You be the offensive coordinator/quarterback: Dealing with the blitz

In my most recent post for Dr Saturday I discussed some of Florida’s struggles on offense. The particular topic was some of Florida’s struggles in pass protection in all phases: accounting for potential rushers, sustaining the blocks, the receivers getting open on time, and the quarterback delivering the ball on time. In the post I showed what went wrong on the play, as the video below shows.

But it’s much easier to show what went wrong than it is to answer: What would you have done differently? Specifically, let’s say you are the OC who can signal a play in or you are the quarterback with a menu of checks and calls at the line. Your squad lines up in five wide, on third and goal (your team is leading), and the other team is showing a man blitz. Here’s what you see (the receivers are all covered down by guys showing man-to-man).

1_empty

You know they have at least a possible six guys to blitz against your five, if not more if they don’t cover down on one of the slots at the snap. Below is a diagram of the play Florida had called — a double smash concept. Note that the rule for the outside receiver’s in man is to convert the route to some kind of pivot route to the outside.

1_EMPTYSMASH

So what do you do here? Here is a non-exhaustive list of options. You make the call.

  1. Stick with the play as called. Although they have one more guy than you can block, your other guys should protect well, the QB should step up in the pocket, and throw the corner route (or another route) before the blitzer gets there. It was an execution problem.
  2. Call timeout. You can’t block all their guys, and have a bad playcall. Try again.
  3. Check to a short, three-step pass. Yes it is third and goal but better to throw a short completion with a chance to run it into the end zone.
  4. Check to a three step fade pass. You need to throw it into the end zone but don’t have time for any other play that gets it into the end zone.
  5. No need for a check, but the play should have a “sight-adjust” built in, where if the QB and receivers both read blitz they break off their route for a slant. Yes this read can get muddied against zone blitzes, but this is the right situation for it. Everyone should read this on the fly.
  6. Check the play to a receiver screen. Same philosophy as the short pass — get it to an athlete with some room to run, though this time with some blockers.
  7. Check to a quarterback trap or draw. You have an excellent runner at quarterback, why not use him? Yes it is third and long but you avoid the dangerous play, and if you block the trap or draw right and their defenders are too aggressive, you might score.
  8. Stay with the same playcall, but make a call to shift one of the split receivers in tight to be an extra blocker. Yes they can always blitz one more than you can block, but might as well put on a full six-man gap scheme and force the extra rusher to come from further away.
  9. Shift a receiver in to act as a runningback for a more advanced run play, like the speed option or a zone read. This is basically a full audible with a change of formation and playcall. Note that the defense could adjust too, given this opportunity.
  10. Some other option I haven’t listed.

Now, no team would give their quarterback this many options at the line, but most teams give their quarterback the ability to get into at least three of these. Some (like the sight-adjust) is either built into the offense or it isn’t.

So what is it? You make the call.

The slant concept: Iowa’s game winner

Iowa, a team that seems to thrive on dramatic finishes, pulled off one of the biggest of Kirk Ferentz’s tenure last weekend against Michigan State, as Ricky Stanzi threw a touchdown pass as time expired for the Hawkeye victory. The play itself was as simple as it gets: The old slant/shoot combination, which dates back at least as far back as Paul Brown’s teams. Bill Walsh of course made it even more famous, as his receivers frequently caught slant passes and took them for long touchdowns.

As you can see, it worked very well, as Michigan State played man coverage and went with an all-out blitz. Stanzi was able to deliver the ball before Michigan State’s unblocked defender (who came from Stanzi’s right) could get there. The slant’s quickness is one of its advantages.

In the play, Stanzi went to his single receiver — i.e. his split end — who had single, man coverage. But on the other side Iowa ran the same slant concept except with three receivers: The outermost guy ran a slant, the inside slot ran a slant as well, and the H-back, the innermost receiver, ran to the flat.

iowaslant

This leads to the other aspect of the play, the wrinkle that helped it succeed: The motion by the H-back/tight-end before the snap. He began on the left side of the formation and motioned across. Why was this relevant? Watch the clip above again. What did Michigan State do? A single defender followed the H-back across — a clear indicator that the defense was in man coverage. Knowing this, Stanzi knew that his backside receiver was one-on-one, and he went to him.

