What To Watch Fri. 2/13 – Sun. 2/15

All times are Pacific.

 

Friday February 13th

Arizona Wildcats at Washington Huskies – 6pm ESPN: This is a good basketball game for a Friday night. It’s no gimmie either for the #7 ranked Wildcats.

Boston Bruins at Vancouver Canucks – 7pm NHL GameCenter: Two teams battling to stay in the playoff picture in their respective conferences.

 

Saturday February 14th

Baylor Bears at Kansas Jayhawks – 10am CBS: Not many top 25 match ups but this should be the best of the bunch.

Villanova at Butler – 3pm CBS Sports Network: This is the other top 25 match up worth watching.

Toronto Maple Leafs at Montreal Canadiens – 4pm NHL Network: Well the Leafs aren’t very good this year but the Habs are.

Washington Capitals at LA Kings – 7pm NHL GameCenter: Alex Ovechkin and the Caps head out west to take on the defending Stanley Cup champs.

UFC Fight Night – 7pm FS1: Either Benson Henderson is going to grind out Brandon Thatch for 5 rounds or Thatch catches Henderson early. Take your pick.

 

Sunday February 15th

Pittsburgh Penguins at Chicago Blackhawks – 9:30am NBC: It’s on national TV for a reason. You get to see some of the biggest names in the NHL.

Tampa Bay Lightning at San Jose Sharks – 5pm NHL GameCenter: The Lightning hit that tough west coast swing coming off two hard fought games against Nashville and St Louis.

 

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Reasons behind USC’s failed Defense

1,318 Total yards

101 Points

54% Third down conversion rate

177 offensive plays

These are just some of the numbers allowed by the USC defense in the last two weeks. Both losses. The first at Arizona and the second at home to Oregon who by some estimates may be the second best football team in the country.

How did such a legendary program like USC give up such numbers? More importantly, how did it do it with the father of the vaunted Tampa 2 defense at the controls?

The Tampa 2 defense was developed by Monte Kiffin who is the current Defensive Coordinator at USC and father to the Head Coach Lane Kiffin. Monte has been in football coaching profession at the collegiate and professional level since 1966. He was Defensive Coordinator of back to back National Championship teams at Nebraska in the early ’70s and won a Super Bowl as Defensive Coordinator of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2003. So why can’t someone with credentials like this stop a spread offense?

The Tampa 2 defense on paper would seem to be the one defense that would be perfect to stop a spread offense like the one run at Oregon. It’s really a cover 3 zone defense that relies on the front seven to be aggressive. The corner backs are suppose to be able to stop a sweep by the running back by having a better angle. This defense is the classic ‘bend-but-don’t-break’ defense for back to back weeks it has been destroyed.

There are can be several causes for this. The first being, can you really implement a system like this when you do not have the ‘best of the best’ like you do in the NFL? Second, USC is still operating under reduced scholarships due to previous NCAA rules violations. They’re thin. In fact they are so thin that they apparently rarely scrimmage fearing that someone will get injured.

Being thin or lacking depth if you will means players get tired trying to run around and catch the speedy Oregon Ducks. When guys get tired they make mistakes which can cost them.

Depth isn’t the only issue. Football is really about two things, 1) having more people at the point of attack or 2) having better angles. If you don’t have one of these two you better have better personnel to make up for it. USC’s defense failed on all three of these. Oregon, and Arizona for that matter, had at times more people at the point of attack, better angles most of the time, and at least in Oregon’s case, better personnel.

Has the game passed Monte by? Possibly. But if it has would his son fire his dad?

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Next Generation Defense

There was an article on the Wall Street Journal not too long ago talking about how the no huddle offense is ruining Television. If the WSJ thinks that a pro no huddle offense is ruining TV they must hate College Football.

Oregon is known for their no-huddle, quick-snap offense. They try to snap the ball as quickly as possible. On one scoring play against Washington they scored 9 seconds after the previous play. 9 seconds! You didn’t see the scoring play because ESPN was showing a replay of the previous play. The announcers did ask the question, “Who can stop Oregon?”

TV can’t but the Next Generation Defense can.

Every Saturday you see Defenses getting caught with penalties for too many men on the field or just not lining up correctly before the ball was snapped. They’ll never stop Oregon or another fast paced, high-snap team like Arizona with these tactics. Defenses have to change in two fundamental ways.

First, they have to stop approaching defense with a ‘well it worked in the past’ philosophy. While there are lessons that can be learned and schemes poached, there has to be a fresh approach to the basic practicies. The best place to start is with the substituions. Stop them. While several years ago substituting in players for certain defensive packages worked it won’t when you play teams like Oregon or Arizona who never huddle and snap the ball quickly. If you want rotate players to keep them fresh throughout the game you’re going to need 22 players and not 11.

Defenses can stay fresh by rotating the starting 11 between series. While this may leave some playmakers on the sidelines for a couple of series it will, in the long term, keep those players fresher to make plays throughout the game.

Second, defensive players have to now be the most conditioned athletes on the field. Rotating super giant lineman to clog the line of scrimmage isn’t going to work. Having well conditioned athletes with great technique is. Anticipate having to leave 11 defenders on the field for an entire series.

These changes will help keep pace with a team like Oregon or another fast paced team like Arizona. Arizona keeps getting brought up because in the first 6 games of the season Arizona is averaging more plays per game than Oregon (93 to 85). To put this in perspective, the defending National Champions Alabama are averaging 63 plays per game and the high octane attack of West Virginia averages 76. Oregon runs 20 more plays a game than Alabama and Arizona runs 30.

Neither Oregon or Arizona have won a National Title since they’ve begun their fast-paced offensive attack. They are garnered a lot of headlines but haven’t one the big one. Meanwhile traditional offenses like Alabama and LSU have walked away with the National Title in the last couple of years. While the past still works it may soon be swallowed up by the future with teams like Oregon, Arizona and West Virginia leading the way.