ORANGE BOWL PREVIEW – Clemson vs OSU

Posted: January 3, 2014 in UME 2013
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Clemson 10-2                  OSU 12-1
 
 

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

This year’s Orange Bowl immediately conjures up memories, both good and bad, that Buckeye sites have mentioned for the weeks leading up. Really, the chronology of events all happened in 3 years of transition for the Buckeyes: 1977-1979.
 
The Ugly
131229GatorBowlWoodyPunch06Bar none, this is the the biggest memory, not only for OSU fans, but for most fans when one thinks of Clemson vs Ohio State. Amazingly, these 2 teams have played only that one game in their 100+ year histories. But a game, due to the Woody Debacle, that will go down in Football History.
 
For sure, that moment in time was the antithesis of Power Spread Football. Spread the Mind, not the Fist, to find your power. Ironically, as a devestated 10 year old fan of both the Buckeyes and our savior, Art Schlichter, I was behind Woody all the way! I thought that Bauman was taunting our bench and deserved it. I was furious that Woody would be fired over such an event.  I was very young. 
 
Some people grow and some don’t. If I were still that 10 year old kid I would be yelling about toughness, guts, determination and overall violence as the decrees of this great game. Of course, EVERYTHING in my mind would be dictated by TALENT first and everything else distant second.
 
At least, as a youngster I was smart enough to recognize some details of the game, such as BLOCKING and TACKLING. That’s still left out of the equation with some fans. I always felt that the Oline and Dlines were more important than the QB or LBs. I thought that Center was really the true leadership position and that QBs sort of “rode” the quality of the rest of the team. Some great QBs in history didn’t get their due because of the surrounding talent on their team.
 
Of course, I was very far away from the Power Spread guru I am today. Haha. Honestly, I wasn’t aware of schemes when I played. I just wanted to hit someone. Pretty silly now when I look back.
 
But back then, as a heartbroken 10 yr old, I wanted revenge. It was not to come.  
 
The Bad
Coveting my SI Mag with Schlichter on the front, I followed the glory of the entire 1979 season with 1st year coach Earl Bruce. to glory. I knew that it was justice for the terrible firing of Woody the year before. What I didn’t know was that some slight changes in scheme enabled the young Schlichter to realize better his potential. Still, we once again weren’t as advanced as the that stinking school out west. Our one point loss in the Rose Bowl ruined our perfect season and a perfect New Year’s Day. My cousin and I were devastated. This loss became stayed with me all the way until 2008 when I expected we would have our Grand Revenge. THAT loss led to a Football Awakening for me this Power Spread website. (Read Here) 
 
The Good
Yes, I know, I did this backwards. Unfortunately, that’s because so many of the Buckeye defeats ruined great years and stick with the fans much more than a lot of the great victories. The year was 1977 and I was more concerned with the Bengals losing to the Houston Oilers and ruining their chance to get into the playoffs, than I was of the Buckeyes that year. Woody’s teams had already started to decline a bit as this great, but stubborn, coach started to fall behind the rest of the game in terms of scheme and philosophy. It seems to eventually happen to all the greats. 
 
Not a great year for Ohio State, but a great Orange Bowl win over a top notch Colorado team. Coming from behind made it all the more special. Knowing that the Top High School QB was coming to OSU next year had all of us Buckeyes, young and old alike, excited about the rebirth of Ohio State Football as the the greatest team in the Country led by the greatest coach, Woody Hayes. This was the only time the Buckeyes played in the Orange Bowl before this year.
 
 

It’s a New Era

Ohio State becomes a Power Spread Team
No longer is Ohio State always the team that loses the heartbreaking games against less talented teams with better schemes. Yes, we have our National Championships. Yes, the 2003 National Championship game in Tempe was one of the greatest games ever. Perhaps OSU’s greatest victory ever. But too many times the Buckeyes haven’t lived up to their great talent and coaching over the years. For years OSU was built on the power of the Fist much more than the power of  the Mind.
 