But what if they hadn’t reacted this way? Had Michigan State, rather than having a man follow the H-back instead “bumped across” so that a defender on the offense’s left merely repositioned slightly to account for the new receiver, this would have indicated that the play was zone. And unless the zone was very unbalanced to the single receiver, Stanzi would have no doubt looked to the three receiver side as a kind of flood for the zone. His read would have been the flat defender: if he widened for the tight-end in the flat, the slant should be open; if he hangs back then the tight-end ought to be open in the flat.

So Iowa won the game using one of the most basic plays in football, but they didn’t do it without a bit of knowledge about what they were getting into. Now, it bears noting that modern defenses can disguise their man or zone reactions to motion, but it remains a useful tool. It certainly was that for Iowa.

(H/t Brophy for the video.)

Quarterback film study with Mike Leach

Excellent article from rivals.com. Do read the whole thing:

That brings us here, to Texas Tech’s football complex. It’s almost 6 p.m., and it’s time to get to work. A visit from Kansas looms, and it’s time to watch film with one of the nation’s most innovative coaches and his crew of quarterbacks.

Tech quarterbacks have led the nation in passing six times in nine seasons under Leach, and this season’s group is assembled in a meeting room adjacent to Leach’s office to watch film of the A&M debacle. Taylor Potts, Seth Doege, Steven Sheffield, Garrett Riley and Jacob Karam sit at a long conference table. Most slouch or recline, feet propped on a nearby chair and necks craned at a big screen.

X’s and O’s are scribbled on a nearby greaseboard. A phrase is scrawled along the top of the board: “Reads = QBs. Have your eyes in the proper place and deliver the ball to the right player at the right time.”

Wearing a black “Texas Tech Football” pullover and cargo shorts, Leach sits at the head of the table like a pigskin CEO, in front of a paper plate that once was covered with pulled pork, baked beans and coleslaw. His gray hair mussed, Leach surveys a schedule for tonight’s 8 p.m. practice as he sips iced tea. The room is silent, then Leach flips the lights and the show begins.

This is the official start of game week and the first of several film sessions for Leach and his quarterbacks, who already have watched film with the rest of the offense.

Tonight, though, the quarterbacks will review clips from the previous day’s game with just Leach. The players are given Mondays off. On Tuesdays, the quarterbacks watch film cut-ups of the upcoming opponent’s defense. On Wednesdays, the quarterbacks watch more film of their foe along with film from the previous day’s practice. That’s repeated on Thursdays and Fridays.

“This is where the scheme meets the reality,” Leach says before the film session. “On Mondays, when the players are off, the staff pores over film of the opponent and develops the game plan. It’s a long day. I probably end up watching about 30 hours of film a week. The quarterbacks probably watch about eight.”

The formula works. Since arriving in west Texas in 2000, Leach has become the face of this school, making Texas Tech one of the country’s most dynamic – and talked-about – offenses. You think of Texas Tech, you think of Leach, his mad-scientist attack and his fascination with pirates.

In the film room, the video has rolled for less than a minute before Leach spots something he doesn’t like from Potts. This will happen often on this evening. Potts was seeing his first action since suffering a concussion against New Mexico on Oct. 3; he ended up being benched at halftime and replaced by Doege.

“What did you see here?” Leach asks. “[Wide receiver] Detron [Lewis] really wasn’t open. You should have gone to this guy. You had leverage and he was open there for a moment. You can’t hold the ball that long.”

Potts’ final numbers didn’t look bad, as he completed 25 of 36 passes for 310 yards with two touchdowns. But he also had two interceptions and lost a fumble, and after the game, Leach described Potts as “statue-like.”

On the screen, Potts is getting sacked. “You have to feel this and step up,” Leach says. “It’s only one guy and he’s not on your blind side. You need to step up and avoid this.”

