Every Top 25 College Football Team's Bread-and-Butter Play on Offense
Most teams have that one play that they can turn to to bail them out of any situation. Everybody in the stadium knows it is coming, but the defense can't figure out a way to stop it. The opposing head coach throws his headset on the ground and wants to wring somebody's neck for not being in the correct position.
Oh, these bread-and-butter plays can be frustrating.
Like how basketball teams know who is going to take the last shot and baseball teams know who is going to pitch in Game 7, football offenses have that one play they can count on in times of need. Whether it's the Oregon running game or the Oklahoma State passing attack, these plays not only save games but help to form their teams' identities.
Note: These top 25 rankings were provided by Adam Kramer of Bleacher Report.
25. Arizona State
The Play: Read-Option
It must be nice to have an athletic quarterback and a versatile running back. Taylor Kelly is an accurate passer who is more than capable of hurting a defense with his running ability. Running back Marion Grice is fast and shifty and is also a solid receiver slipping out of the backfield. When you combine the two in a read-option, it is a nightmare for an opposing defense.
Arizona State ran similar versions of this play throughout the year, and it helped produce 2,670 rushing yards and 27 rushing touchdowns. Grice averaged more than six yards a carry, while Kelly finished with 516 rushing yards.
This combination is part of the reason many are jumping on the Arizona State bandwagon.
The Play: Spread-‘Em-Out
Baylor runs a fast-paced offense, which consists of no-huddles and spreading the wide receivers out as far as possible. You can't even see the receiver at the bottom of your screen, but he is there. He is as close to the sidelines as possible without actually being considered a fan in the stands. Baylor runs more five-wide-receiver sets in its spread offense than any other team in the country.
The idea is to put its playmakers in space and force the defense to cover a lot of ground. Most defenders are great when guys are bunched up and they don't have to run around as much. Now, try covering a guy on an island where not much help is available.
This type of playing style has helped the Bears put up video-game numbers.
The Play: Putting Kain Colter in Space
Northwestern has one of the most underrated playmakers in the country in quarterback Kain Colter. He completed 67.8 percent of his passes last season for 872 yards. He also ran the ball 170 times for 894 yards and 12 touchdowns while catching 16 passes for 169 yards.
Bottom line, Colter is the spark to this offense and can make things happen.
Whenever Northwestern needed a play, he was the guy who was called on to produce. Whether it was throwing a touchdown, catching the ball or making a play with his legs, the Wildcats rely heavily on the young man to put points on the board.
22. Boise State
The Play: None
Boise State is a team that isn't loaded with elite talent. Actually, the majority of the starters for the Broncos would be lucky to even be on the squad for some of these other powerhouse programs. Head coach Chris Petersen makes do with what he has, which means that the team's style of play is constantly changing to whatever works best.
Boise doesn't really have a true identity, which was explained a couple of years back by Chris B. Brown of Smart Football. The team simply runs a variation of different plays that can't exactly be labelled as a certain scheme or style. This makes it nearly impossible to discover one particular play that the Broncos rely on the most.
21. Oregon State
The Play: Play-Action Pass
Watch just the first minute of the video and you will see why the play-action pass is considered the bread and butter of Oregon State.
It's actually surprising that the play is called so much when the Beavers rushing game was ranked 101st in college football. But don't let that fool you, as there are still playmakers on this team such as Storm Woods and Terron Ward.
This play call helps slow down the pass rush and makes it is a little easier for receivers to break free from defenders due to that second of hesitation. Oregon State was a prolific passing team last season and the play fakes played their part in the success.
The Play: Let Martinez Do What Martinez Does
Even though quarterback Taylor Martinez completed 62 percent of his passes last season, Cornhuskers fans will tell you he is more of an athlete than an actual quarterback. He wants to make plays with his legs rather than fit the ball into a tight window and win the game with his arm.
As you can see in the video, making something out of nothing and taking off is what Martinez does best and has done for the last three seasons. He has rushed for more than 2,000 yards in his career, including 1,019 yards last year.
