Spreading All Over

By Adam Caparell - October 19, 2007

If you're not running the spread these days, you're as old school as "Blue." But just because it's become the in vogue scheme doesn't mean it's necessarily here to stay, if you ask one of the coaches whose success has been so closely tied to the offense.

"I think it's cyclical. I think it will start to revert back to other things," Florida coach Urban Meyer said.

But probaby not anytime soon.

Traditional powers have changed their ways in recent years, opting to open up the play book and push aside the old "three yards and a cloud of dust" mentality of yester year football. And the change has been particularly swift in the SEC.

"Three years ago when I entered the league, Vanderbilt ran somewhat of a spread offense. "But everyone else was pretty much traditional, two-back. And I was surprised by that," Meyer said.

Now almost everyone, in not only the SEC but the country, employs some form of the spread. And while the principle of the offensive scheme remains the same - "to force the defense to defend the entire field," in Meyer's words - the execution is as varied as the schools themselves.

"There's different ways of doing it," Meyer said.

Meyer's most successful spread offenses have utilized the quarterback as a big running threat. Some of his good friends in the business, like Mike Leach, prefer to throw it 50-to-60 times a game while others, like Gary Pinkel, throw convention to the wind and line up in every kind of formation imaginable.

"Obviously it comes down to personnel," Meyer said.

Meyer's Gators will face yet another team utilizing some form of the spread when they take on No. 8 Kentucky this weekend in Lexington. Florida will have to contend with Heisman Trophy candidate Andre' Woodson and his penchant for throwing it around 35 times per game and throwing it precisely. The Wildcats, on the other hand, will have to contend with the dual threat that is Tim Tebow who is equally proficient at throwing the ball and running it.

The quarterbacks are two in a very talented crop of SEC signal callers currently populating the conference, a far cry from what Meyer remembers upon arriving at Florida.

"You're seeing a time right now where you have a Woodson, an Ainge, some of these terrific quarterbacks with great personnel around them, much better than it was when we first got in the league," he said.

But the quarterback can't do it all. He has to have equally talented skill position players to work with, otherwise his talents go to waste.

"The correlation between having some speed and matchup issues on the outside is what really makes the quarterback great," Meyer said. "There are a lot of excellent, talented quarterbacks who have very limited personnel on the outside and you can eliminate them on defense."

Woodson has some talent to work with in wide out Keenan Burton and tight end Jacob Tamme, to name two of his favorite targets.

Tebow has some talent around him, as well. But aside from Percy Harvin, they haven't particularly pulled their weight. Tebow's been the whole offense in several of the Gators games this season. That can't last if Florida wants to get back to Atlanta for the SEC Championship game. And a loss this weekend to the Wildcats would deal that dream a potentially fatal blow.

Weekly Picks

Last Week: 0-5 | Season: 16-19

No. 14 Florida (-7) over No. 8 Kentucky
Andre' Woodson can move the ball against the Florida defense. But without Rafael Little for the second straight game can Derrick Locke and Tony Dixon play like they played last week against LSU? I say no. Gators are pretty good against the run and how is Kentucky going to come back from that emotional high against the Tigers to face a very good Florida team? It's a quick turnaround and how well will they be prepared? That's the biggest question. These two are statistically pretty even, but Florida is the pick.

No. 13 USC (-17.5) over Notre Dame
The Irish haven't rushed for more than 50 yards in one game this season. And they're probably not going to against the Trojans and that means Evan Sharpley could be forced to throw the ball more than Charlie Weis would like. That means he's going to be a sitting duck for the likes of Lawrence Jackson, who has four sacks on the season. The only question is how many is he going to have after this game considering the Irish are giving up almost five a game.

No. 22 Texas Tech (+3.5) over No. 15 Missouri
Leaned both ways on this game, but I think Texas Tech will make a stop somewhere along the line in this one. Just a gut feeling. Missouri can turn the ball over and they can clearly give up points and there's no one better at scoring points than the Graham Harrell-Michael Crabtree led Red Raiders. Tech has outscored its last three opponents by 120 points. But if Tony Temple gets going for Missouri - and Gary Pinkel calls him the catalyst of the Tigers offense - then Tech's in trouble.

No. 1 Ohio State (-17.5) over Michigan State
Excellent rushing team against an excellent defensive team. Michigan State's two top runners - Javon Ringer and Jehuu Caulcrick who average 240 yards per game combined - go up against the best rushing defense in the country. Is anyone sold on the Spartans defense? Ohio State will pressure Brian Hoyer into a turnover or two.

No. 5 LSU (-10.5) over No. 18 Auburn
It's going to be a defensive matchup, for sure. The spread is 10.5 and these two didn't even combine for that many points in last year's game. Two run-dominated teams against two very good defenses. I could see Auburn picking off LSU is Matt Flynn continues to play as poorly as he has and Brandon Cox continues to take care of the ball. But LSU is on a mission knowing they're not out of the national title picture. They get back on track and take the reins in the SEC West. Last seven meetings between these two have gone to the home team and five times in those seven games the winner has gone on to play for the SEC Championship. Those two stats tell you it's the Tigers, from LSU. who is the pick. And go with the Under in this one (42).

Posted by Adam Caparell at 04:22 PM on October 19, 2007

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