Archive for November, 2011

This is a guy I was studying back in 2008 when I was learning why Florida wiped out  a much more talented (and yes speedier) OSU team in Jan of 2007.  I also studied all the recruiting, talent and coaches in the SEC in 2008/2009 and quickly found out the wins over the Big 10 were not matters of talent and speed,  but coaches and schemes.  There’s a reason for the SEC having the highest paid assistants.

The Urban Meyer Schemes and Way changing OSU forever more – a foray into the future of the ever changing face of American Football!

Back to the Future – Shotgun Football (A 100 year full circle starting early last century)

OSU’s failure to understand the full implications of the Spread and the BALANCE of the PS

The morphing of the Passing Spread into the Power Spread, seen as the illusionary death of the Spread Offense in College Football

A True Power SpreadThe Florida Gator/Urban Meyer Offense

Urban Meyer – more than just Offensive Schemes  He has learned from a lot of coaches – yes, even the Power Spread.  And he was a great Special Teams coach before anything else.  He has always delegated well, recruited well and paid attention to all the details required to produce top teams.  In fact, he has a lot in common with a former great coach here at OSU named Jim Tressel.  And like Tressel he tended to take on too much and not let his highly paid assistants take over when needed.

Here’s a scary thought – as good as Meyer was, he may be better now. He has made mistakes in the past – even mistakenly moving away from his own gem of an offense!  He has the experience of years now.   And if there was one element as a Head Coach that a Nick Saban had over Meyer it was the ability to let his assistants do their job and not give into the obsessional need to take over ever phase of the team.  Meyer says he has learned from his time off – I BELIEVE HIM – expect this detailed, smart, open minded coach to be a Saban like delegator making him the Coach of the Year for 2012!


Kurt to Drew:

Read the link.  Skip to last bullet point if you wish.  Meyer has maintained a relationship with Coach Stud apparently…

Drew to Kurt:
I said it before and I will say it again – Miles is holding back Studs, just like he would have done with Krags and he did with Crowton.  With more control, Crowton would have most likely  ran more intricate passing spreads , but with only a little Power Spread mixed in – but at least he would have gotten rid of a lot of the once successful, but now outdated two back stuff and veer option football that Miles ran back as an OC at Oklahoma St in the 90s .  Krags would have also been more about the passing spread, but with a little more PS mixed in and staying more with one back sets.   Studs = PS ALL THE WAY, as he comes directly from the Urban Meyer lineage at Bowling Green.  

I know he’s an OL coach  and that could be a problem – but like I said – I keep an open mind –  he’s an individual and NO ONE has free reign to work the PS or any Spread at LSU with Miles in charge.

I tell you this I like some of the stuff I have seen from LSU’s scheming and play calling this year -but then all of a sudden it sucks again.  I know that Krag supposedly still has influence , but I cant help but think that Studs is working some good stuff into the LSU offense this year, but  as always, Mile’s insists at sticking with what “he knows” over and over and over again.  Mile’s is very successful in many aspects of being a Head Coach, from recruiting to motivation, but he’s not the up and coming offensive mind that he seemed to be in the 90s with Oklahoma State.  If there’s been one and possibly his only flaw at LSU its in his lack of any real focus on offense and his inability to forge his old school concepts on offense with what is happening today.

Put it this way – Meyer/Studs or Tressel/Bolshit – to run an offense?  Remember that a former Meyer protege at Florida, Stan Drayton, is already our WRS coach! He hails from Allegheny College in my area of Western PA and where my cousin went to school and played Hockey!

ONE REQUEST TO URBANPlease keep Fickell -who was turning into a heckuva Defensive Coordinator before the whole tattoo mess!


Tonic East, Penn State HQ NYC

Penn State has been the text-book definition of stability for nearly half a century.  Many things have come and gone in the world of college athletics and more specifically college football, but Penn State has always had stability in their head football coach Joe Paterno.  All of that changed in less than a week. On October 29th JoePa notched his 409th win topping the legendary Eddie Robinson, a week later former Penn State player and coach Jerry Sandusky was arrested on allegations of child molestation.  The walls which Paterno had literally erected himself over the course of 61 years at the university were closing in on him quickly.  By Wednesday night the board of trustees were forced to fire him, students rioted in the streets and all of the fully over-caffeinated news outlets figured out where State College in on a map, then arrived in droves beaming news across the globe.  All this, and yet there was still a crucial game against Nebraska to be played on Saturday.