Ironically, the first great eras of Buckeye Football were very progressive and innovative. Going back to the 20s with the great Chic Harley and heading into the 30s with one of the greatest innovators of all time – Francis Schmidt. Paul Brown, who basically wrote the book on running a modern day football team, led us to a NC in the 1940s. Even Woody had some innovative “spread” run blocking schemes originally. These were the same concepts used by Vince Lombardi that revolutionized the game. They originally came from one of the greatest minds the game has ever seen – Sid Gillman. Gillman was a former End under the genius Schmidt and contemporary of Brown – all  in the great state of Ohio!
 
imgresWell, guess what – OSU innovation and brilliant football is back. Unbeknonwst to many, Jim Tressel really had some brilliant strategies as a Head Coach, though maybe good advice from his assistants was lacking. With Urban Meyer, this is not the case.
 
Urban is one of the 3 Originators of Power Spread football (along with RRod and Walker/Wison of Northwestern). He’s a tough, hard nosed leader in the mold of a Woody Hayes, but his ideas and concepts as a leader are far more progressive. If OSU is out coached or out schemed these days, then it’s a credit to the other team. There is so much innovation and great coaching today that it’s hard to keep track, but certainly Meyer and his staff are right in the mix.
 
OSU is once again on the leading edge in the game of football. Not just a talented, tough, motivated team that falls short when matched against teams with more progressive concepts.
 
A Power Spread Connection to Clemson
Ironically, it’s now OSU’s head coach that has influenced so much of what we see schematically in Football today. One of the many “students” of Urban Meyer is Clemson’s OC Chad Morris. He  first learned his Spread concepts from Gus Malzahn, when Gus was more of a Passing Spread guy. But later, as Chad saw the benefits of combining Power with the Spread,  he visited Urban Meyer’s staff when Meyer first arrived at Florida.
 
A few years later the roles were reversed as Chad’s Offense, his first year at Clemson, really piqued Meyer’s interest during his one year retirement. Many conversations ensued.  Meyer was hungry to learn some of the innovative tweaks that Morris added to his original Power Spread concepts. None bigger than the interesting use of Tempo, in all it’s variety, throughout the course of a single game. 
 
Furthermore, Chad was a long time High School coach in Texas and got to know OSU OC Tom Herman through the recruiting trail, during the many years that Herman was coach in Texas. Throughout history, Texas has been a breeding ground for innovative coaches. In fact, Francis Schmidt developed his pass design ideas while at TCU. Right next door was the Great Grandfather of all Spread Offense we see today – Rusty Russell. He was running 5 wide in the 1920s, when Football was still learning how to pass. Morris and Herman continue to add to the long list of Texas innovation that has greatly influenced the course of football history.
 
Clemson’s Transition to the Power Spread
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Interestingly enough, Clemson’s former head coach, Tommy Bowden, had a huge hand in Power Spread history. He  hired the creator of the Read Option – Rich Rodriguez. The Read Option is an original staple of PS Offenses. In the early days there wasn’t much in the way of a system, but Tulane and Clemson, under Bowden and Rodriguez, were the first Division 1A teams to run this scheme regularly. This led to the Power Spread revolution started first by Randy Walker and Kevin Wilson of Northwestern, soon to be followed by Urban Meyer at Bowling Green. 
 
For whatever reason, Bowden didn’t continue to use the offense after RRod left and it proved to be his downfall. His former WRs coach and long time friend, Dabo Swinney, suddenly found himself the Head Coach at Clemson in 2008. The year I was first learning the power of Scheme. Dabo originally stayed with the pro style passing game that Bowden had been running, not seeming to understand the advantages of the power spread his former boss used to run. To Swinney’s credit, though, he did have the foresight to shift gears once his “pro” offense stagnated in 2010. He hired a PS innovator in Morris and the rest is history. The last 3 years have seen a massive improvement offensively for the Clemson Tigers and a 3 year run that may be the best in school history.
 
 

TURNOVERS, TURNOVERS, TURNOVERS

Execution, Mistake Free, Hold on to the Ball. These are sayings that Coaches have used for years. Woody Hayes used to say “only three things can happen when you pass (a completion, an incompletion, and an interception) and two of them are bad.” This has long been the Fear Based thought pattern of football coaches across the country.
 
