On July 28, Husker football head man Bo Pelini was asked about his team’s game plan heading into 2014 at Big Ten media days.
With a stable of four-stud I-Backs, should we expect to see a more run-oriented offense this coming season?
Coach Pelini answered:
“No, I wouldn’t say that at all. First of all, you have to establish the running game. It’s always important. To win a championship — I think it’s been shown over a long period of time — you have to be able to run the football.” He continued, “And that’s always a necessity.
You’ve got to be able to do that. You’ve got to stop the run, but you have to have balance.”
Is balance really necessary? Let’s take a look at the last five national championship teams.
In 2009, Alabama rushed for 215.1 yards per game which was good for No. 12 nationally. On the flip side, they threw for 195.0 YPG, No. 97 nationally.
Auburn’s BCS title team in 2010 rushed for 284.8 yards (No. 5), while passing for 225.3 (No. 69).
In 2011 and 2012 respectively (and to no one’s surprise) Alabama finished No. 16 and No. 17 respectively in rushing yards per game (214.5 and 226.5 yards). Both years they ended at No. 76 for passing yards per game (222.6 and 2018 yards).
Last year’s champion, Florida State, threw for 315.9 yards per game (No. 15) and 203.1 yards per game rushing (No. 28).
As you can see, while some of the yardage is close, the national rankings often vary.
Be it running the football (Alabama and Auburn) or throwing the pigskin around (Florida State), those teams had an identity.
All due respect to Tim Beck and Pelini, “balanced” isn’t an identity.
In 2014, Husker football needs to ride the man who was All-Conference last season and a potential Heisman candidate this season: Ameer Abdullah. Abdullah, along with his three teammates who form a fantastic corps of I-Backs, have extremely high expectations for 2014 and need to be the focal point of the offensive unit.
“We always talk about that. We want to have balance. We’ve been about a 60/40 run-pass team, and I believe at the end of the day you’d like to get as close to 50/50 as you possibly can,” said Pelini.
In forcing a 50/50 split it, by design, takes the football away from your offense’s elite player. Sure, Tommy Armstrong has some experience.
However, can the coaching staff really afford to make play calls that put the ball in the hands of a quarterback that threw just one more touchdown than he did interceptions last year while sacrificing the carries of an All-American?
“But I think when it comes down to it, you want to be able to do what you want to do when you want to do it. And that means you’ve got to be able to execute in every phase of the game.”
The head coach is right. You do have to execute in every phase of the game plan.
However, that game plan shouldn’t have to tilt towards 50/50.
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