2019 COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFFS – Semifinals Preview

Posted: December 28, 2019 in All Things Power Spread
PS Pro Ready to Go!

Everyone’s moving to the PS Pro. Joe Brady has made a big splash as CO-OC of LSU this year and his work with Joe Burrow, but it’s not just him. Ryan Day of OSU has also implemented his own version of PS Pro. Lincoln Riley of Oklahoma is running a sort of PS 2020 hybrid of PS AR/Bone/Pro, which is heavy on the Power, but still big on the Spread. Finally there’s Jeff Scott of Clemson, who runs a version of old school RichRod PS with Tony Elliot, but has implemented some pro concepts from his roots.

Defense anyone?

With all the talk of the Offenses and talented QBs on that side of the ball, the Defenses for each team have been sort of an afterthought. Certainly, everyone has got to know about Brent Venables brilliance as a DC by now. Then there’s Dave Aranda for LSU – most fans have heard of him. But there’s also Alex Grinch and Greg Mattison.

Most don’t know about Grinch yet, because he’s still a relative newbie. He has an excellent background and runs a scheme that can really mix aggression from a more traditional type of set or exotic sets. Very similar to Venables philosophy. Passive Aggressive – where the opponent really doesn’t know when or where the pressure is coming.

Interestingly, Grinch was on Ohio State last year and was replaced by Mattison. Mattison is the opposite of Grinch in age and experience, but the same in familiarity with the fans. Mattison has had a wide range of experience. Of late he grabbed some great ideas while working with Don Brown at Michigan the last several years. Always a solid coach, his schemes on Defense this year have shown more Aggressive Variety than what I’ve seen from him in the past.

Blowouts or Tossups?

From what I have heard and read, many are expecting an LSU win, but a complete toss up in the Ohio State / Clemson matchup. I actually believe both games could go either way.

LSU was the best team all year. No doubt about. Easily, the toughest schedule and the most experience. Talent and Schemes behind them as well.

But OU has playoff Experience under Lincoln Riley. They definitely should be a big underdog, but we’ve seen it before. At this time of year, all these teams are good. OU is improving on Defense and Riley is a master of almost a futuristic style of PS Offense. So it may not be the blowout most are expecting.

The other game is definitely a toss up. Two great teams. One with more recent playoff experience in Clemson. One who’s really the most talented team in the Playoffs in Ohio State and led by a very top notch Head Coach in Ryan Day.

It’s going to be fun. Here’s a closer look at each game.

LSU vs Oklahoma

I really see OU having a chance in this game. I also feel this game could be a blowout by LSU. They simply have had a great year – the best year in College Football. My worry for them is simply their recent College Playoff experience versus the experience of Oklahoma

LSU Offense and two misperceptions

There is some misperception out there about LSU’s offense. I have heard everyone talk about Joe Brady. I can tell you that Steve Ensminger is a big part of what’s happening this year at LSU. He is a wily old vet – in the Pro Pass Spread tradition. He learned alot of the PS Multiple Pro schemes of James Canada recently that added greatly to his repertoire of knowlege. He is supposed to be a great teacher and easy to work with and is proving it this year with young “gun for hire” Brady.

The other misperception is that this is an Air Raid Offense. Absolutely not. Ensminger is a Pro guy. Old School Gillman WCO stuff. Canada is not an AR guy either. Brady learned from Joe Moorhead, who uses some Air Raid concepts, but is mainly PS Pro all the way. Brady also learned under the great offensive mind of Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints. Again – Pro PS or PS Pro. Certainly not Air Raid. Though Sean has experience in the Run and Shoot – but that is a long time ago.

Whatever you call this offense, it has been great all year. Great talent at WR and the Oline has enabled QB Burrow to be the best he can be all year.

Can OU stop Burrow and Company? Can they score enough points?

Possibly. Alex Grinch is a creative Coordinator. He will bring pressure from nowhere. Then show phantom pressure and back off into tricky coverages downfield. Burrow could definitely make some big mistakes in the biggest game of his life.

The problem for OU is that they are still developing on Defense. Getting better, but developing. Plus LSU has a load of talent. LSU’s biggest edge in the game may be at Offensive Line.

No one is talking about this, but OU had an inexperienced OLine coming into the year. Not LSU, who has one of the best and most experienced OLines in the country. For me, this makes LSU hard to beat. Even if Burrow makes some mistakes.

Prognostication – LSU in a great Comeback!

I really think we could see OU start off making big plays on both Defense as well as Offense. Possibly even jump out to a big lead – like they did vs Georgia a couple of years ago. But like that GA game – can they hold onto a big lead??

Certainly Grinch is a big improvement on Defense, but I have a feeling Burrow and company may settle down in the 2nd Half and make a great comeback. Then eat up the clock with an underrated Power Run game to seal the deal.

Everyone talks about OU’s own power run game with QB Jalen Hurts, but I think Hurts will hurt LSU with big pass plays early on. Again, though, I think interceptions and fumbles down the stretch will hurt his team.

One last thought – OLines. OU has had issues on Oline at times this year versus lesser competition. Dave Aranda is not getting enough credit for what he does as a Defensive Coordinator at LSU. He will mix up some big blitzes and with the talent LSU has on D, I do feel they will also get a lot of big plays vs that OU Offensive Line.

I won’t give a score, but LSU makes a 2nd Half comeback and while Aranda should be the one getting the praise, it will be QB Burrow who once again gets all the fanfare.

