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Old-school has its advantages in college football

Published on NewsOK Modified: September 4, 2014 at 9:11 pm •  Published: September 4, 2014
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In the spread-happy world of college football that Oregon helped create, being old-school like Michigan State has its advantages.

The seventh-ranked Spartans, who visit the third-ranked Ducks on Saturday, are among a dwindling number of teams still using what can best be described as a traditional, pro-style attack featuring tight ends, fullbacks and the quarterback regularly taking a snap from under center.

The Ducks have been at the forefront of the spread revolution. Few teams do it as well as Oregon, though plenty are trying. The reaction from defenses has been to streamline personnel, using quicker and leaner players who can track down all those fast guys in the open field.

Now that the traditional has become unorthodox, teams such as Michigan State, No. 1 Florida State, No. 2 Alabama and No. 13 Stanford can benefit from going against the trend as opponents struggle to prepare for their bigger and more bunched-up offenses.

"I think it does become a little bit more difficult to simulate the things that we do in practice because of the nature of your personnel," Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. "Your personnel begins to take on your offense's personality.

"If you can't simulate things very well throughout the week in practice and then you hit the game field, there's a difference in speed, there's a difference in physicality, in just the way different plays are run."

For many programs, the best way to neutralize the talent advantage that teams such as Florida State and Alabama have is the spread. And spread offenses are even more prevalent in high school football than they are in college, which has helped trigger the explosion of the last decade.

In the Pac-12, where Oregon resides, the spread is just about everywhere outside of Stanford. Even Southern California, long a pro-style stronghold, is now dabbling in the spread with what new coach Steve Sarkisian calls a "hybrid" offense.

"When you practice all day against four wide receivers in training camp and then you show up to a game and there's the I-formation with a fullback and tailback, it takes some adjusting to it," Sarkisian said.

The Big 12 is even more spread-heavy, with Texas taking the most traditional approach.

"Talking to our defensive coaches, they don't see it (prostyle offense) much anymore so when they do face a traditional pro-style offense there's some new things that go into preparing for it," Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said.

The spread has swept through the Southeastern Conference in recent years with the additions of Texas A&M and Missouri, and the coaching arrivals of Auburn's Gus Malzahn, Mississippi's Hugh Freeze and Tennessee's Butch Jones.

A similar infiltration has happened in the Atlantic Coast Conference, with Larry Fedora at North Carolina, Dave Doeren at North Carolina State and Dave Clawson at Wake Forest.

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