I'm a bad college football fan. The last version of EA's NCAA Football I own is 2009, I think, and the fact that I have to think about that should tell you something. Actually, come to think of it, I'm pretty sure it's the 2009 version, because I was all excited about Jim Chaney coming into town and all disappointed that EA's playbook was basically the same thing from under Fulmer. Anyway. You might be somewhat surprised to learn that I actually really enjoyed running the ball. Like, a lot, and pretty much the only pass I'd ever use was a variant on a slant. Anyway, so I'd run Power O about 15 different times from four different formations, and then I'd see that PA Power O was set up! with little flashing lights and everything so that means I'm supposed to call it, right?
Then I call it, the QB takes 18 seconds to execute the handoff, and I get the Oregon-against-Nick-Fairley treatment. That doesn't mean it was a bad idea, though, just that HOLY COW HAND THE BALL OFF FASTER VIRTUAL JONATHAN CROMPTON. I found something on offense that worked - roughly a pro-style combination of Power O, Iso / Draw-type runs, slants, and a few balls over the top, and that was basically it. I'd mix in a few other plays per game depending on what I liked and what I was - or wasn't successful - with. (hint: play action didn't make the cut often.)
That's really all an offense is trying to do; I had a limited set of options that I was very good at, with some other stuff sprinkled around. Was it a philosophy? Nope, just a set of plays. That's about it. I was successful as long as the defense couldn't easily take away the things I was good at, which in turn put me in awkward spots, and I was in better shape once the defense started overselling to take away the things I was good at, which meant big plays ahoy.
And if you're looking for a reason why I'm not happy, it's right there in the previous paragraph.
In order for a defense to be successful taking away what an offense is good at, they have two different options:
- They can do it with their base packages, which - if it works - means the offense is probably toast. This kind of thing is reserved for the elite defenses like Alabama's; even when Alabama blitzes, it's a safe blitz with 6 in coverage.
- They can scheme and cheat and call blitzes to generate pressure in awkward areas and awkward ways and hope the offense isn't good enough, smart enough, or talented enough to take advantage of it.
- What the defense is trying to take away, and
- The big hole that's left as a result of the thing the defense is trying to take away
- Recognize what the opposition is trying to do (or trying to limit you in doing). In some cases, it's obvious, but that isn't necessarily guaranteed. Regardless, this first step has to happen before...
- ...a decision is made to either allow the opposition to do what they're trying to do, or to do something to force the opposition to respond. What exactly that thing is will vary widely by team and what's being taken away, but it boils down to importance. For example: if Akron chooses to not allow Tennessee to throw any screen passes, great. Don't care. If Akron chooses to sell out against the interior run? Well, that matters, but Tennessee has a built-in response loosely translated as more passing (ideally, hitting them over the top since that likely means the strong safety will have moved up).