Tonic East, Murray Hill, NYC

Make no mistake, I’ve always liked, respected and admired Joe Paterno, being an alumnus and fan of a rival school made no difference to me.  So as much as it was for anyone else, I also found it quite difficult to come to grips with the events of the week.  I decided I needed to go to the Penn State bar on Saturday to discover first-hand what their thoughts and reactions to the events were.

Too much first-half shutout? Have some sun with that $7 beer.

Penn State alums and fans gather at Tonic East in Murray Hill.  It is among the larger CFB underground bars in NYC: it has two stories of internal bar space and a third story which is a semi-enclosed rooftop space with an open-sky terrace with views west to the Empire State Building.

I arrived a few moments before kickoff and found the first floor to be absolutely packed.  The general pre-game vibe was not incredibly different than any I would expect it to be for any other game.  Except for one moment, when both teams broke the pre-game schedule for a prayer at midfield.  This was really, the only significant moment at the bar.

In contrast to LSU folk, the Penn Staters like some techno with their Livin’ on a Prayer (slightly ironic), and then they also have a tradition of singing Hey! Baby by DJ Otzi.  Yes, we’re nowhere remotely close to Baton Rouge.

Nittany faithful cheering on a 2nd half comeback

Penn Staters do not have issues with wearing jerseys in public.  Similar to my Buckeye brethren, they’re selective about what the number on the jersey means and who it represents.  One of the guys I met at the bar was wearing a #11 home blue jersey, and he made it clear that it was Lavar Arrington’s number.

Generally, the people I spoke with agreed entirely with the board of trustees decision to fire Paterno.  It was clear that they were shell-shocked by the turn of events, and sad to see their idol go down so unceremoniously.  Though there was some historical perspective in the mess: like Woody Hayes arriving home in a police car or Bobby Bowden’s awkward forced-retirement/pushed-out-of-the-way, just to name a couple.  We laughed that like those guys, Paterno could have never heeded Batman’s advice, to simply walk-off as a hero well over a decade ago, at least.

Tonic East rooftop bar

The Nittany Lions were en route to being shut out in the first half, much to the dismay of a friend I had made.  After a particularly terrible sequence of i-formation runs off-tackle for little to no gain leading to a punt he screamed I SWEAR SOMETIMES PATERNO’S STILL AROUND!  Then we got back to discussing more relevant matters, such as rumors about Urban Meyer having contacted a real estate agent in the Happy Valley area.

Being inside that bar, that day (especially as an Ohio State fan – they dislike us quite intensely) provided a very strange and also historical moment to glimpse into the world of expat Penn Staters in New York City.


Welcome to The Notes from the New York City College Football Underground!

The Empire State Building does not intimidate Mike The Tiger

This past Gameday Saturday I discovered that Dante was unaware of another circle of Hell: SEC football; number 1 versus number 2; late in the regular season.

LSU entered the game undefeated (8-0) on the season and ranked #1 in every major poll.  Their opponent Alabama entered the game undefeated (8-0) as well and ranked #2 in all of the same polls.  They both find themselves in the SEC West, making this game effectively an elimination game for the SEC Championship Game.  The winner would have full command of their own destiny en route to the aforementioned SEC Championship Game with the ultimate goal being the BCS Championship Game (which will coincidentally be played in New Orleans).

I joined several LSU friends for this game.  From my perspective as an Ohio State fan committing to step foot inside their New York City outpost was very difficult.  In my ideal world neither team would win and a bolt of lightning would strike them both down.

The bar in the city where all LSU folk gather is Legends on 33rd St across the street from the Empire State Building.  We heard the bar was expecting 500 people and the crowd reached that capacity an hour before kickoff.  A line formed outside on the sidewalk, and you could only get in if someone else came out–and no one was was going anywhere.

