SEC “Footbaw” Doesn’t Add Up

Over in EssEeeSee country, the “company line” is that the Pac-12, chock-full of spread-offenses and speed-based defenses, is full of sissies. Yeah, I said it, sissies. The Pac-12 “powers” can beat each other with “finesse” and “systems,” but when they come down to the South to play some “real football” (the term may be “footbaw,” as yet unconfirmed), the West-Coast-latte-drinking-spread-offense-running-hippie-non-croakie-wearing speedsters can’t hang.

During this six-year stretch of sweaty, deep-fried, twangy SEC dominance of the BCS National Championship, rarely-outshouted SEC fans have proclaimed far and wide that “real” football is about going at people. It’s about pounding the ball north-and-south.  It’s about stopping opponents from pounding the ball north-and-south.  (Do SEC fans even like passing touchdowns? Unclear.) Ipso facto, during this six-year run, southern fans and some commentators (I won’t name… LOUDCOUGHCRAIGJAMESLOUDCOUGHMARKMAY) have conflated the up-the-gut, plug-and-chug style of play – and only that style – with “real football.”

This conflation is, in a word, erroneous.

And, in true FishDuck fashion, I’ll show you why.

Everyone knows that a football field is 100 yards long. Fewer people know the precise width of a field: 53-and-a-half yards. That’s 160-and-a-half feet wide! 100 yards x 53-and-a-half yards equals 5,350 square yards, or 48,150 square feet (or roughly the size of Phil Knight’s guest bathroom).  So what do you get when you put 22 players in a 48,150 square-foot area? A lot of open space.

Hold that thought.

If the SEC Theory were correct, then the game of football would involve a lot less real estate. If north-south-north-south were the name of the game, then the field would only be as wide as the hashmarks.  Let’s go back to our equation above: 48,150 square feet divided by 22 players = 2,188 square feet per player (or roughly the size of Phil Knight’s television). And that means a football field is – all together now – A LOT OF OPEN SPACE.


There wouldn’t BE that much open space on a football field if teams weren’t supposed to USE that much open space.

Say it again:

There wouldn’t BE that much open space on a football field if teams weren’t supposed to USE that much open space.

So, IF:

  •   The point of football is to gain yards towards the goal line.
  •   A football field is big.
  •   A yard gained on the sideline is equal in value to a yard gained in the center of the field.


  •   Football teams can gain yards from anywhere they damn well please.

There is no reason why “football” must be equated to “being good at gaining yards over and through defenders.” Of course, I concede that doing so is valuable. But “football” can also be equated to “being good at gaining yards where defenders do not exist.”

As we’ve heard Chip Kelly say, the no-huddle spread is a lifestyle. The scheme is crafted from critical thinking about how football conventions accepted as gospel can be challenged in a way that optimizes offensive snaps, within the rules. Innovative coaches realize that accepted conventions about speed, spacing, time of possession, play design — even player substitutions — were non-sacred cows just waiting to be slain. Football traditionalists are scared of the no-huddle, do not like the no-huddle, because it forces them to re-think what it means to “play football.” (See: Saban, Nick – 10/3/12 press conference.)

But guess what? Throughout history, traditionalists who have resisted important changes have lost.

Every. Single. Time.

And pretty soon those nay-saying SEC fans won’t have any more laurels to rest on: they’ll have been swept away by another speeding Duck on his way to the end zone.

Print Friendly
Sean Goodbody

Sean Goodbody

With a high school defensive-coordinator-turned-offensive-coordinator-turned-head-coach as a father, Sean Goodbody has always had an interest in the X's and O's of football. He played two years with FCS University of Pennsylvania as a fullback, but having grown up in a football family Sean has spent much of his life studying the game--reviewing game film, designing offensive and defensive schemes, and game-planning upcoming opponents. Sean has coached running backs, option quarterbacks, linebackers, defensive linemen, and safeties for his dad's high school program. He has been a rabid Duck fan since meeting his significant other Maeve (an Oregon grad). Residing in Grand Junction, CO, Sean and Maeve both work as attorneys while cheering on their beloved Ducks from the Rockies.

