. The first read is the dive to the fullback, and if option coaches had their druthers this is where the play would go every time. If there isn't a crease for the fullback to run through the A gap, the quarterback pulls and heads for the edge, where he'll read an unblocked defender—in this case, the right defensive end. The quarterback can keep or pitch it outside to the "A" back.
[For the rest of the breakdown, hit THE JUMP]
In case you've forgotten since last fall, FFFF is the weekly film breakdown of Michigan's upcoming opponent where I apply my (limited) knowledge of X's and O's—luckily, this week much of the technical brilliance is provided by Chris Brown.
College football fans should know a few things about Alabama: they're good (duh), they play a soul-crushing 3-4 defense, and they grind out wins with a glacial-paced zone running offense that's brutally efficient. I'll get into more detail below, of course, but that's the Cliffs Notes version if you hate to read. Given that it's the opening week of the season and Alabama is replacing several starters, this post will almost entirely focus on scheme; Friday's preview will go much deeper into their personnel.
Spread, Pro-Style, or Hybrid? Pro-style. Alabama mostly operates from under center, usually with either a fullback/H-back or second tight end on the field.
Basketball on Grass or MANBALL? Though the Crimson Tide offense operates in the spirit of MANBALL, they actually utilize a lot of zone blocking—the inside and outside zones are staples of their offense.
Quarterback Dilithium Level (Scale: 1 [Navarre] to 10 [Denard]): Even with sacks removed, quarterback A.J. McCarron rushed for only 70 yards on 19 carries last year. He's mobile enough that he could escape the pocket and possibly pick up a surprise first down, but not much more than that. I'll give him a 3.
Dangerman: QB A.J. McCarron. Alabama loses most of their top skill position players from last year, but McCarron is often overlooked as one of the better quarterbacks in the nation, largely due to their run-heavy attack and defensive reputation. As a redshirt sophomore last season, McCarron finished 25th in the country in passer efficiency (147.27) and 24th in yards per attempt (8.0), most impressively posting a miniscule 1.5% interception rate. McCarron doesn't wow you, but he's the perfect quarterback for 'Bama's system: the proverbial "game manager" who rarely makes a mistake.
Zook Factor: This is my measure of how often teams have horrible ideas like "let's punt on 4th and 3 from the opponent 35" and so on. While Alabama is hailed as a conservative paragon, they've been known to break that habit in a big way:
Of course, the reason this works so well is because Alabama normally takes the safe route; earlier in the same game, they punted on 4th and 1 from their 46 despite the presence of one Trent Richardson.
OVERVIEW: Alabama has a new offensive coordinator this year as former Washington OC Don Nussmeier takes over for new Colorado State head coach Jim McElwain. The general strategy should be the same, however, and if anything the offense could become even slower: according to Football Study Hall, the Tide—quite uncharacteristically—had a slightly faster pace than NCAA average last year, while Nussmeier's Washington squad plodded along at a 39.6% adjusted pace. Chart via Football Study Hall:
Alabama's hard-earned reputation as a run-first outfit doesn't manifest itself on standard downs (First downs, second-and-6 or less, third-and-4 or less); instead, it shows up in their far-above-average run percentage on passing downs (second-and-7 or more, third-and-5 or more). The Tide don't often find themselves in that latter category, however, as they led the nation in all three advanced statistical measures (S&P+, Success Rate, PPP+) on standard downs. In other words, they stay ahead of the chains and rarely find themselves in a situation where they need to pick up a big chunk of yardage.
[Hit the jump for the rest of the breakdown]