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Oregon and Auburn legitimize the spread offfense

By Mark Colyer, SpreadOffense.com

Oregon Head Coach Chip Kelly pushes the tempo of offensive innovation. (Icon SMI)

The two teams in the BCS national title game, No. 1 Auburn and No. 2 Oregon, are perfect examples of how the spread offense style of attack has taken off in college football.

The no huddle, get-on-the-field-and-go style of play that a spread offense makes possible has done much to improve the excitement of college football. The bowl championship series title game, to be played on January 10, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona between two spread offense teams will likely be a high-scoring game with plenty of big plays.

Ever since 1927, when Rusty Russell coached a team of undernourished orphan boys to numerous championships in Texas by highlighting running patterns and a good passing game over brute force rushes, the no huddle spread has been seen as a “gimmicky” strategy to provide sub par talented teams a chance to compete against better competition.

However, the clear ascendancy of Auburn and Oregon in the 2010 NCAA football season has done much to legitimize the spread offense as one of the best offensive strategies in football.
Auburn’s approach to the spread has relied upon its star quarterback and presumed Heisman trophy winner, Cam Newton. As nimble on his feet as he is perceptive down the field, plays often revolve around Newton running the ball somewhere unexpected before passing the ball to one of many wide receivers. Newton’s versatility is matched only by the versatility of Auburn’s offensive coordinator, Gus Malzahn. Malzahn has a reputation as a bookish football wonk, with an encyclopedic knowledge of when and how to use the spread nuances in a wide variety of situations. His versatility is one of the key factors in Auburn’s No. 1 BCS ranking as the regular season ended this past weekend.

Meanwhile, if “versatility” is the byword for Auburn’s no huddle spread, “tempo” is used most often to describe Oregon. Averaging about 79 plays and nearly fifty points per game, Oregon’s head coach and offensive coordinator Chip Kelly utilizes what is known as a spread option offense to great effect. The “no huddle offense” becomes “the no breathing offense” in the minds of many defenders, as some Oregon offensive drives have averaged a play every thirteen seconds, including playing time. The Ducks move so fast, that opposing defenses have been caught faking injuries in order to catch their breathes and composure on the field, as opposed to wasting a time-out.

If any team is able to match Oregon’s number one rated offense, it is likely to be the Auburn Tigers behind the masterfully versatile leadership of offensive coordinator Malzahn and quarterback Newton. Whatever the end result, it is clear that the Oregon vs Auburn BCS title game on January 10, 2011 will be a high-scoring, exciting game that keeps audiences on the edges of their seats, in which anything could happen.


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