SPORTS WATCH | Old or New School in National Championship Game?
by Gus Jarvis
Nov 10, 2012 | 665 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Let’s just say the trash-talking has already begun in what could be a matchup of entirely different offenses in this year’s Bowl Championship Series National Championship game. And, if it does happen, the game could be a matchup the old school versus the new school when it comes to running an offense.

So it may be a bit premature to be talking about what two teams will be in the National Championship game this year, and there is a lot of football yet to be played, but as it looks right now, it will be the ground and-pound-offense of the Alabama Crimson Tide taking on the flashy, high-speed and high-powered offense of the Oregon Ducks.

It is a game I would love to see, because I have no idea what would happen – I’m not sure anyone has any idea of what would happen.

I’ve always been an SEC football kind of guy, so I’d like to think the traditional offense of Alabama coach Nick Saban would grind it out in the end. But the way the Oregon Ducks move the ball under head coach Chip Kelly’s system, I just don’t know if Alabama will be able to keep up. Seeing that the stars are aligning for an Alabama-Oregon showdown on Jan. 5, it seems Saban is already a bit worried about the turbo-charged offense of the Ducks.

A story in The New York Times this week quoted a very critical Saban on the fast-paced style of the offense Oregon runs. In short, he questions the fast-paced nature of it, without offensive huddles, and whether or not it may be detrimental to player safety.

“I don’t have anything against no-huddle,” Saban told The Times. “It’s a tremendous advantage to the offense. So I don’t blame any offensive coach for wanting to do it, and taking advantage of it, deceiving the defense with the pace of the game, whatever you want to call it. But I just think that someone should examine: is this where we want this to go for player safety?”

For me, coach Saban is one of the most, if not the most, impressive coaches in all of football right now. After winning the national championship last year, Saban lost a large number of players to the NFL draft. To see his team come back and, perhaps, come back even stronger this year, you have to admit the guy has a football system that is firing on all cylinders right now. Saban is the Obi-Wan Kenobi of college football right now. I don’t know how he does it.

That’s why I must say I am surprised at his comments about Oregon’s style of offense, and whether that fast paced offense goes against player safety or not. I’m not sure it has anything to do with player safety, but it has everything to do with the direction football is going right now.

Did you happen to watch Oregon play the University of Colorado a few weeks ago? OK, so CU has the worst defense in all of college football, but Oregon put up something like 42 points with 11 minutes left in the second quarter. That’s right, the second quarter. I wonder if teams playing against thin air can score the ball that quickly?

In their Pac-12 rivalry game last weekend against the USC Trojans, the Ducks ran a play about every 20 seconds and averaged about nine yards per play. Freshman quarterback  Marcus Mariota won the 62-51 game with 400 total yards of offense, while running back Kenjon Barner touched the ball a whopping 40 times during the game, for 347 total yards and five touchdowns.

Anyone watching this team run their offense knows what the system is really based on: Run as many offensive plays as possible, and you will win the game. Score, score, score score. But Saban told The Times that his interpretation is different: defenders bent over, sucking air after 14-play drives, forced to stay on the field because the offense will not huddle, caught in awkward positions because the ball is snapped so quickly, before they are ready.

“Is this where we want to go?” Saban asked. “I grew up in old-fashioned execution, blocking, tackling, being able to run the pass route well enough to get open, throw the ball well enough to complete it. Not trying to make the other guy play so fast he can’t even get where he’s supposed to be. But it is what it is.”

For Saban to even ask that question, I think, shows he is a bit behind the times. While Oregon’s offense is the current model of a turbo-charged offense, we are beginning to see it in the National Football League more and more, as well. Not exactly the flashy, crazy play offense of Oregon, but certainly fast-paced. Yes, there have always been two-minute, no huddle offenses, but pro teams are starting to play that style randomly, and are doing it more often. Is that where we want football to go? Hell, I don’t know. What I do know is that it works. I wish Peyton Manning would go no-huddle all the time. Even the Dallas Cowboys during Sunday night’s loss against the Falcons showed that the only way they could score was if they ran a hurried offense.

It’s not going to be long before we get a coach in the NFL who is going to want to run an offense just like the Oregon Ducks. It may take a season or two to get ironed out but I believe it’s coming and I believe it will be successful. Football, both in college and the NFL, is going to continue the trend to being faster. Players can’t get much stronger these days but the game itself can still be faster. And that’s what Chip Kelly has figured out. The game can always be faster.

That’s why this upcoming National Championship game is going to be so special. It will be the new school trend of fast and crazy versus the old school style of ground and pound. It will be fascinating football to watch. Traditionalists will say Alabama will win because they will control the ball and win the time-of-possession battle. (If you keep Oregon’s offense off the field, it can’t score.)

Others will say that won’t matter, because Oregon will only need three minutes to score a touchdown to keep up. I am already excited about this game. The only thing that could ruin this scenario is if the Notre Dame Fighting Irish continue to get lucky and find their way into the game instead.

If that’s the case, it will be the worst national championship of all time.

 

gjarvis@watchnewspapers.com

Twitter: @gusgusj

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