I dressed as neutrally as possible, jeans and a grey shirt, and of course my OSU ballcap.  This immediately ruffled the feathers of my friends who were naturally sporting their purple and gold in clever southern ways.  I’ve found that in the midwest we’re not subtle or particularly classy about how we display for the outside world our schools of allegiance.  Primarily we communicate it through the use of  jerseys.  In the south, it’s almost anything but a jersey.  And for women it’s all about the sundresses.  Old habits die-hard and it only takes a moment inside Legends, at the base of the Empire State Building in New York City, to become vividly cognizant of a complete and total culture shock.

While I am a general newbie to many things SEC, this was not my first experience of transplant SEC football in NYC (I’ve put in some time at the Auburn bar).  Who knew there were even a dozen LSU fans up here in Yankee Territory, let alone over 500!  Much like student seating in the SEC (or perhaps everywhere but Ohio State), there are no reservations at Legends, first come, first serve.  I arrived at 4 (4 hours before kickoff) and could not find a seat that wasn’t already spoken for.  I understood that people were showing up as early as 2, hawking the prime seating and tv viewing spaces in the bar.

Among other things that I did not know about LSU was their love of all songs (primarily country) involving keywords such as Baton Rouge, Louisiana, cotton, Eye of the Tiger and Don’t Stop Believing.  They really love them some Garth.  My ears were subjected to several renditions of Callin’ Baton Rouge.  Everyone sang it, and they sang EVERY.  SINGLE.  WORD.

Legends, lower bar

Finally, after hours of waiting, the game was about to get underway.  Per typical televised football game protocol, CBS introduced the viewing audience to each teams respective head coach.  When they popped up on the screen the face of Nick Saban, Legends sent off a chrorus of booing that could be heard from the top of the Empire State Building.  Then when they introduced us to Les Miles, well, Les is up there with Garth from what I gather.  The love-hate relationship from an outsiders perspective is a beautiful thing: Nick Saban rectified the program, and delivered their first National Championship in 45 years.  He was Saint Nick.  Now they hate his guts, and they’ve found a new love, Les Miles.

It wasn’t long before I started to piece together why this fan-base loves their current coach so much.  Jarrett Lee is not such a mobile type under center, so it wasn’t long into the game when he started feeling some intense heat from the Bama defense.  So on one particular play, with a Alabama defensive lineman about to put a punishing on him, Lee desperately heaved the ball out-of-bounds.  He still took a serious hit, but he did not take a sack and negative yards.  Tactically, a smart play.  One of my friends however, was not pleased with the play at all.  He said, “LEE’S GOTTA TAKE THAT HIT LIKE A MAN!”  To me, this explains everything they love about Les Miles: it’s not really about doing the smart or tactical thing, it’s about doing the manly thing.  The quarterback doesn’t just hand the ball off, they pitch it to the halfback then block the backside defensive end; his punter doesn’t just run the fake field goal in for a touchdown, he taunts defenders as they score – THE PUNTER!  They love Les because he’s created an alternate universe where the objective is just as much about kicking ass (as they chant after every first down) as it is about actually, winning.

So the game was billed the Game of the Century, and I wasn’t about to argue the topic with anyone Saturday night.  By the end of the fourth quarter Alabama was content to go to overtime.  LSU basked in the intensity of the game.  LSU held Alabama to a field goal attempt which was blocked.  They could taste victory, they had been outplayed on the night (again, a topic I was not about to bring up with anyone), but they knew victory was close.  Within a couple plays of their overtime possession they thought they had it won on a great run by Michael Ford.  The bar erupted and it took several plays for everyone to realize it wasn’t over yet.  Les appropriately centered the ball for the kicker.  Then this:

LSU won the Game of the Half-Century (as I’m calling it…this year).  Legends went through the roof.  And the bolt of lightning I had hope would strike down each team never came.  So I made my way through the jubilant Tiger faithful to the door where I re-entered New York City.  After experiencing Legends on this Saturday night I almost wonder if I really need to actually, you know, go to Baton Rouge!  Then I recalled what Legends had on their menu…and what I’ve heard about LSU’s tailgating food.  Yes, I hope someday soon I’ll be able to make a pilgrimage to Baton Rouge, although I’d really prefer to wait until a certain Ohioan is no longer their head coach.



