STUFFING THE RUN
What Vince Lombardi said 50 years ago still applies today. Asked how it was the Green Bay Packers won so many championships with offensive and defensive schemes that were quite basic, Lombardi noted that no matter what style of offense or defense that you run, the game stays the same – it’s all about blocking and the tackling. The Lombardi Packers blocked and tackled better than anyone else. Lombardi wanted to pound opponents into submission on offense and defensively the goal was always stuff the run and make the opponent one-dimensional. That sounds a lot like Will Muschamp’s philosophy, doesn’t it? While people might complain that there just isn’t enough razzle-dazzle in the Florida offense – some call it boring – the philosophy is pound away until the other team breaks. The defense is ranked #2 nationally and first against the run, giving up just 53.5 yards, which forces teams to throw against the nation’s best secondary. The Gators, by the way, lead the SEC in every defensive category and they are #1 nationally in time of possession, which means they are effectively beating up on people. Okay, I’ll agree with you. It isn’t sexy, but it sure is effective.
Brett Bielma is trying to mold the Razorbacks (3-2, 0-1 SEC) into a Wisconsin-south team. The Razorbacks have a very Big 10-like 2-1 run/pass ratio and an offensive line that goes 318, 317, 315, 345 and 307 across the front. The idea is to beat teams down, force the safeties to play the run and then throw over the top. So far it’s worked because Alex Collins (619 yards) and Jonathan Williams (477) have been gaining yards in big chunks and quarterback Brandon Allen has thrown for eight touchdown passes. Florida’s job will be to stuff the run with the front seven and force the Razorbacks into a pitch and catch game that is not their strength against Florida’s two-deep scheme.
OTHER THAN THE AGGIES, WHO HAVE THEY PLAYED?
The Arkansas wins have been over Louisiana Lafayette (2-2), D1AA Samford (3-2) and Southern Miss (0-4), who have a combined 5-8 record. The Razorbacks struggled to beat Samford, rallying for two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to take a 31-21 win. The losses are to a mediocre Rutgers team that gave up 52 points to Fresno State and Texas A&M, which has a defense-optional policy this year. The Aggies did light up the Razorbacks for a ho-hum (for them) 523 yards. By all accounts the Aggies played bored and it showed but it was still enough to beat Arkansas, 45-33. The Razorbacks only average 11.6 more yards per game than the Gators (414.6-403) while the Gators give up 133.9 few yards per game (202.5 for UF; 336.4 for Arkansas). Florida’s defense has given up only five touchdowns. Arkansas has given up 13.
FLORIDA’S SECRET WEAPON
That might be running backs coach Brian White, who coached the running backs (1995-98) and was the offensive coordinator at Wisconsin (1999-06) under Barry Alvarez. Bielma was the defensive coordinator at Wisconsin from 2004-05 before being named head coach in 2006. The offense that Bielma ran at Wisconsin and is now running at Arkansas is the same one that White ran when he was calling the plays for Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne. Although he coaches UF’s running backs, you can know for sure that White had some input in the game planning for Florida’s defense.
AROUND THE SEC
Alabama suspended safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix indefinitely for an undisclosed violation of team rules. Nick Saban did not set a time frame for Dix’s return, but circle the week leading up to November 9. That’s when Alabama plays LSU … Steve Spurrier says Connor Shaw, who sprained his throwing shoulder in South Carolina’s win over UCF, is good to go Saturday against Kentucky – as if the Gamecocks will actually need him to win … Unless he gets a visit from Benny Hinn, figure Georgia tailback Todd Gurley (high ankle sprain) will miss Saturday’s game at Tennessee – as if the Poodles will actually need him to win.
COACH O SPEAKS
Ed Orgeron is now the head football coach at Southern Cal, which should be very interesting. California cool and Cajun cool, which is what Coach O is, are several universes apart in the football galaxy. Thanks to Coach O, we just got these quotes: “I didn’t take my shirt off today” and “Feed a lineman a cookie, he’s happy.” The first quote is in reference to Coach O’s first day on the job at Ole Miss a few years back when he ripped off his shirt a la The Incredible Hulk. Come to think of it, Hulk looked rather puny compared to Coach O. The second quote is in reference to Coach O restoring sweets to the USC training table. I know the Ole Miss people are happy with Hugh Freeze as their coach, but I do miss Coach O. In a league full of coaches who take themselves all too seriously, Coach O was a fun guy to have around.
TIME FOR THE SCHIANO EXPERIMENT TO END
If there is one thing Greg Schiano has proven during his time in Tampa is that he’s in way over his head. He should have stayed at Rutgers where he and former basketball coach Mike Rice (dismissed for abusive relationships) were a fine pair. Rice was quick to blame players and nothing was ever his fault, something that we see with Schiano now that he’s at Tampa Bay. We’re also see Schiano’s despicable side. In the past couple of days, Schiano has leaked info about Josh Freeman being in the NFL Drug Program and then leaked it that he didn’t invite him to a team meeting. He also went bizarre by releasing Ahmad Black, who has been the Bucs’ surest tackler and most consistent special teams player the last three years, apparently because Schiano doesn’t view Ahmad as a “Schiano man,” whatever that is. The Bucs are going nowhere. Instead of blaming players, Schiano needs to take a long look in the mirror. As for the Bucs’ front office, it’s time for a change.
BE LIKE MIKE? JOHN FEINSTEIN SAYS NO WAY
In a piece written over on CBSSports.com, John Feinstein paints a not so nice picture of Michael Jordan. No one can ever doubt the greatness of Jordan the basketball player, and Feinstein won’t argue that. It’s Jordan the person with whom he takes issue, comparing his shallowness as a human being to Tiger Woods. Part of the problem, Feinstein says, goes back to his college days when Jordan ignored the advice of North Carolina coach Dean Smith and hired David Falk as his agent. Falk is a smarmy money grabber who might be as easy to dislike as any human on the planet. Dean Smith, as Feinstein notes, is one of the most decent human beings who ever walked this planet. Michael Jordan went on to be the most famous of Smith’s many players who had great NBA careers, but as Feinstein points out, he’s also the most self-absorbed. I keep wishing that more athletes would be like David Robinson or Tim Tebow, guys who actually use their fame for something decent. Instead, too many are just like Mike and that’s sad.
MUSIC FOR TODAY
The late George Duke might have died back in August, but his musical influence will live on for generations. I started listening to Duke back in the 1970s when he took a rather unexpected dip into the musical bizarre by breaking away from Cannonball Adderly’s band to play with Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. The years spent with Zappa turned Duke into one of music’s innovators. You can’t call him a jazz musician although he did some incredible jazz. He more or less invented jazz fusion and then got into R&B funk, influencing the likes of George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic. This is one of my favorite George Duke instrumentals, called “It’s On” which I had the privilege of hearing him play live back in the 1990s.