As Leach runs the play back – again and again – he lobs critiques at his pupils in a conversational manner; he doesn’t raise his voice, though he occasionally curses. It’s essentially a one-way exchange throughout the entire session, as the quarterbacks either offer a “yes, sir” or a nod.

On the screen, Potts is throwing an interception in the end zone. “No, we can’t have that,” says Leach, using a laser pointer to highlight an open receiver that Potts missed. “We don’t practice that, do we?

“We have an entire offense that needs to listen better. If you see that the group is anxious, huddle them up to calm them down. Make sure your messages are delivered with confidence. You need to relax. For whatever reason, you are struggling.”

Still, Leach doesn’t want to harp on the negative too much. It’s important to inject a positive message. There’s still a lot of football to be played this season.

“What did you see on that play?” Leach asks.

“I thought the receiver in the boundary was covered, so I looked to my option cutting over the middle,” Potts answers. “It looked like he was open, but their defensive back closed quickly.”

On the screen, the Tech offense rolls on.

“I think we are playing at a pretty high level here,” Leach says. “Go through your progressions. Nice job here, Seth. But I know you guys can do better.” . . . .

Doege is soaking it all in on this Sunday night. He watches and listens as the second-half tape continues to cycle by with him under center. This is his big chance. A quarterback controversy may be brewing in Lubbock, and Doege may end up starting this week against Kansas. He wants to be ready.

“That check is good, but we have some guys who are trying to do too much,” Leach says. “You did a good job on your reads. You found the hot receiver.”

Doege nods and says, “Yes, sir.”

“Good job moving your feet and staying out of trouble,” Leach says. “But when the safety went here, you should have gone here with this throw.”

On the screen, Doege drops back and fires a nice pass – which is dropped.

After about an hour, Leach has seen enough.

“Someone hit the lights.”

The first film session of the week is finished. Leach has Potts wait in the film room and tells Doege to wait in his office. Leach wants to talk to each quarterback in private, presumably to tell them who will start against Kansas.

The one-on-one sessions last about 10 minutes before the quarterbacks leave to get dressed for practice. Leach scribbles some notes on his practice agenda. There’s lots of work to do, and Leach will be back in his captain’s chair later.

Now, he pulls on a jacket and heads toward the stadium for practice. It’s cold out, about 40 degrees. The door closes behind him. The next game is six days away.

And here’s a quote from a drop caption in the article: “I would say Kliff [Kingsbury] and Graham [Harrell] liked [watching film] the most of all of my guys,” Leach says. “Those two were sons of coaches, so I think they came by in naturally. They really enjoyed it and were like gym rats.”

(H/t doubletnation.com)

On Florida’s offensive struggles, especially in pass protection

Read all about it over at Yahoo!’s Dr Saturday. Thanks as always to the Doc for the digital space.

True spread, apexing

An interesting article out of CBS Sports:

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) -The spread isn’t dead, but Missouri coach Gary Pinkel says the offense isn’t thriving like it was in recent seasons in the Big 12 and the rest of college football.

Defenses appear to be catching up to the dinking and dunking of the quick-pass offense, meaning it might not be long before a new fad crops up.

“It’s not based on empirical evidence, but I just sense so many people run versions of the spread offense – even I-formation teams – that people are getting better at defending it because they see it all the time,” Pinkel said Monday.

Pinkel’s comment came two days after his Tigers’ spread was limited to 99 yards passing in a 41-7 home loss to third-ranked Texas. Missouri, which had been averaging 405 total yards, generated 173 against the Longhorns.

Oklahoma and Nebraska also have shown a knack for slowing down the spread, but no one is doing it better than Texas of late.

The Longhorns have allowed an average of 166 total yards and 2.9 yards per play in their last four games, each against spread attacks.

Texas coach Mack Brown has made the recruitment of anti-spread defenders an emphasis.

He said all players in the secondary, safeties included, must be able to be shut down receivers in man coverage. Linebackers have to be fast and able to cover running backs or receivers coming out of five-receiver sets. The linemen all must be effective pass rushers so the need for blitzing is reduced.