This is what LSU needs to be doing with Jordan Jefferson to win the game —– POWER SPREAD —-  with the QB as a dual threat  —-  and this is the main reason I feel Alabama wins a defensive struggle.  Nick Saban’s Defense will not have trouble with the multiple Cluster of schemes that LSU runs.  And Les Miles will again do just enough to cost his team a crucial win.


OFFENSE – Alabama lost the big 3 at QB, RB and WR, but McCarron is a bigger recruit and talent than was McElroy and just lacks experience, Richardson is a MUCH bigger recruit than Ingram and an absolute monster and while those no way to replace Julio Jones, Haze and Hanks are fine in the multiple offenses skillfully handled by OC, Jim McElwain.  Plus, according to Phil Steele, Alabama has its “most exp’d OL in 3Y.”  Counting Richardson as a returning starter (since he’s a Heisman Candidate), Alabama has 8 starters returning on offense.  

LSU also has 8 starters returning on offense, but has had a switch at QB and OC this year as star QB recruit, Jordan Jefferson, found himself in a world of trouble in the offseason and former starter Jarrett Lee has seen most of the playing time.  The transition has been smooth as LSU returned 9 out of 10 Offensive Lineman, 2 starters at WR and their usual plethora of RB talent.  The big change is really at OC, where Gary Crowton never saw eye to eye with Miles and was supposed to be replaced with Spread master, Steve Kragthorpe, but he had to step down due to Parkinson’s.  Out went any real chance at consistent Power Spread with talented Jefferson as Miles is a former successful OC himself, but prefers to cling tightly to the old stand by schemes, only giving over slightly to the PS, because of Jefferson’s great running ability at QB.  With Pro Sets and some spread passing with Lee , this is easy pickings for Saban – the master at defending the passing spread. And Pro Sets are easy for any decent DC.

DEFENSE – Simple – 2 great Defenses and defensive minds. Saban is recognized as a defensive genius and Kirby Smart (DC) is his protege. John Chavis had as much to do with Tennessee’s great success in the last two decades as their head coach,  Phillip Fulmer.  His small, but speedy aggressive defenses were often overshadowed by the likes of Petyon Manning and other offensive stars.  He came to a great situation at LSU as they also use small, but speedy Linebackers and with Miles great recruiting and LSU’s traditions can actually get Chavis more talent than he even had to work with at Tennessee.  This year, according to Phil Steele, this is the most experienced LSU DL in years after several years of graduation and decline. Unfortunately, LSU lost possibly its greatest CB ever in Patrick Peterson (#1 DC ARIZ), but have 3 of 4 excellent starters back in the secondary.  With a total of 7 returning starters, LSU has had a top 3 defense all year long.

Unfortunately for LSU, Alabama has 10 starters back and has been the #1 defense all year!  With only one graduated starter on defense replaced by top notch JUCO DL, Jesse Williams, this defense is formidable and possibly better than the 2009 version. As good as LSU is on D this year, without Peterson, you have to give the nod to Alabama.

SPECIAL TEAMS – Always a staple of the detail oriented Saban teams – this year could be special as all the STeams performers are returning!  Again, LSU is hurt more by graduation as they lose a lot from their #2 ranked STeams of 2010. Miles surprisingly has had many good special teams during his head coaching career – not as much due to his attention to detail as with Saban, but more due to his all out aggressive nature and risk/reward mentality that permeates his teams.

COACHING – ALABAMA HANDS DOWN. Not necessarily because Saban is so great (overrated?) or Miles is so bad (underrated?), but because of 2 other factors

1 – Continuity – Two great DCs, but while I wouldnt call McElwain of Alabama a great OC, he’s solid, works well with Saban, and has been there a while. The OC at LSU is their OL coach under Miles and Crowton, Greg Studrawa. He also served as OL coach under Urban Meyer and Dan Mullen at Bowling Green, before being promoted to OC when Meyer left.  As OC he continued the success of  the Power Spread under Mullen and with Omar Jacobs as his QB.  I cant imagine what a PS guy like Studrawa must have felt being stuck in between Crowton’s passing spreads and Mile’s more conventional 2 back offenses. Its hard to know what Miles is thinking as Kragthorpe is a Spread guy as is Studrawa, but the problems with Jefferson changed whatever ideas any of these men might have had for LSU this past Spring.  A lot of potential with Studrawa, but a mess compared to Alabama’s solid situation and still not enough POWER SPREAD!