  • SEC fan

    LOL, Whatever… I can only hope and pray Alabama plays the ducks for the national championship…. Alabama will crush the ducks… so bring your cute new outfits to the game…. Ya’ll…..

    • Ed

      Just imagine if Alabama ran the best offense in college football with their HUGE advantage of having the best athletes by recruiting the south. And still had their awesome defense! Face the facts. Chip Kelly has developed the best offense that can be run. It adapts to it’s personnel. Where as the personnel have to adapt to the old school play of most SEC offenses. The story is not about who is better. It’s about change and you might think Alabama is better, that will hopefully be decided at years end, but you can not think that Alabama’s offense has been better. It’s just a FACT that it hasn’t. But don’t fret, more than half the teams in the SEC play a spread offense already. I just hope LSU and Bama decide to stay in the 60’s while we score in the 60’s.

      • SEC fan

        Before I go any further, the Duck’s look good, execute well, and have put up big numbers…. but against who?? The weakness of the duck’s schedule can not prove their ability to compete against any of the SEC teams in the top ten.
        Most points scored against Alabama have been against their second string,and Alabama pulled it’s entire first string offense out of the game in the beggining of the fourth quarter against Mississippi State (11). why?, to rest them up for LSU (5) and the post season (Georgia (6)), and the BCS championship.
        Sabin has the luxury of planning an “end game” strategy with the SEC and BCS championship in mind, Alabama does run the best offense in college football, has the best tallent on the field and on the bench, and can dominate any non-SEC team in the nation.
        I wish the duck’s well for the rest of the season and hope to see them post season at the BCS championship game.

        • Joey Likes to Score

          Alabama had starters in the 4th quarter? Really? Can you imagine if the Ducks starters ever played in the 4th quarter? That NCAA leading 53 points a game would skyrocket.

          Look, (sorry, too many political ads are making me say Look), all I’ve ever wanted out of college football is a reasonable playoff so all the talking can be done on the field. Bama, Ducks, KSU, ND….I’d LOVE to see that.

          • SEC fan

            I would love to imagine the duck’s playing a ranked team that is better than #22 (Arizona), I mean let’s run up the score against La. Tech?? Really?? Next season schedule some games with the SEC, let’s see what happens.
            Good Luck and Good Health to all teams.

          • Guest

            Next season the ducks DID schedule a game with the SEC. And I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a big ducks win.

          • Joey Likes to Score

            @SEC fan: I don’t think scoring 50 in the first half is running up the score….leaving your starters in into the 4th quarter is when running up the score happens. Putting 50 on someone in the first half is just an a** whipping, inferior team or not. That is what all top tier teams SHOULD be able to do.

            We played Tennessee and destroyed them, and we play them again next year. Is it Oregon’s fault Tennessee isn’t living up to expectations? No. What to do…put 50 on them by half and enjoy your day.

  • Dinosaur

    For further information, see big 10.

  • David W.

    Reminds me of the 2000 Holiday Bowl when the Ducks got by Texas. The whining from (at least some of) the Texas fans was hilarious. “That wasn’t REAL football.” “Just a bunch of fancy trickeration. They didn’t run between the tackles.” Waaaah waaaah waaaah! Last I looked, the idea was to get the ball into the endzone more than the other guy. If that can be done by having a wide receiver throw a pass to your quarterback … great! We tried it, you didn’t stop it … touchdown. Frankly, I think all the complaining from the camps of “traditional” football powers stems from an ingrained conservative view of the world, a knee jerk reaction against change in any form. “It’s not what I’m used to, therefore it must be bad”, instead of “Isn’t that new and interesting?” But, that’s another discussion.

    Like the author stated: “…critical thinking about how football conventions accepted as gospel can be challenged in a way that optimizes offensive snaps…” It remains to be seen if Chip’s offense or one like it can overcome a good SEC defense, but it’ll sure be fun to watch. And if it can, won’t it be nice to see something other than 6-3?

  • jim_bob_jones

    Was the field a different size two years ago in Arizona?

