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Zemek: SEC, Welcome To A&M, And An Offense

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Nov 12, 2012


Zemek Thought: SEC, enjoy dealing with a team that can actually play some O.


- Fiutak: Oregon vs. Kansas State? Yeah, But ...
- Cirminiello: SEC Is The Best League Without Question.
- Zemek: SEC, Welcome To A&M, And An Offense
- Harrison: No Need For SEC In BCS Championship 
- Doan: The Crazy Problems With Wazzu 

By Matt Zemek
E-mail Matt Zemek

When talking about tactics – in college football, high-school basketball, professional soccer, junior-high debate team contests, or any other competitive endeavor – the single most important principle is always the same: Do what your opponent does not want you to do. This is a lesson as old as time, a concept that should be easy to grasp.

If I hate hitting a forehand from the middle third of the court, feed me forehands in the middle third of the court. If you can't stand it when your college basketball team has to face a 2-3 matchup zone with man-to-man principles, then dadgummit, that's the defense the opposing coach should throw at you all game long until you figure it out.

It's no different in the Southeastern Conference of college football.

Steve Spurrier pitched the ball around the ballpark in the early 1990s. His foes in the SEC, accustomed to old-fashioned power football in the Bear Bryant/Vince Dooley/Pat Dye vein, hated the tactic. Naturally, since Spurrier's tactics were detested – since they made opposing coaches squirm – said tactics were immensely successful for seven full seasons (1990-1996) before the rest of the league truly began to catch on… and Doug Johnson took over for Danny Wuerffel.

In the 2006 Sugar Bowl between West Virginia and Georgia, Mountaineer head coach Rich Rodriguez sprung the new-look spread offense on the Bulldogs' defense, which was used to lining up and playing against limited offensive sets and power-oriented philosophies. West Virginia's twin emphases on spacing and speed threw the Bulldogs a knee-buckling overhand curveball that they missed by three feet. The Mountaineers' approach was so markedly unfamiliar compared to anything Georgia's defense had seen before. The Dawgs' discomfort was obvious; West Virginia achieved sweet victory in that Sugar showdown in Georgia's backyard.

Now, we've arrived at yet another moment of revelation for the 12 head coaches in the SEC not named Nick Saban (the best coach in the conference over an extended period of time) or Kevin Sumlin (the soon-to-be SEC Coach of the Year for 2012).

Saban spent a lot of time earlier this season remarking about his utter distaste for modernized passing offenses and the larger category of offenses that are built to score over 50 points per game. Saban's adherence to Bear Bryant's smashmouth-centric style and an old-fashioned SEC aesthetic plainly marked him as a man who craves a full amount of time in between plays. Saban, a man who keeps a lot of thoughts hidden in mind and heart, opened himself up on the cultural and tactical clashes between The Old Ways and The New Age Approach. Saban put himself firmly on the side of Team Old School. His date with Texas A&M and Mr. Sumlin this past Saturday was supposed to settle the score in favor of the old guard, but Team New Age proved its worth.

One point that is so important to absorb in the wake of the Aggies' win – a point that needs to endure in the mind of any observant college football fan – is that a style of play does not prevent players from exhibiting football's most timelessly necessary characteristic: toughness.

Everything about this Texas A&M team was manly on Saturday, in the classic old-time sense of the term. Sure, the Aggies came wrapped in a spread-and-fast-tempo package, but they made virile and valiant plays all game long… plays that a former A&M head coach named Paul W. Bryant would have appreciated.

Receivers Mike Evans and Ryan Swope made terrifically tough catches that also carried supreme significance relative to the game's ebb and flow. Johnny Manziel didn't flinch under pressure, producing a turnover-free game while counterpart A.J. McCarron blinked in the spotlight. A&M offered a more finesse-based approach, but its players were still able to display the physical and mental fortitude that wins big SEC road games in November. A&M's players owned a winning mentality – be sure to credit them for conquering the cauldron of gameday in Tuscaloosa.

Yet, the table wouldn't have been set for A&M's gritty fourth quarter if the Aggies hadn't raced to a 20-0 lead and altered the complexion of the contest. The fast-tempo style that Saban hated was the style Sumlin brought to the ballpark. Alabama's defense was obviously unused to such a form of attack, and it took the Tide a quarter and a half to adjust. Even then, A&M was able to pry open enough opportunities in the second half to add to its lead and bank enough points to hold off the Crimson flood. LSU would not have gained a 20-0 lead in Tuscaloosa. Not South Carolina. Not Georgia. Not Florida. Not anyone else.

You do what your opponent does not want you to do. Kevin Sumlin firmly applied this principle on Saturday. If the rest of the SEC (with Les Miles's LSU program being the only allowable exception) does not embrace the fast-tempo revolution, it will be playing Saban's game. Your move, SEC. You have seen the way to fluster and frustrate your best coach. It's up to you to accordingly adjust your offensive coordinators in the offseason.

- Fiutak: Oregon vs. Kansas State? Yeah, But ...
- Cirminiello: SEC Is The Best League Without Question.
- Zemek: SEC, Welcome To A&M, And An Offense
- Harrison: No Need For SEC In BCS Championship 
- Doan: The Crazy Problems With Wazzu 










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