2 – DETAILS, DETAILS, DETAILS – While Miles is a great recruiter (possibly better than Saban, imo!), he doesnt adhere to the details that Saban does – almost no one does. He also doesnt have the organization that Saban promotes – again, almost no one does.   AND Miles will tend to take crazy risks during big games.  All these factors have lead to big losses in the past for Miles, where Saban probably wins the same type of game. Even the great LSU team of 2007 almost blew it with much disorganization, lack of detail  and crazy risk taking throughout the whole season!

BOTTOM LINE – Alabama has  lost a great leader at QB and a great WR (they replaced their Heisman RB with the same quality). LSU lost a great CB, dang good LB and had all kinds of problems this summer with their multi-talented QB.  Plus, more than anything, the OC situation is still shaky.  The losses are pretty even.

But the overall experience is on Alabama’s side.  Especially on Defense (slight edge) and Special Teams (Big Edge). Even if you give LSU the edge on offense – its only slight. Add in the coaching edge and  Home Field advantage for the Tide, plus Mile’s penchant for blowing big games and this is just too many obstacles for LSU and Alabama should win a great defensive battle

ONE CHANCE FOR LSU? – I will finish how I started:

POWER SPREAD WITH JEFFERSON (like OSU needed to do with this guy below!)



So this is the biggie?!  #1 LSU going to Tuscaloosa to take on #1 Alabama.  Here’s my brief assessment of the game.


THE OFFENSES:  From an offensive standpoint neither team does much that is very interesting.  Alabama and Jim McElwain will tend to be a little more out-of-the-box than LSU.  McElwain has utilized some Pistol sets in the past, most notably during their title chase in 2009.   Despite some of the talk about how loaded Bama is with talent, I don’t see an extraordinary amount of it on the offensive side of the ball.

LSU, with Jarrett Lee under center is a traditional 2-back offense that looks to run first with power and set up an efficient passing game from it.  Of course, this comes as news to no one.  It’s a traditional scheme but they’re very good in its execution and it’s operated with highly talented players.

Both offenses are pretty vanilla, but there is talent at the skill positions: RB for Bama and RB/WR for LSU.


THE DEFENSES:  This is where each team excels.  Saban has long been hailed a genius on this of the ball.  Bama defense is experienced, returning 7 starters from last year’s unit and the numbers have them as the #1 defense in the land.

LSU is not far behind in those rankings checking in at #4.  LSU is also returning 7 starters on defense and has managed to defeat 2 of the best offenses in the game this season, Oregon and West Virginia.  In both games they were outgained, and against WVU outright gashed for over 500 yards, but they won the turnvovers and won the games.

I can’t imagine either of these defenses will find it very difficult to shut down the opposing offense.

SPECIAL TEAMS:  I feel like each team is complete opposites here, but I could very well be wrong.  Saban is a detail nut, and his special teams are solid.  Miles seems like a predictable old-school guy (just look at the offense) but yet will call for fake anythings at any given moment and get away with it whether they’re well-executed or not.

VERDICT:  LSU wins.  For me the difference comes down to the same position for each team, quarterback.  Jarrett Lee is likely the least talented player on either team, yet he plays at the most critical position and simply gets it done.  He brings a lot of experience with him and he’s very smart with the ball, which is of utmost importance in games like this.

AJ McCarron is talented, but much less experienced and has struggled against the best defense he saw this year, Penn State and fared worse against Florida’s Muschamp defense.  John Chavis’ defense is great at excellent at creating confusion, it will look like they’re blitzing everyone, but they’ll drop 7 into coverage.  This will present a big challenge for first-year starter McCarron.

It will be close, but with Lee taking the snaps, and LSU’s defense creating confusion for McCarron, I see LSU winning.

LSU: 17

Alabama: 9