  • leatherheadripAKAbillygoat!!

    the point of the game is to score points, and to score more points than your opponent- PERIOD! The one with the most points is called the WINNER!! Doesnt matter how, only matters that you get more points than your opponent. SEC equates themselves to being tougher, meaner, and basically the bully of college football. Therefore they disrespect all other’s that dont play thier chosen style. Afterall they narcissistically view themselves as SUPERIOR!! Therfore they see everything through the prism of thier own SELF-LOVE- the kind not born of humility but rather of arrogance, self importance, condescencion, and NARCISSISM. It is so vitally important to thier own sense of self worth, that almost anything is rationalized and justified in winning and maintaining the basis for ‘the bully mentality’, becuase underneath and beyond it there is truly nothing there!! Underneath the ‘bully’ a self loathing vacuuousness, that cannot be faced. Therefore, in the SEC cheating and fraud of all kinds are rationalized, or ignored depending on the relativity of it to various opponents. It goes like this, if its against another SEC opponent then ala and saban are low life cheating scum, who are worthy of scorn and absolute disrespect!! same for lsu and auburn as applicaable, et al. BUT!! when facing or relative to an opponent outside of the SEC then all SEC fans concur that saban, and cam the scam sham, and miles, and chizik, etc are all respectful highly touted champions!! regardless of the fact that those same fans know them as cheats and frauds. So when auburn with a paid off cam newton barely beats oregon in the nc game, it not only doesnt matter that cam was a scam sham, which they decry perpetually down there, but their scewed narcissistic minds tell them the score was 99-3!! Now, you understand how the twisted minds of ‘bullies’ and sec fans work to continue to prop up and covince themselves that they really are IMPORTANT AND SUPERIOR BY GODS AND NATURES HAND”S!!!! and dont you little people outside the SEC ever forget it!!

  • Crimson Crusader

    Oregon is certainly an impressive team and incredibly entertaining to watch. I have the utmost respect for Chip Kelly and his program, and I appreciate how innovative his team is. That being said, I’m shocked to see someone with your background in football (particularly as a fullback) fail to understand the corollaries to your argument.

    You point out how important it is to utilize the entire field in order to spread the opponents defense out. Harnessing speed and misdirection, the Ducks are able to capitalize on their opponents’ poor reaction, lack of athleticism, and lack of pressure up the middle at the line of scrimmage. For the spread to work, plays take time to develop so players can run around the entire field. The Ducks set this up by running up the middle using an inside zone read. If the defense applies to much pressure up the middle, the Ducks use wide receiver screens and other techniques to get their fastest players out in space as quickly as possible. Eventually, overpursuit by the defense allows the Ducks to hit big plays both running and passing.

    Unfortunately, what happens when the defense can bring pressure up the middle? Furthermore, what happens when the defense is talented enough at defensive back to play press man-to-man coverage? The inside zone read ceases to be effective over the long run, and speedy players on the outside have difficulty getting into space. As a result, plays don’t have time to develop, and the scheme is broken. If the Ducks struggle to pick up yardage, like all teams, they will need to begin passing the ball. But when linebackers are blitzing the QB, the Ducks will either have to bring in extra blockers (thereby sacrificing skill players on the outside and space) or resort to short fast throws while receivers are under duress in press coverage. The windows for these throws will be so small, only professional QBs can make these type of throws under heavy pressure. This has happened several times over the course of a few years to the Ducks, most notably against the SEC teams (but also against Boise St and Ohio St), which have the best defensive lineman in the country and the best defensive backs. In short, the defense does not allow the Ducks to implement their scheme. Rather the defense forces more Ducks into the middle of the field to stop the excessive pressure (which most PAC-12 teams can only generate with 8 men in the box).

    On the other hand, the Ducks defense, which many argue is vastly improved, is designed to stop other spread offenses (see the shutout against Arizona this year). These Duck defenders, like their offensive counterparts, are speedy and excellent in space. Again, the corollary to the space principle is important. These defenders, although many are very strong and physical, are simply not skilled enough at stopping power runs up the middle (staple of SEC play). In order to stop these runs against some of the best offensive lines in the country, the relatively undersized defensive lines will need additional men in the box. As I am sure you know, this opens up opportunities in the passing game. In addition, this allows teams to burn the clock, keeping the Ducks off the field (the best possible defense).