So if the spread goes away, what will be the next hot offensive trend?

Maybe it’ll be the spread option, a descendent of the triple-option that Tom Osborne used at Nebraska to hammer opponents for 25 years.

Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads tried without much success to defend Navy’s spread option when he was defensive coordinator at Pittsburgh two years ago. The father of the spread option, Paul Johnson, was coaching Navy then, and the Midshipmen rolled up 497 yards.

Johnson now coaches 11th-ranked Georgia Tech, which ran on 71 of 79 plays while beating Virginia Tech 34-9 last Saturday.

“I don’t care what level of football,” Rhoads said, “that offense has a chance to be successful and it could indeed be more commonplace as we move forward.”

Texas’ Brown said he’s not so sure fans would accept the spread option because they have been so accustomed to the excitement of passing offenses.

There also is another drawback, he said: “Would you be able to come from behind if you got down three touchdowns?”

I don’t think that the spread option or flexbone will become that popular. (Though a part of me wishes it did, just to hear the NFL guys long for the days when colleges were producing QBs who threw it forty times a game from the shotgun. Didn’t know how good they had it.) But I think Mack Brown’s comments are instructive: If he can get top talent at every defensive position, and each of his defenders is better than the guy across from him, what do you gain by spreading him out to get a one-on-one? The answer is not much. Indeed I discussed this a few years ago:**

The offense has arguably become the opposite of an equalizer, it has become an amplifier: if you are talented you can really rack up the points because no one can cover Vince Young, Ted Ginn or the like one-on-one. But if you’re not, you just get sacked and no one gets open.

This is not to say that all “spreading” is out. I think there’s been a real change in the game, and athletes in space is never going out of style. I do think there already is a theme of contraction where certain players, like H-backs and the like are useful because they add blocking dimensions (both for running and pass protection) and can still leak out into pass routes. The spread stuff will be gobbled up into the whole but will still be present. But I think Pinkel is right that it doesn’t pay to just be four and five wide every single play. You become too predictable.

**FN: I looked back at that January 2006 article and saw that I said this: “(If I had to predict something [to be the wave of the future] I would say the jet/fly offense, but it has not caught on as much as I’d thought.” Was I right? Hello Wildcat!

(H/t Blutarsky.)

Reggie Bush, superfluous?

ReggieBushShutdown Corner wondered aloud recently whether Reggie Bush, whose role in the New Orleans Saints offense has rapidly diminished, hasn’t been relegated to just a peripheral role? Consider that Mike Bell and Pierre Thomas have carried the rushing load and that Drew Brees has a plethora of surehanded receivers. But I still like Bush as a valuable weapon — though in his newer, more limited role.

Although I think it’s quite possible that the Saints left several wins on the field the last few years by not going with a more trusty back between the tackles, I don’t think that devalues Bush, it just confirms what he is not: an every down back. Indeed, I look at him as basically the same as he was in high school: a wing-t wingback. That translates to the NFL as a third-down/scatback for spread sets and as a receiver, and as a slot receiver or otherwise split receiver who can motion into or out of the backfield. He is best used off misdirection as his impressive reverse and leap for a touchdown against the Dolphins showed, and as an outlet receiver. He runs fairly good option routes when covered in man-to-man by linebackers (though he gets too cute, as he does with so much else, by hopping around instead of just running a sound route), and he has averaged around ten touches a game. In his second year, by contrast, he averaged around 19 touches a game; in his first and third years he averaged closer to fifteen touches per game. I think ten is the more appropriate number. Most of the reduction has been in his rushing attempts, though his receptions has gone down too. Ultimately, I think they should continue using him as they are though maybe with a bit more motion and the like to get him favorable matchups, and this offseason he should really focus on becoming a better receiver and route runner.

