Monday, January 15, 2007

Fightin' words

The sometimes cliquish, sometimes petty world of blogging occasionally becomes tiresome, but the gems that a certain rare type of argument can produce make sifting through the reast of the average stuff well worth it. Take, for instance, the feud between Georgia-based Braves and Birds and widely-read HeismanPundit.

I've been an anti-fan of HeismanPundit ever since I first ran across his writings for two reasons: (1) his primary focus is on one of the least meaningful awards in all of sports, and (2) his tireless insistence that, even with piles and piles of evidence to the contrary, offense wins championships. Given this, you can imagine my private glee when Braves and Birds wiped the floor with HP's "insight" last Wednesday, and then burned the mop earlier today.

My bottom line is this -- anyone who offers up "offensive scheme" as the deciding factor behind why teams win and lose games must be an unapologetic selective listener. As an example, I offer up the Michigan Wolverines. Did they win 11 games this year because they "outschemed" opponents? I mean, did you watch the Ohio State game or the Rose Bowl? Their scheme was run, run, lob or screen pass, punt. Just as it had been all year long. Michigan's offensive coordinators call a damn boring game, which features "run right" and "run left" with rare inclusions of "bomb it to Manningham" and "set up the play-action screen." But their defense takes the field and stops their opponent from scoring.

Another team that doesn't exactly rewrite the playbook is our very own Badgers, although Bielema and company are more willing to deviate from their tendencies than the Wolverines are. The Badgers did win their bowl game, after all. And who did they beat? Only the schemiest bunch of schemers this side of Urban Meyer, the WILDCAT FORMATION-loving tricksters from the University of Arkansas.

How? Why?

How do these teams that can't gameplan to save their lives wind up in prestigious bowl games? How can these dinosaurs win a dozen games as Wisconsin did, or keep their names in the national title conversation into December like Michigan? To HP, this must be a huge mystery (either that, or he deems these squads "outliers" and as such discards them). To most people, it's not. Good on Michael at Braves and Birds for getting HP's attention ... and getting the better of him.


hp said...

Since I am widely read, as you put it, I thought I would throw a little love your way.

First off, you are completely misrepresenting my position on offensive scheme. My whole point about the importance of scheme on the offensive side of the ball is not about saying one team is better than another. It is about recognizing how trends on offense affect things in college football. My recognition of a certain group of teams as having more advanced offenses is not to say they are going to go undefeated, it is merely finding a way to ascribe their levels of success and then explaining why.

Certainly, Wisconsin and Michigan do not utilize sophisticated offensive schemes. And they are good teams. I never said that you can't be a good team without a great scheme. My point is that ideally, you want both talent and scheme together. But you don't always get that. And so you have to explain why it is that Boise State is able to beat Oklahoma or why Cal is suddenly winning 10 games. It's not because of their talent, though their talent is not horrible. No, it's because they have a unique style in their offensive systems that enables them to play above their talent level. The defenses then react to this and that's then how defenses change in college football. There's nothing controversial about this. It is just common sense.

Sadly, many would prefer to just misrepresent things and go from there. More power to ya.

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