    In short, the Ducks’ offensive philosophy is highly successful in a conference where no team has demonstrated it can dominate the line of scrimmage. For example, I could envision the Ducks’ having some problems if they were to face Star Lotulellei (although the rest of the Utes’ defense would not be up to the task). Most of the teams that are best at dominating the line of scrimmage and applying pressure up the middle are from the SEC. This pressure cripples the spread and forces spread teams to abandon their scheme. Even the most recent team in the SEC to succeed with a spread (Auburn) leaned heavily upon Nick Fairley and Michael Dyer to provide elements of power up the middle.

    As such, one would expect that the Crimson Tide would have little trouble dismantling the Ducks this year. In “footbaw”, speed is great, but power is more important.

    • JDWebfoot

      @CrimsonCletus: There is more than just scheme at work for the Ducks.

      You have obviously not taken a look at Oregon’s roster in a few years, particularly at the personnel along both the offensive and defensive lines. In the BCS championship and against LSU last year, the Ducks may not have produced as many yards or points as they normally do, but they did manage to outgain both teams with largely two and three star recruits along both lines. The Ducks lost both, but were not overmatched in either game.

      Now, they have more size and athleticism across the board, and many on the depth chart are underclassmen. I don’t disagree with everything in your rant, but this is a different Ducks team.

    • SeanG

      Thanks for your comments, Mr. Crusader. I appreciate your positions, because my still-coaching father has largely the same sentiments. But let’s take a look at what you’ve said.

      A. I certainly recognize the corollaries of my argument, and I recognize that I’ll never convince everyone of this position. But I do recognize, as someone who’s followed Xs and Os since I was a tyke, that the Oregon spread is an incredibly unique system of play, and really, more than just a system of play: it’s a top-to-bottom philosophy that doesn’t work unless EVERY piece works. I’m talking summer conditioning, depth, snaps, getting back on the ball as fast as possible, viewpoint about downs and distance, special teams, and defensive depth. The fact that a football system doesn’t just apply to one side of the ball or another, but to an entire PROGRAM? That’s a beautiful thing And yes, I was a fullback, and recognize that tough, up-the-gut yards are indispensable in the game. But they’re not the only way to win. And there are ways to get more yards faster, with less pounding on the players.

      B. What you describe in pgh 3 is exactly what can derail the Ducks: an absolutely perfect defensive game at every position. I’ve seen this happen: @Cal, in 2010. The Bears played a scrape defense, with press cover zero, and were almost maniacal in their commitment to the option check-offs. I agree that a team who plays perfectly sound, tough defense can limit this scheme’s effectiveness. But I ask: wouldn’t that kind of defensive effort be able to do that to ANY team? Not just a “West Coast fluke” team? The spread bets against that kind of defensive effort. One missed read, one blown assignment on the option, it’s a TD. I like the odds, especially when the Ducks can run more than 80 plays per game.

      C. Re: Oregon’s defensive front. These are the heights and weights of our two-deep: 1s) 6-3 295 (Keliikipi); 6-6 292 (Hart); 6-6 305 (Remington); 6-7 245 (D. Jordan). 2s) 6-4 305 (Heimuli); 6-8 280 (Armstead); 6-7 265 (Buckner); 6-3 245 (Washington). Out of that group, there are 2 seniors (Remington and D. Jordan). Offensively, the “smallest” guy in the 2-deep OL (Euscher) weighs 291. He’s a redshirt freshman and stands 6-7. Finally, please read this: Oregon has 28 players either over 6-5 or over 300 lbs. Stack those numbers up against any team in the country.

      D. The argument that Oregon has struggled to beat elite defenses over the last few years proves….that elite defenses are hard to beat. I grant that. Anyone would! Also, comparing Oregon’s 2012 team to their team in 2009 or 2010, or even 2011, is a logical fallacy. People aren’t allowed to get away with that kind of comparison with any other team. Why then do the Ducks constantly get compared against their losses in 2009/2010? Or is it just because the nation views the Ducks as a “gimmick” operation that works the same against everyone, every year?

      I appreciate your arguments as they have merit. My article was largely satirical, but it really is aimed at dispelling the myth that something “different” is not “bad” because it is “different.” It might just be a new manner of being successful at this incredibly complex game. Thanks for the read, and the comment.

      • mike

        No Matter Sean.

