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Trends are a part of college football. From the days of the wishbone to the spread offense, there has been a natural progression. However, on the national scene, one trend is beginning to exude dominance. As teams begin to implement a smashmouth style of play, will the rest be forced to follow suit?
Trends are nothing new when it comes to football specifically on the college level. The most recent trend to infiltrate the college football landscape was the spread offense. in 1999 Bob Stoops took the head coaching position with the Oklahoma Sooners and shortly the spread offense was implemented.
The numbers tell no lie as it quickly produced some of the most prolific offenses the nation has ever seen. However, the pinnacle was reached in 2008 when the Sooners were quarterbacked by none other than Sam Bradford. In that season alone, the Sooners posted 60+ point in five different games at a record setting pace. Subsquently, Bradford would go on to win the Heisman trophy while later being selected by the St. Louis Rams as the #1 overall pick.
The Texas Tech Red Raiders employed the same model as Mike Leach took over as the head coach in a heavy pass offense. While Tech lacked the same level of success that the Sooners had, they posted 50+ in four games that same season. Quarterbacked by Graham Harrell throwing to All-American Michael Crabtree, other coaches began taking note.
The Oregon Ducks were another team to grasp on the idea of the spread offense with wild success. The difference with Oregon was that Chip Kelly resorted to an unconventional wrinkle in the spread. While most think of it as a pass first offense, Kelly took that notion and implemented what could be seen as a run first spread. To back this up, Kelly used four running plays almost exclusively (centered around the zone read) while retaining a physical approach to the game. In this modified spread, the Ducks hit the 60+ point mark in three different games in 2008 behind LaGarrett Blount and Darron Thomas.
In 2010 the Ducks marched in with the same attitude and the same ability to score. Speed was their monicker and it carried them into the National Championship Game.
On thing that all three of these teams had in common was that their identity was found in some form of the spread offense. All three of these teams had the potential and ability to score at will. The biggest thing all of these teams have in common is that they were bounced by a power run oriented offense. Oklahoma lost to the Florida Gators, Oregon to the Auburn Tigers, and Texas Tech to the Mississippi Rebels.
Does this mean that the spread offense is dead or useless? Absolutely not! It simply means that defenses are finally catching up to what is being put out there. By controlling the clock and limiting turnovers, the power running teams are winning the battle on the scoreboard.
Some of the most prolific offenses in the history of college football have been shutdown by teams that employed a power rushing attack. Since 2008 that trend has begun to grow and can once again be seen in 2012. The Stanford Cardinal is beginning to find their identity in their running game and overcame favorite and the media darling USC Trojans. The Kansas St. Wildcats brought Bill Snyder back and moved to a zone read offense have knocked off a team they have struggled with regardless of the location in the Oklahoma Sooners. The Texas Longhorns are attempting to bring a battering ram type offense to the field. While the reasoning for doing so is still up for debate, they have used it successful this season. Smashmouth football is back and it's back in full force.
The biggest tell tell sign of the reign of run dominant teams comes in the fact that the past six BCS Champions have strong rushing attacks. Will the trend take a step back around the nation? Possibly unless the spread finds a new wrinkle such as the Diamond Formation.