Prognosticator’s remorse

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Remember the initial thrill after purchasing a car or a house?  The elation, the sense of accomplishment, the feeling that now, there is a new player in the world, yeah!  Then… The inevitable crash happens when the bills roll in, and the math hits home that the payments will last infinitely longer than the thrill.  Of course, this scenario happens so often that there’s a name for it – buyer’s remorse.  Is it possible to apply this scenario to the sports world?  You bet, and it’s called prognosticator’s remorse.

Last year, the Oklahoma Sooners made it to the college football playoffs, and many experts in the college football realm expected them to win the title as they were playing their best football late in the season.  With victories over Baylor, TCU, and Oklahoma State, the Sooners’ play did nothing to hinder that notion.  They were led by Baker Mayfield, a dynamic playmaker at the quarterback position, who had plenty of offensive weapons to distribute the ball to, and in this golden era of offense, that’s 90 percent of the solution for the title equation.  Unfortunately for the Sooners, an even more dynamic quarterback, DeShaun Watson, and his offense, along with a strong defensive unit, derailed the Sooners’ title hopes, but there’s always next year.

Now, fast forward to 2016, with Baker Mayfield returning along with several key offensive starters, so naturally, I bought into Oklahoma in a big way, not only picking them as a final four participant, but as the title team for this year.  (Yay, my shiny new, expensive car.)  Then, the season started.

The first hiccup happened against Houston.  Maybe the Sooners took Houston lightly.  Maybe they were just off that one game.  Besides what’s one game?  Many teams have come back from a loss to win a title.  (My shiny new car is lacking a bit of the acceleration that was promised by the salesperson.)

Then, the Ohio State Buckeyes rolled into town and dominated the Sooners in Norman, Oklahoma, effectively ending the Sooners’ title run three games into the season.  How did this happen?  What does the “math” reveal?  Well, picking a great offensive team with a returning quarterback who can make all kinds of plays seems like a fantastic idea until it all becomes clear that the defensive unit just isn’t good enough, and that is what happened this past week.  Ohio State did whatever they wanted to do against the Sooners’ defense.  (Now, my shiny car’s engine misses and the electrical system doesn’t work, but I do have the logo on the steering wheel to stare at when it breaks down.)

Sure, the Sooners couldn’t cover Noah Brown, but they also couldn’t control the line of scrimmage, their linebackers made poor reads and didn’t tackle well, and the secondary routinely took poor angles when trying to stop the run.  Of course, these type of things are easy to say, but where is the proof.  Well, it just so happens that the screenshots below may offer some supporting evidence.

The Buckeyes lined up with the tight end on their left side, so the Sooners shifted their defense to account for that strong side.  The receivers are out of the picture, because well, this was a running play and no need to show the flash – this was all about the trenches.  At first glance, it looks like the linebacker marked with the red circle was cheating too much toward the strong side, but maybe this was as intended.  As we will see later, this linebacker makes a pivotal decision that hurts the defense.

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The tight end starts his motion to the right side as the ball is snapped.  The Buckeyes’ offensive lineman engage.  For the Sooners to succeed with this scheme, their two defensive lineman must hold their ground against the double-teams, allowing the linebackers to fill the gaps.

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The tight end continues his motion as the left side of the offensive line pushes the defense back a yard or two.  The linebacker circled in red has two options, and they are marked via the red pointer.  Hindsight is always 20/20, but this scenario looks pretty obvious, because the real weakness in the defense is the outside gap, the tight end’s destination.  The other linebacker can fill the inside gap.

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The tight end’s destination is clear now. He is going to block the defender sealing the edge.  The defense probably doesn’t know if J.T. Barrett will hand off or keep the ball for himself.  However, we know Mike Weber gets the ball, and he has a couple of routes to choose from.  Our red-circled linebacker is in a bind now.  However, as long as Weber runs inside, he has a chance to make the tackle.

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Red-circled linebacker has made his choice – he is coming through to fill the inside gap.  The other linebackers are fighting off blocks.

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Can he get there in time to make the tackle before Weber exploits the huge hole on the right?

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The linebacker can’t make the tackle as Weber breaks to daylight.  It’s up to the safety as marked by the red circle to save the defense from giving up a huge gain.

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Who wins the matchup?

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Unfortunately for the Sooners, the safety took a poor angle and missed the tackle.

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Just a trucking…down the sideline.

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The above set of screenshots was just a sample of the Oklahoma defense as it struggled all night.  Maybe this defense was built to stop the teams in the Big12, which makes sense as it is always prudent to build a team to win conference games.  While that may prove true in the future, it doesn’t help playing teams outside of the conference; especially, a team the caliber of Ohio State.

No big deal, a little prognosticator’s remorse never hurt anyone, and there’s always next year.



Categories: College football

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