Ohio State vs Clemson

This is a really tough one to call. Like Oklahoma, Clemson has the playoff experience. Unlike OU, Clemson has a talented experienced OLine, more overall experience/talent and the best Defensive Coordinator in College – maybe all of Football. Ohio State has the most talent and had the 2nd best year next to LSU.

Brent Venables

I have to start with Venables. I’ve talked about him for years. He continues to improve his schemes. Now he’s running some sort of 3-3-3 hybrid, while still bring pressure from anywhere and everywhere.

Or not.

He’s a master at Phantom Pressure. Showing blitz looks and dropping into zone. Or pressuring with zone blitzes from another area of the field. CBs / Safties – everyone blitzes.

His Zone Coverages are also tricky. But again, they are just looks. Tricky for the Offense. Not tricky for his players. In fact, during my research, I marvelled at how simple his Zone and Man Covererages really were. A lot of times it’s just a simple 12, 21 etc. For example – show a Cover 2 – drop into a Cover 1 pre-snap, then move into Cover 3. Sound complicated? It’s not.

Clemson has all of their experience and a lot of their talent on the Offensive side of the ball. But those who were worried for Clemson’s Defense didn’t understand just how well Venables can scheme.

This could be a big problem for OSU and their Offense.

OSU Offense

OSU’s fantastic QB, Justin Fields, still struggles some with the progression reads required of the PS Pro Offense. As noted above, Venables is a master of disguise. This could be disaster for the Buckeyes.

Also, the OSU OLine is still very young like the Oklahoma OLine. The difference with OSU is that their OLineman are extremely talented top recruits and have proven themselves all year long.

I feel that the OSU OLine has a much better chance to play well than the OU line vs LSU. I worry about Fields in the Pocket, but I have a feeling Ryan Day will have a good aggressive plan. Move Fields around. Mix up the schemes. Get the ball out of his hands. And once the space opens up – pound the running game!

This could wear down the smallish Clemson Defense late in the game. Setting up big plays and possibly eating up the play clock with a lead late in the game. RB Dobbins is one of the best and very underrated. Teague is a powerhouse backup.

Clemson OScheme – Weakest of the Four Playoff Teams

So what about the Clemson Offense. Ironically, they no longer are at the top of the heap in PS Scheme. When they had Chad Morris a few years ago they were cutting edge. They have since moved more towards a PS Pro scheme, like their opponent, but it isn’t nearly as effective as what Day brings to the table at OSU.

There are some RPOs and other interesting concepts, but there’s also a lot of conservative Max Protections, relying solely on the talent of their QB and WRs. This works versus most teams, but may be a problem versus the talent the Buckeyes possess.

OSU Defensive Zone Mix

As I said about Greg Mattison above, he has done a real nice job with the OSU Defensive Scheme this year. He’s mixed Zone and Man coverages superbly.

A lot of solid fundamental football from a 4-3 set with an interesting tweak in the secondary. One Safety and 3 CBs. Because of the talent of our CBs it has worked almost perfectly.

The offense their facing, while not the greatest schematically, it is the most talent they’ve seen all year. The have to protect against a big strong armed dual-threat QB with possibly the best WR Corps in the Country. Plus an experienced top notch OLine.

My guess is that Mattison will play more Zone Defense today. Try to mix it up and bring some suprise blitzes. But with Clemson using a lot of 6 and 7 man protections and QB Lawrence’s ability to run, it doesn’t make sense to play too much M2M. Especially versus the Pro WCO crossing routes Clemson will run.

Clemson also likes to surprise with quick screens to top RB Etienne. Again, showing pressure, but then dropping into a zone scheme, is a great way to defend against screens. Mattison’s done this throughout the year.

Clemson Weak Schedule

As I keep saying, Ohio State hasn’t seen talent like Clemson’s Offense or Speed like their Defense or a DC like Brent Venables. But guess what. Clemson hasn’t seen anything like this Ohio State team all year!

Clemson had, by far, the weakest schedule of any of the 4 playoff teams. While they have the best Defensive Scheme, their Offensive scheme is the weakest. OSU has good schemes on Defense. Even better on Offense.

Prognostication – OSU in a barnfight!

I really think that OSU’s talent on Defense will be able to deal with the great OLine and WRs of Clemson and shake Lawrence up. Lawrence has the pressure now. Last year he was a rookie. Now he is “supposed” to do it. Good luck against this OSU Talent.

On Offense I think Fields may make some mistakes, but overall hang in vs Venables tricky Defense. I think OSU’s power run game will ramp up in the 2nd Quarter and 2nd Half. I think they can control the ball.

Overall I think Day will have a Plan. He definitely has the players. Best talent in Football this year. I think our young guys will stay tough through adversity. I think Clemson’s weak schedule will hurt them before this game is over.

Close. Maybe more defensive than we expect. Less scoring – especially if one team takes control – but OSU will continue their great year and win a close one.

The two best teams all year will meet in the National Championship and OSU will have their revenge for many years of losses to Clemson – dating back to 1977 when they crushed my heart and caused Woody to retire!!


  1. […] have been correct so far about the young OU OLine getting overwhelmed by Aranda’s Pressure Defense. The OU […]

  2. […] gets revenge dating back to 1977 when Clemson caused Woody to retire! powerspread.net/2019/12/28/201… @CoachUrbanMeyer… twitter.com/i/web/status/1… […]

  3. […] assistant Steve Ensminger syncing with Brady to form a powerful PS Pro hybrid in a Canada/Moorhead/Payton […]

  4. […] year it was PS Pro. This year it is PS 2020 as we move into an era of Full PS. Of the 4 playoff Offenses, 3 are of the […]

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