Every team in America has its bread and butter. Whether your squad may run a handful of plays or it is one of the exotic, multiple-look units, it has its staple: its "Go-To" play.
This is the play that holds you down. This is the play that you can always turn to for success. This is the play that opposing coaches scheme to stop, but ultimately, it has no answer because the team is just so good at making the play work.
For Barry Switzer's old-school Oklahoma team, it's its base wishbone option. Sure, it has wrinkles with the motion and the load and lead and reverse out, but it went back to that basic option when it needed it. Perhaps you remember the Florida Gators under Urban Meyer and the way they went to Aaron Hernandez with the shovel pass when they needed a play.
In today's college football world, teams are no different. They have their "Go-To" plays to use as weapons in moments when they need something to happen.
We'll kick it off with the Alabama Crimson Tide. Hello, simple power:
They run it to the weak side, and they run it to the strong side. They run with a motion, and they run it without motion. This play is simply their Go-To.
So why does it work?
They're tougher than you. They load up bodies, and when the dust settles, it is Alabama's massive pulling offensive linemen and its lead-blocking backs on your defensive line and linebackers. There is only one question: Can you stop them?
More often than not, teams can't. Sure, a time or two, you might best Alabama—early in the game. But as Nick Saban and his staff go to their bread-and-butter play time and again, over the course of 60 minutes, odds are your team wears out and the Crimson Tide start seeing success.
As far as power goes, this is the cream of the crop. It wants to collide with you, force you backwards and then line up and do it all over again.
In keeping with the power theme, we've got another team that goes with its version of the power: Florida.
Here, you can see the two big boys coming through middle, leading Mike Gillislee up the field towards pay dirt against LSU. However, this is not the only version of power that Florida runs.
Notice how it adds in the wrinkle with the read before Trey Burton tucks himself behind the pulling guard and the fullback to get 80 yards for a touchdown.
This play is great. Same premise as Alabama's: put bodies at the point of contact and explode through the box to pick up yardage. Bodies on bodies, pushing people out of the way and creating holes. It isn't fancy, it isn't new, but it most certainly works.
We'll get away from the power theme to talk less brute force and more speed. Oregon's up.
Was that too fast? Here's another one:
That's Oregon with the zone-read. So much speed, so many weapons and so much for a defense to worry about. Will it be the quarterback, Marcus Mariota, pulling the ball and getting out on the edge? Will it be De'Anthony Thomas taking the ball and going outside to get upfield? Or will it be one of the nation's premier running backs, Kenjon Barner, finding a seam behind the zone blocks and making you pay by going the distance.
Zone-blocking works, people. Especially when you're a team like Oregon that does not have the mammoth offensive linemen that Alabama or Florida possess on the roster. Their linemen can zone-block, a technique that helps them shield their ball-carriers from defenders and climb quickly to the second level, creating seams in the defense.
Oregon uses this to perfection. It gets loose and scores touchdowns; it is a play that paralyzes defenders and takes a special breed of defender to stop.
Which brings us to Kansas State:
The option is not the play that Kansas State runs into the ground, like Georgia Tech or the Naval Academy. However, it is the play that it goes to when it wants to set the tone or get the ball into the end zone.
Collin Klein is a special football player. He has the ability to get out of the gate and the judgement to make the proper reads. He can also run the option out of more than just one formation. Kansas State goes old school with its I-form option look closer to the goal line.
As you can see in the clip, the Wildcats are comfortable running the lead option out of the pistol as well. That flexibility makes this Go-To dangerous.
And finally, we'll wrap up with Notre Dame and the zone run.
In the pass game, Tyler Eifert is Notre Dame's go-to guy. However, their Go-To is the classic zone run. This play was made remarkably popular by the Denver Broncos under Mike Shanahan, and with good reason.
As we mentioned before, Oregon uses zone-blocking principles and combines them with its read play to create a multiple-threat attack, which capitalizes on the zone blocks. While Notre Dame has added that multiple-threat wrinkle with quarterback Everett Golson, the true bread and butter is in the zone call.
The quarterback hands if off, while the Irish offensive line, tight end included, gets its bodies flowing in one direction. You have guys climbing to the second level and blocking linebackers, and then the running back gets to decide what to do. It is as simple as picking your seam and getting upfield.
Each of these plays is designed to be successful, but it must be noted that design is only part of the equation. Execution is paramount, and the execution is what's landed these teams in the BCS Top Five so far this season. They have the personnel to work the scheme, and the scheme works their personnel.
Whether it's power, the zone-read, the option or the straight zone, every team has its own Go-To, its bread and butter.