        Didn’t Nick Saban cry about Oregon’s style of play?
        Something to the tune of “defenders will get hurt”
        by that style of play.

        Think brute strength was on his mind? More like
        Macus Mariota is on his mind. You see, Mariota isn’t
        Russell, Murray, Shaw, or Driskel. Mariota hits open

        Go back to that fade route Russell missed last Saturday.
        Mariota not only hits that for a TD, he’ll bait the Corner into covering the flat route (Crusader knows which play I’m talking about).

        Marcus will hit a WR blanketed by coverage. When he
        scrambles, he hits receivers downfield. Oregon’s had
        a QB like that once. He was on the way to a Heisman AND
        a Natty-till he got hurt.

        This year defenses really pick their poison, because there
        is no way to cover six offensive backfield personnel. Add
        that sprint offense to the mix.

        Oh, keep in mind…LSU and Auburn were “physical” enough
        to only sack Daron Thomas once each. In addition, Oregon’s
        slowest receivers (Jeff Maehl and Lavasi Tuinei) burned Auburn
        in 2010, and Tuinei burned HONEY BADGER last year.

        Unfortunately, Daron Thomas never hit wide open WRs for
        TDs against the big boys (LSU, Auburn, and USC)-and there were plenty of open WRs on all 3 teams. If DT makes plays in big games, Oregon has BACK TO BACK “Nattys”.

        Saban fears Oregon because they have a QB that can and will
        throw TD passes on anybody, from any distance. We don’t need
        a power running game (and it is our strength). We’ll beat
        them with a REAL QB.

        Oregon has a BIG TIME QB that is MONEY. You can’t hurry him,
        you can’t sack him, you can’t stop him.

        Mariota is the 6th offensive weapon, and Saban knows it. He
        doesn’t even have much game film on Mariota to determine how
        to defend him (throwing the ball). THAT IS WHY SABAN IS SCARED.

        Let them keep their North/South power run game, their field position, turnover strategy. Bama will challenge Oregon, but can they handle Oregon? Its a good thing McCaron has
        elevated his game.

        I have never worried about the SEC being physical on Oregon. Dennis Dixon proved Oregon can handle physical teams (Oregon 24 USC 17). Marcus Mariota isn’t as experienced as Dixon, but he is more accurate, makes sound decisions, and is JUST AS DEADLY.

  • j10eff

    Let’s hope Oregon vs Bama happens…they always say actions speak louder than words and everyone will get to see.

  • secjed

    Last time I looked the SEC theory was straight up whipping whoevers ass was in their way. Wins. Rings.

  • secjed

    Oh yeah. U so so so mad tho.


    As long as the SEC holds the crystal ball I guess that makes this article….bleh!

  • Andrew

    Your assuming Oregon will play Bama. According to the BCS computer, Oregon is going to have to leap frog over Kansas State and Notre Dame at the moment to get to #2. Oregon is # 2 in the polls but # 4 in the BCS. And the thing that is not in Oregon’s favor is that your toughest games are coming up, like the Civil War whereas Kansas State and Notre Dame have already played the meat part of their schedule.

    And while I respect Oregon and find their offense very innovative, I think the gist of your argument is off base. Because if you look at the Top 5 programs in college football, Oregon is the only one with a high-octane offense. Kansas State, Notre Dame, Alabama and LSU all are very similar. They depend on great defense and a ball control game to establish the pass. Old School college football is back in vogue.

    Teams that live and die by offense typically end up disappointed. Just ask Dana Holgerson and the WVU Mountaineers. Who just last month, were all the rage for a BCS contention and their QB, Geno Smith was a “done-deal” to win the Heisman.

  • SEC fan

    The SEC, the GREATEST conference in the land 7 years running!!!

    ROLL TIDE!! 2012 BCS Champions!!

    • WatchTower Fred

      Bama didn’t play anybody. The one game they played against a team with an offense, they got blown out. Every championship they’ve won was the worst BCS game of the season.

      • SEC fan

        wwwwwaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!! booo hoooo hooooo hoooo, cry me a river fella, cause the season is over, and we won the crystal football and you didn’t… hahahahahaha
        we’re #1!!! we’re #1!!!

  • SEC fan

    heh heh