The boys at the PFR Blog point out that players similar to Bush — good athletes, good receiving prowess, but little aptitude as every down, between the tackles runners — have switched to wide receiver and had success. (See also this post by Chase Stuart about Frank Gifford, Lenny Moore, Bobby Mitchell, and Charley Taylor: four of only a few players who have gone to the pro bowl as both runningbacks and wide receivers.) I agree with the sentiment if not the prescription. In modern football you don’t need to switch roles so dramatically, but the name of the modern game is versatility and “hybrid” guys give you that.

Ultimately, I think Bush’s future would be as (best case scenario) a cross between Marshall Faulk and an excellent slot receiver like Wes Welker or Brandon Stokely. Obviously Bush has more speed than all of those guys, but he hasn’t yet developed their awareness on the field. I know this sounds like the worst of all worlds but if you did it right Reggie Bush could play almost the whole game and simply move from halfback, to third-down back, to split receiver, to wing-back, all within Sean Payton’s versatile system. Now, the Saints have a lot of good players, but I’m not ready to relegate Bush to purely being an ornament. He’s just a different type of player. A big factor in his development, however, is likely whether he learns to embrace that more limited role.

Smart Notes 10/28/2009

Totally unnecessary, but nevertheless, I approve. High school quarterback throws a behind the back pass to convert a two-point try. Of course, he could have just turned and thrown it to them, but where’s the fun in that? (H/t Totalsports.)

Of course, former Redskins great Sonny Jurgensen could throw behind the back passes better than most NFL quarterbacks could throw normal passes (I once saw an NFL films clip with Jurgensen taking a five-step drop and throwing fifteen yard out cuts with timing and on the money — all behind the back). Indeed, Jurgensen even completed one of those in an all-star game and once in college.

- Buckeye analysis. There’s a new, promising site dedicated to Ohio State football, modeled after the great Trojan Football Analysis, which is dedicated to Southern Cal football. One of the earliest posts is about pass protection, and it has a very good video showing the basics of how “slide” or “gap protection” works — i.e. each lineman or blocker steps to their “gap” (though shouldn’t step so fast that they let someone shoot through the space they are vacating) and block whomever tries to come through. It is a true “zone” pass protection, and its advantage is that the defense can throw whatever stunt or inside blitz it wants and the line should be able to bottle it up. Its disadvantages are that a defense can overload one side or another, the offense usually has to preassign a few potential receivers to stay in and block, and sometimes those gap assignments can result in mismatches — i.e. a runningback on a defensive lineman. Nevertheless, it is a useful protection scheme to have.

- Does replay in the SEC work? The Clarion-Ledger asked four SEC coaches what they thought. (H/t TheWiz.)

- More on the NFL and brain injuries. The questioning didn’t go so well for the NFL, though it remains unclear whether anything will come of it. The NFL especially was criticized for basically making up its own study to try and discredit the outside studies that have shown a strong link between football and brain injuries, particularly injuries taking affect in later life.

(more…)

Football teams, brain injuries, and independent doctors

From The New York Times, reporting on Congressional hearings regarding head-injuries by NFL players:

Roger Goodell, the commissioner of the National Football League, defended the league’s response to the issue of concussions and the care of retired players before the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday in a hearing called to discuss the long-term effects of head injuries in football.

Goodell joined a chorus of voices discussing the issue at the daylong hearing. While DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the N.F.L. players association, called for more independent study of head injuries and promised that players’ safety would not be a bargaining issue with the league, a former N.F.L. team executive, Gay Culverhouse, made an impassioned plea for doctors independent of the teams to oversee care of the players.

It was Goodell, however, who was the focus of interest for Representative John Conyers Jr., Democrat of Michigan, the committee’s chairman. Conyers pressed Goodell to address the link between concussions sustained while playing football and long-term brain deterioration. The N.F.L., mostly through the comments of Dr. Ira Casson, the head of the league’s concussion committee, has frequently played down studies that have made such a link and cited the need for further study.

Asked by Conyers whether he believed there was a link between concussions and dementia, Goodell replied, “The answer is, medical experts would know better than I do.” He went on to say that he encouraged the debate and that the league was adjusting rules and standards of care to make the game safer even before the answer is found. . . .