Sometimes it is the plays that come out of nowhere that end up working out the best. Nebraska has learned to accept this as its bread-and-butter play.
The Play: Quarterback Keeper
The Oklahoma offense is going to change a lot with quarterback Blake Bell now the starter. While the Sooners are used to quarterbacks throwing the ball successfully, Bell's strength is with his legs. He has shown this over the last two seasons, rushing for 24 touchdowns and earning the nickname "Bulldozer."
Of course, he will make more throws now that he is the full-time starter, but he is more of a bigger Tim Tebow who is going to call his own number more times than not. On short yardage attempts and just to keep the defenses honest, Bell will provide a heavy dose of the running game.
Good luck stopping that.
The Play: Working Those Short and Intermediate Routes
Maybe it was because quarterback Brett Hundley was a freshman and the coaching staff didn't want to put too much on his plate, but UCLA spent a lot of time working the middle of the field and running shorter routes to get the young quarterback in a groove.
The Bruins would spread the defense out with its wide receivers, but also come out with one or two running backs who would slip out for easy passes.
This helped Hundley complete 66.5 percent of his passes and throw for 3,740 yards and 29 touchdowns. Guys were able to take advantage of one-on-one matchups and allow Hundley to throw a high-percentage pass most of the time.
17. Oklahoma State
The Play: N/A
Mike Gundy is an offensive genius who has more plays in his playbook than Oprah has dollar bills. His offense has averaged more than 500 yards in each of the last three seasons, and you don't exactly get that type of production if you are abusing one play over and over.
Gundy loves to spread the defense out with formations that look similar, but he will hit you with a different wrinkle every time. Sometimes it will be a bubble screen, sometimes he'll send everybody deep and slip the running back out for a pass, sometimes it is a delayed handoff that gets to the second level with ease.
It's impossible to pinpoint one exact play. Just sit back and enjoy the show.
The Play: Motion Package
Although Texas finished 23rd in the country in points scored, the offense wasn't as consistent as you would have liked. Quarterback David Ash still can't be trusted and the offensive line could improve some as well. One thing that the Longhorns love to do offensively is putting guys in motion.
Even if it is just to distract the defense and give it somebody else to focus on for a second, it helps open up running lanes and makes things a lot easier. Look at all of the Iowa State defenders who had their attention on the receiver, which allowed Johnathan Gray to walk into the end zone.
Texas puts guys in motion on majority of its plays, and it pays off when the defense doesn't remain disciplined.
The Play: Zone-Read
TCU spends a lot of time spreading its receivers out and trying to hurt the defense vertically. However, the key plays are when quarterback Trevone Boykin is able to get into space and make plays with his legs.
He ran the ball 127 times last season and broke off several big runs like the one you see in the video. Now that he has a year of experience, this play should be run a lot more as the playbook will continue to open up.
The Horned Frogs still have a quarterback controversy with Casey Pachall expected back in the rotation, but this play proved to be very effective.
The Play: Outside-Zone
It has been well documented that LSU is a tough running team that will continue to run the ball until a defense can stop it. One of the runs that is often used is the outside-zone, in which the offensive line wants to get lateral and move the defenders towards the sideline. The running back wants to try and get outside the tight end, but should be looking for the seam to open up anywhere.
With the talent and pure strength of the LSU offensive line, the hole is bound to be there. It also helps when you can make a few defenders miss like Jeremy Hill did in the game against Clemson.
The Tigers should be a more balanced offense with Cam Cameron as offensive coordinator, but the running plays will continue to be the staple of this offense.
13. Florida State
The Play: Quarterback Draw
Who knows what Florida State is going to run this season?
There is a new quarterback in place in Jameis Winston and a new offensive coordinator calling the shots. The bread-and-butter play for the Seminoles used to be a stretch run to the left side, but that should change now that they have a possible superstar at quarterback.