Power Spread Football is bigger than these Fearful thoughts. Power Spread Football is about FREEDOM. Freedom to run, freedom to think, freedom to have fun and freedom to win. Take the shackles off – first the ankles, then the mind.
 
So how does this work?
#1 – TURNOVERS ARE VERY IMPORTANT IN ANY KIND OF FOOTBALL
But it’s not in the old fear based way. The object should be to win every turnover battle by 2. By the end of the year that gives your team a +20 or more in the battle. Do yourselves a favor and look up all Teams around +20 in the Phil Steele Football Magazine. I guarantee that these are the top teams in the country.
 
BUT.. it doesn’t say Turnovers and Turnovers forced. It just says + or – and by how much. In other words, Turnovers on offense are only bad if the team isn’t creating turnovers. The bottom line is winning the battle. Period. 9-4 is better than 2-1. Or 1-0 as in the Woody days.
 
18ea23ee1522733eebb576322cb33a82#2 – TURNOVER BATTLES ARE WON THROUGH AGGRESSIVE FREEDOM NOT FEARFUL EXECUTION 
Show me a player who’s afraid to make mistakes and I will show you a player that is not playing to his full potential. And it’s very hard to have the freedom to play to one’s full talent with coaches constantly breathing down your neck about not making mistakes. Interestingly, when Woody Hayes called the last play of his career – the Clemson Interception – he was heard to say, “No Interceptions.” Well, of course, that’s what would happen. In a pressure situation, with a Freshman QB with a ton of fear. Of course.
 
GO FOR IT. Not in a silly over aggressive way. But set up schemes and philosophies that are simple, aggressive and fun. THAT is a way to get a player to fulfill his talent. And a team to win the Turnover Battle.
 
#3 – RESPONSE TO TURNOVERS
This is huge! Any kind of yelling or anger just leads to fear, which leads to more turnovers. Teaching fundamentals – if there’s time during a game – is great. But during a game is rarely the time. 
 
The best Response? LET’S GO GET THE BALL BACK…NOW! Play the scheme, keep it simple, attack your assignments and have fun!! THIS above all else will create the big plays that get the Turnovers. And on offense, don’t let up and don’t be scarred. The same thing – Scheme, Simple, Attack and have fun. Make big plays on both sides of the ball and don’t worry about turnovers. They will take care of themselves.
 
#4 – FUNDAMENTALS
This is always the first step in any sport. But again, teach with the right philosophy in mind. Too much fear of mistakes will lead to more turnovers. Always be the aggressor and have fun. 
 
Why am I Talking About Turnovers for This Game?
I really feel that the Turnover Battle will decide this Game. This game could go in any direction based on the Turnover Battle – blowouts either way or a close game. 
 
Clemson is for real. Make no doubt about it. And it’s not just Boyd and their WRs. They have really good Lines on both sides of the ball. Plus their Defense is way better than many think. 2 Top Notch LBs, CBs and a great True Freshman at Safety. Plus, their SpTeams are very good. 
 
Add in a top notch DC, OC and a fiery smart Head Coach and Home Field Advantage and you have OSU’s toughest opponent of the year. Yes, including the cinderella Michigan State team. Clemson easily could have been in the Title game this year, but has a little further to go on some intangibles and schemes on Defense. 
 
I do not believe OSU can win this game without being at least +2 in the Turnover Category. I also believe there’s a strong possibility they can get that as Clemson hasn’t been a great PS team in the Turnover Battles.
 
The Clemson Anomaly
Usually, the aggressive nature and variety of PS Football leads to a double digit turnover lead by the end of the year. But Clemson has not reached double digits in the plus category since Swinney has been head coach. My first thought would be that the Defense is not playing enough PS Football, thus they simply are not creating enough turnovers. But this is not the case as the Defense has created 26 Turnovers this year – tops in the Country. The Offense has committed 22 – near the bottom. +4 is about the average that Clemson has been at the last few years. This is not good enough and possibly the main reason they weren’t closer to playing in the Title game this year.
 