“In a matter of public health, I do not think it’s acceptable for the league and the players association to hide behind the collective bargaining agreement,” Conyers said. “These are life-and-death issues that go to the heart of our most popular sport.”. . .

In his opening remarks, Smith, the director of the players union, did not directly take issue with the N.F.L.’s approach, although in the statement he filed with the committee he assailed the N.F.L. for “denigrating, suppressing and ignoring” research that has linked football concussions to long-term cognitive degeneration. He did, however, declare that medical issues should not be subject to negotiation in the collective bargaining agreement.

“The players of the N.F.L. will not bargain for medical care,” he said. “We will not bargain for safety. We will continue to bargain with the league, but medical care is not a bargaining issue.” . . .

Dr. Robert Cantu, a researcher from Boston University’s School of Medicine, said he believed there was “ongoing and convincing evidence” of a link between sports concussions and long-term illness. Culverhouse, former president of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and daughter of the franchise’s original owner, made the most emotional plea in her opening statement, choosing to focus on the status of team doctors. She called for independent doctors to work at games, caring for players on both sidelines.

“What this committee has to understand is, the team doctor is hired by the coach and paid by the front office,” Culverhouse said. “This team doctor is not an advocate for the players. That doctor’s role is to get those players back on the field. I have seen a wall of players surround a player as he has his knee injected so he can get back on the field.

“The players get to a point where they refuse to tell the team doctor they have suffered a concussion. They do not self-report because they know there is a backup player on the bench ready to take their position. The team doctor dresses as a coach on the sideline and he acts in many ways as a coach on the sideline. If a player chooses independent medical counsel he is considered ‘not a team player.’ He becomes a pariah. We need to stop that.” . . .

I thought this was interesting, especially this latter part. Here’s my question: Why hasn’t the players’ union hired independent (at least independent of the NFL and individual franchise) doctors to be on hand? They could be paid with union dues and they could negotiate in their collective bargaining agreement that the NFL allow these doctors full access. It’d be a second-opinion for every player, and seems like a good check. I don’t mean to impugn doctors here, but when a normal employee gets an injury or illness he doesn’t (or shouldn’t, anyway) go solely to his company provided clinician to determine whether he can work or not.

I don’t know if it’d fix these other issues, but I’d like to see teams have more independent doctors, and the players union could furnish them. Colleges and high schools have fewer choices for this, unfortunately.

Is coaching overrated?

So asks Gregg Easterbrook, in an article titled “Coaching is Overrated”:

Changing the playcaller sure helped the Redskins!

In the cult of football, surely few things are more overrated than play calling. Much football commentary, from high school stands to the NFL in prime time, boils down to: “If they ran they should have passed, and if they passed they should have run.” Other commentary boils down to: “If it worked, it was a good call, if it failed, it was a bad call,” though the call is only one of many factors in a football play. Good calls are better than bad calls — this column exerts considerable effort documenting the difference. But it’s nonsensical to think that replacing a guy who calls a lot of runs to the left with a guy who calls a lot of runs to the right will transform a team.

One factor here is the Illusion of Coaching. We want to believe that coaches are super-ultra-masterminds in control of events, and coaches do not mind encouraging that belief. But coaching is a secondary force in sports; the athletes themselves are always more important. TMQ’s immutable Law of 10 Percent holds that good coaching can improve a team by 10 percent, bad coaching can subtract from performance by 10 percent — but the rest will always be on the players themselves, their athletic ability and level of devotion, plus luck. If the players are no good or out of sync, it won’t matter what plays are called; if the players are talented and dedicated, they will succeed no matter what the sideline signals in. Unless they have bad luck, which no one can control.

Yes and no. I wholeheartedly agree that playcalling is overrated, and he is right that much of the commentary after games involves a lot of second-guessing full of hindsight bias. Few ever pose the “should he have done X?” question in terms of the probabilities and tendencies at the time, or in the context of the 10 or so seconds available to make such calls. Indeed, I have even argued that there’s a case to be made that the best playcalling might be a controlled but randomized “mixed-strategy.”

