New Grantland: Alabama’s Run Game — Simple and Deadly, But Is It Good Enough to Beat LSU?

It’s up over at Grantland:

That said, we should never count out Nick Saban. Alabama’s defense is arguably even better than LSU’s based on statistics (though I favor LSU owing to stronger competition and general fearsomeness). Alabama also boasts perhaps the best player on either team: running back and Heisman finalist Trent Richardson. Perhaps more than any other player in the country, Richardson has the ability to personally shred defenses, even those geared to stop him.

But can Alabama get Richardson loose? In the first matchup (or hadn’t you heard that this game was a rematch?), Richardson led the Crimson Tide in rushing and receiving but never really got free. Because we know what we will get from Richardson — primarily, if you’re an LSU defender, a face full of the kneepad-covered pistons he calls legs — Alabama’s success on offense Monday night will depend on offensive coordinator Jim McElwain and tight end Brad Smelley.

Read the whole thing.

Anatomy of a Beatdown: The key concepts Dana Holgorsen’s West Virginia Mountaineers used to crush Clemson 70-33 in the Orange Bowl

I put together a short video showing and describing some of the key plays West Virginia used to crush Clemson. Of course, as big as these plays were, the turnovers and high tempo were probably just as important to WVU’s victory. But I still found these plays quite interesting and worth exploring, particularly how they fit together, as each base play had a counter (and sometimes a counter to the counter) mixed in the gameplan somewhere. As I always say, it’s not about how many plays you have, but how they fit together.

The last thing to note is I didn’t see a single concept that I hadn’t seen West Virginia run at some other point this season. It wasn’t an all-new gameplan; they just executed much better. If you want to learn more about Dana Holgorsen’s brand of the Airraid, you can read more here.

Tech help: Spam/Mirror site of Smart Football

I need a little help from my tech-savvy readers: Someone (apparently in Russia, no joke) has created a spam/mirror site of Smart Football by adding “.net” to my hostname and copying over the site. Right now it is more of an annoyance than a problem, though I am getting streams of hits through via domain from various IP addresses around the country (at least a few per second, though the traffic is not overwhelming). Yahoo is the DNS provider and I have reported the site, and I have made complaints to Google as well. The actual web host seems impenetrable, so I’ve had little success reporting anything.

My concern is that the site would convert itself at some point to some kind of attack site or one that fishes for information. If you have any advice or ideas please leave them in the comments. You may also email me at chris [at] smartfootball.com but I’ve prefer to keep the discussion here, if possible. Any help is appreciated.

Smart Football’s NFL Playoffs Wildcard Review

Wildcard weekend features several important matchups, though some wide disparity in teams: In the same weekend that the 13-3 and record setting Saints must play, so too much the 9-7 Bengals, 9-7 Giants and even the 8-8 Denver Broncos. At different times I’ve written about most of these teams; the weekend provides a good chance to review some of the concepts that these teams hope to ride to victory.

Keys to success

Cincinnati Bengals at the Houston Texans. My pick is Houston by seven or so. Make sure to read my recent exploration of their outside “wide” zone, which they learned from the master himself: Alex Gibbs.

Detroit Lions at the New Orleans Saints. This is far and away the best game of the weekend, and, though I have to go with the Saints, I think it’s a tough one to call. The Saints are particularly devastating at home, so I’ll pick them by three, but I would not at all be shocked to see Detroit pull off the victory.

In a year of dynamic offenses, New Orleans may well have the best one in all of football. A key part of that success is all-purpose “space player” Darren Sproles, who frequently serves as the fulcrum player in the Saints’ multifarious attack by lining up all-around the field and being both a rushing and receiving threat. I wrote all about those varied skills earlier this season here, for Grantland. Of course, Drew Brees is pretty good too; I’ve previously written about his favorite play, four verticals (isn’t it everyone’s favorite play?), for the NY Times.

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Chart of the Day: Airraid bowl success edition

It’s no secret I enjoy some well executed Airraid, and this bowl season provided three great examples. The last three quarterbacks Dana Holgorsen coached — Case Keenum at Houston, Brandon Weeden at Oklahoma State, and his current quarterback, Geno Smith at West Virginia — all led their teams to bowl victories, including two in BCS games. (Keenum was primarily coached this year by former TTech quarterback Kliff Kingsbury while Todd Monken took over at Oklahoma State and led their attack.) And each quarterback put up very impressive numbers. How impressive? See the chart below:

Ho hum, another day at the office

Each had a monster game in his own right, and most importantly they each won, but I enjoy the final column: The “average” quarterback that emerges. Based on the numbers, I’d take that guy on my team. And better yet, tell him to bring his offense with him.

Dana Holgorsen’s West Virginia “Airraid” offense

Dana Holgorsen came to West Virginia to install his own brand of the Airraid offense, which was invented and developed by Hal Mumme and Mike Leach. Their offense had been somewhat inconsistent all year, but 70 points — in the Orange Bowl — is pretty much how you draw it up. Below are some links giving a primer to an offense — and a coach, and a system – I’ve long been studying.

- I explained in detail the history, evolution, and development of Holgorsen’s own unique brand of the Airraid — with added emphasis on the run game and play-action — over at Grantland earlier this season.

- Holgorsen often says that the key to the offense is less about the schemes than how they practice. As explained here, he says his offense can be explained in three days (with obviously some refinement later on).

- Further, see here for a primer on how Texas Tech set up their practices under Mike Leach. Holgorsen used this same framework at West Virginia.

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Bill Walsh and Joe Montana on the fundamentals of quarterbacking

Old but good stuff from the master:

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Oklahoma State and the Stick/Slant concept

It’s up over at the Grantland blog:

Oklahoma State has excelled for both of the past two years with “packaging concepts,” and in this case, putting different “coverage beating” pass concepts to each side of the field. Doing this gives quarterback Brandon Weeden options on where he wants to go with the ball, depending on the pass coverage. On this play, the Cowboys lined up with three receivers to the left and Blackmon, as the split end and the running back, the versatile Joseph Randle, to the right. The pass concept to the three-receiver side was a staple of Oklahoma State’s offense: the stick concept. On stick, an outside receiver runs a vertical route, an inside receiver runs to the flat while a third receiver runs a “stick” route, essentially just hooking up at five or six yards. This creates a stretch on the defense in the form of a triangle, and is good against almost all zone coverages and some man-to-man looks.

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Read the whole thing.

Smart Links – 1/3/2012

Why are movie revenues dropping, by Roger Ebert.

- Books that are never done being written.

- 10 New Year’s wine resolutions.

- Recap of developments in particle physics in 2011.

- Are brokerage accounts safe?

- Intellectual property feudalism.

- What was the least important event of 2011?

New podcast with the Solid Verbal on the BCS bowl games

I did a podcast with the great Ty and Dan of the Solid Verbal, previewing all the BCS bowl games. Listen to it here (and on iTunes as well).