PS Offenses using Tempo always gain more yard and points. The question is whether the Defense can keep up. The defense is also going to give up more yards and points. Even if it evens out, the Power Spread wins because of big wins in the Turnover Battle. The SEC, USC, OU, etc has used this philosophy for years. So what’s happening at Clemson?
 
Morris arrived for the 2011 Season, increasing yardage production from 335 yds/game to 441 in 2011 and 513 in 2012. Scoring average went from 24 to 33 to 41. Defense suffered accordingly. 320 in 2010 to 394 in 2011 to 396 in 2012. Scoring went from 19 to 29 in 2011, but did improve to 25 in the first year of DC Brent Venables (former long time OU DC). Again, the Turnover Battle was only slightly on the positive during this time. Seems like a wash, right?
 
It was. But there is one other thing that PS Football brings to the table and that is Close Wins. PS Football leads to many close wins due to the free, fun and aggressive nature of the philosophy. Certainly Swinney and company aren’t running around using the term, Power Spread, but there is a great fun and aggressive nature throughout this team that shows on the field. Of course, Morris’ schemes promote this as well. In Swinney’s time, the close wins against top schools have continued to build. IF the game is on the line and especially if Morris’ offense has the ball, then most likely this will be a win for Clemson. 
 
Therefore, in spite of the weak Turnover Battle for Clemson and the struggle to keep up on Defense, they have had maybe their best 3 year run in their history. 
 
But Why the Turnovers on Offense!??
My best guess is the over concern that Swinney has shown about it. He has a natural aggressive fun loving personality, but there’s a lot of old school traits under all of that stuff on top. Even PS guru, Meyer, has old concepts that keep him rooted in mistake free football. With all the greatness of OSU’s Offense this year, Meyer’s fear of mistakes probably kept the O from reaching it’s full potential and cost us the MSU game. 
 
The more Swinney harps about turnovers, the more they will be a concern in the close ball games against the best teams. I don’t hear anything different in the press conferences this week. While Meyer actually speaks wisely of his team’s “RESPONSE” to adversity and turnovers, Swinney still exhibits a great Fear of them and how they just cannot do this anymore. Good luck. Possibly fundamentals will solve the issue – but that can only go so far. At one point the focus has to shift.
 
PS FOOTBALL = CREATE AND DICTATE – NOT ABSORB AND REACT. 
 
 

OSU – WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN

For Clemson, nothing needs to change except the Turnover Battle, which I don’t think is going to happen. For OSU to even have a chance to win this game there is a lot more that needs to happen. Mostly on Defense. 
 
Offense
1- PS PRECEPT #1 – AGGRESSION, VARIETY, BALANCE. The Buckeyes need to Spread the Ball to set up the Power. If we can roll just running the Hyde/Miller monster then great. But I do think we need the variety in simple passing schemes that Herman is brilliant at. We had one Big 10 game where we actually implemented this philosophy (MSU) and many weeks of practice since. Hopefully the execution will be better now that Meyer is back on target with PS Football. Just the correct focus can change everything. Expect better execution from Braxton and WRs in the passing game.
 
Defense
1- DIRECTION – Too many DCs and Coaches. Not enough Unity and Direction. Hopefully with Withers leaving we can see a true Fickell Defense. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but at least it’s a start. And I’m not totally blaming Withers. He should make a great Head Coach. I’m just not show schemes are his best thing and he certainly didn’t mesh with Fickell, Coombs and Vrabel’s more aggressive PS philosophy.
 
2 – SCHEME – With unity and direction, the schemes should make more sense and not be so transparent. Simple, Aggressive, Attacking. Either in all out aggression or passive aggression. With a lot of Deception. Don’t expect some perfect gameplan, but even an improvement will help. We need more variety of coverages and blitzes. We need to move our guys around pre snap and even more post snap. Fickell knows all of this, he just needs to do it. I’m not sure how much time there was to implement too much stuff. But again, even some added wrinkles will help. (for details, see Ross Fulton’s analysis at 11Warriors)
 
3 – FUNDAMENTALS – This falls into place with the above. Also, we were too hyped up for the Big 10 Championship. Some really crazy penalties from players that were basically out of their mind with excitement. That’s what happens when we go 2 years without a chance to control our destiny. Can’t blame them for that. But now, with more controlled passion,  better direction and schemes, I think we won’t see all the crazy mistakes. 
 