The other coaching bogeyman is the aura surrounding “in-game adjustments” or “halftime adjustments,” both of which are supposed to be the “hallmarks of good coaching.” This is another thing where there’s a kernel of truth surrounding by a lot of speculation. Yes, a good coach will not do the same thing over and over again if it isn’t working, or if the other team has figured it out. And yes, coaching a game involves an ongoing process of what the other team is doing (this is one reason why I think, even if adjustments are part of the game, “halftime adjustments” are very much overrated). But if you want to see a bad coach then I’ll show you one who tries to “adjust” to everything the other team is doing with new schemes and ideas built-in midgame. Instead, teams with good coaching pretty much run only things within their plan — i.e. stuff they had practiced during the week. Indeed, much of what fans or commentators will pick out as an “adjustment” was something in the original gameplan that just didn’t get called until the second half because of the flow of the game. Yet how can good coaches both “adjust” throughout a game and also not deviate from what they have practiced?

This brings me to where I depart from Easterbrook, that coaching is minor. (I don’t really know how to judge “overrated” — in relation to what? overrated by whom?) While playcalling is definitely overhyped (hey, the talking heads get paid to talk about something), preparation is extremely important, and much of a gameplan involves contingency planning. It also means that the “base stuff” should have the counters built in, the constraint plays are already there, and the defensive adjustments are easy to make because they are a part of the system. A good offense “implies the counter,” meaning that if a defense adjusts in some way, then playcalling is simple because there’s an obvious counter play to be called. On defense you take away the other team’s best stuff, and focus on other things as it comes, though by dictating to the offense through aggressiveness and by trying to confuse it. Unlike Easterbrook I can’t hang a number on how many wins or losses “coaching” is responsible for (and if I could I’d imagine it varies by level), I can safely say that I think weekly preparation is underrated, because it is rarely talked about — other than platitudes like “we had a great week of practice” — has a long-tail in terms of continual refinement of technique and effort that can only improve incrementally, and that everything run in the games is stuff that has been practiced over and over and over.

Two final points on the Redskins situation. (more…)

Blogpoll ballot

Rank Team Delta
1 Texas 2
2 Alabama
3 Florida 1
4 Cincinnati 1
5 Iowa 1
6 TCU 1
7 Boise State 1
8 Southern Cal 3
9 LSU
10 Georgia Tech 2
11 Penn State 2
12 Oregon 2
13 Oklahoma State 4
14 Houston 2
15 Virginia Tech
16 Utah 2
17 Miami (Florida) 7
18 Pittsburgh 1
19 West Virginia 1
20 Ohio State
21 Central Michigan
22 Brigham Young
23 Arizona 1
24 California
25 Wisconsin
Last week’s ballot
Dropped Out: New Mexico (#1), Texas Tech (#21), South Florida (#23), Idaho (#24), Kansas (#25).

A little movement at the top: I thought Texas looked the best, while Alabama struggled with Tennessee (hail Cody!) and Florida again looked less than superior, at least on offense (defense played great, again). (And I don’t think anyone who watched the UF-Miss. State game thought it was just a defensive struggle and that, in actual fact, the football was a superior brand.) After that I still like the undefeateds hanging around. I moved TCU ahead of Boise because they have looked great. Not entirely fair, but, hey, that’s polling. Cincy continues to look dominant within the domain of the Big East, even with its backup quarterback, and so hold off a one-loss Southern Cal team. GT continues to be a tough, tough team — many wrote them off as underrated early, and they probably were, but they have responded to the Miami game and have done all you could ask for. The next batch of teams will have to continue winning to stay up there or rise, and in the case of teams like Oklahoma State, that would involve huge upset victories over Texas and if they can do that, the sky is the limit (though likely not the BCS title game). The same goes for Oregon, who faces Southern Cal this weekend.

Central Michigan made it on here as my underappreciated team. They managed to beat Michigan State in excruciating fashion (much as everyone else has seemed to do). Cal and Wisconsin snuck back in after earlier stumbles and have a chance of moving up if they continue to play well.