4 – TURNOVERS – We are due! Big time. I think Clemson’s preponderance on not making mistakes and our excitement over some simpler schemes, plus weeks of working in  one unified direction will play into OSU’s hands. Literally.
 
Special Teams
SpTeams is a staple of Power Spread Football. EVERYTHING ALL THE TIME. And throughout time SpTeams have been huge in the game. In fact, Football comes from the kicking, first and foremost. Thus, the name Foot ball.
 
Our kicking game is fantastic. Cameron Johnston a god send! Hopefully, Meyer have a Punt Block or two ready to go. I would love to see Swing Gate on the Extra Point(s) team come back. It might. As well as some innovation on the return and coverage units. With a month to prepare, look for some great stuff from Meyer – a one time Sp Team Guru! 
 
Depth
Power Spread is all about TEAM over Star. That means ALL the Team.
 
Talk all Spring and Summer about great recruits and depth. Guiton and some others early on, but once the Big 10 part of the schedule came along, there seemed to be little of it. Guys were worn down on D. Hyde overused at times. WRs not performing, but seemingly not pushed by the backups. 
 
Now, we need it! Lack of performance, suspension and injury has taken its toll. I love Meyer’s attitude in this interview. I expect we will see more Depth and some of that young talent. Finally.
 

PREDICTION

Buckeye Problems
13-12-31-FB-0645-DHIt’s fun to have a meaningful Bowl Game again. It won’t be if the above aren’t fixed to some degree. A month is not enough time for a full transformation, but certainly there should be improvement from a Meyer coached team. 
 
Another issue may be absence of Spence and Roby. But Power Spread is all about TEAM and as Meyer indicated, OSU has the guys to do the job! Watch for Marcus the Terminator! And players like Reeves and Perry have played much better than the credit given by the fans. Supposedly Von Bell has looked great at the Nickel and Powell at Safety. Honestly, my bigger worry is the Flu Bug, but supposedly it’s only a 24 hr thing and the team is ready to go. The excitement of a big game should push the Bug to the side. 
 
There’s more. Will we have a letdown not being in the Title game. Certainly Clemson will not. They will be fired up as this is another great opportunity for them to take the next step in the program. AND.. they are playing much closer to home. Sunny Florida is what this Carolina team likes. OSU fans travel well, but it will be hard to believe that they won’t be outnumbered by Clemson fans. Still, it’s not a Florida team, so who knows.
Smooth Sailing for Clemson?
The bottom line is that almost all the intangibles and variables lead to a Clemson win if not a blowout. They have had smooth sailing right up to Bowl Time, while the Buckeyes have endured the first loss in 2 years and a host of other problems.
 
Earlier this week on Twitter I got excited and predicted a huge buckeye mashing.
I have to back off that pick now. I do have a feeling we are going to shine on Friday night, but looking more closely at Clemson this is a very good team all the way around. The only way it will happen is if they OSU wins the Turnover Battle big time. It could happen. In fact, anything could happen. Most are predicting a shootout. Both Defenses are better than the fans think, but there will be points. No doubt about it. I won’t be surprised by a blowout on either side.
 
In the end I will say that it stays close until OSU gets up by 2 TDs late in the half. Clemson presses in the 2nd Half – makes those dreaded turnovers – OSU doesn’t drop interceptions and fumbles this time and goes on to run away late. 48-31.
 
I also think both teams will have big plays on SpTeams, but OSU will have more. Especially in the 2nd Half.
 
But believe me when I say – I really don’t know. For the last time, I wouldn’t be surprised by anything in this game. I also wouldn’t be surprised by an Instant Classic with last second heroics by either Boyd or Miller.
 
Two excellent teams with top talent all the way around – even special teams – and top coaching and schemes. May the best team win.
OSU 48    Clemson 31    
Comments
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