The go-to play should be a quarterback draw. Winston is a flat-out elite playmaker, and it is up to the coaching staff to put this guy in a position to succeed. There is no better way to make use of a quarterback's legs than to call designed runs. Auburn did this often with Cam Newton, and Winston has a chance to do the same.
The Play: The Bootleg
Michigan should have a few tricks up its sleeve with Devin Gardner now at quarterback. The Wolverines are going to lean in the direction of a pro-style offense and hope for more balanced results. One thing that won't change is finding ways to put the athletic quarterback in position to succeed.
One of the plays we saw to be very effective was the bootleg. The play-action gets the defense to bite and then puts Gardner is position to either find an open receiver or make a play with his legs, as you can see in the video.
This is a play design that should be near the top of the playbook for offensive coordinator Al Borges.
The Play: Getting the Ball Out Quickly
When your offense is ranked 12th in the SEC and you struggle mightily to score points, it is tough to pinpoint a bread-and-butter play. However, one constant with the Gators last season was that offensive coordinator Brent Pease was looking to get the ball out of the quarterback's hand.
This was done in a variety of different ways. Whether it was running bubble screens, curl routes, flats, comebacks, out-routes or slants, the goal was to make quick decisions and get rid of the football. This may change if Florida can discover playmakers, but making quick reads and running safer routes were the main play calls that drove fans nuts.
Of course, that didn't help the struggles of this unit.
The Play: Inside-Zone
You would think Clemson is a passing team first with the numbers quarterback Tajh Boyd puts up, but it has its core running plays that offensive coordinator Chad Morris loves to draw up. One of them is the inside-zone, in which the runner looks for that vertical crease to explode through. Often looking to run outside the guard's hip, this play is very effective with the speedy backs the Tigers have.
Although Boyd is a potential NFL quarterback and has thrown for more than 3,000 yards in each of the last two seasons, Clemson did average 191 rushing yards last year, which was good for 36th in the country.
A lot of that success was off the inside-zone run.
9. South Carolina
The Play: Zone-Read
South Carolina has had shaky quarterback play over the years, but one of the plays that is usually done well is the zone-read. Connor Shaw isn't the most accurate or reliable quarterback in the SEC, but he is athletic and can kill defenses with his legs. He is also strong and tough to bring down when he gets rolling downfield.
This play is run often and helps give the Gamecocks offense a spark. Shaw threw the ball 228 times last season but ran the ball 131 times, which is a lot for somebody who missed a few games due to injuries.
The Gamecocks will continue to search for playmakers, and the zone-read will help mask some of the weaknesses until they are discovered.
The Play: Let Teddy Bridgewater Go to Work
Louisville didn't quite reveal a bread-and-butter play.
What it did show is that Teddy Bridgewater is a huge part of the offense, and the coaching staff is more than willing to allow him to carry this unit. The young quarterback threw the ball 419 times, which was second among Big East quarterbacks. Keep in mind that he was hobbled with various injuries down the stretch.
He topped 45 passing attempts five times, including 53 pass attempts in the game against Connecticut.
Bridgewater is building a lot of NFL draft hype after his solid performances a year ago. When things get chippy and this offense needs a play, just look at the starting quarterback and he will find a way to come up with it.
7. Notre Dame
The Play: Zone-Read
It's going to be interesting to see what Notre Dame runs now that Everett Golson has been suspended and Tommy Rees is likely the starting quarterback. With Rees not nearly as mobile as Golson, running the zone-read may be reduced. However, as you can see, this was a play the Irish loved to call last season.
The quarterback makes a simple read on the outside defender and decides whether to keep the ball or give it to the running back. When the right decision is made and the blocking holds up, this play can simply gash the defense.
Notre Dame didn't score much last year, but it did have many big plays thanks to this play call.
The Play: Play-Action Pass
Play-action passes can be extremely successful if you have a strong running game. That's one of the reasons Georgia does it so well, but also give credit to quarterback Aaron Murray for doing a fabulous job of selling the play fake.
Murray always does a good job of hiding the ball and always seems to put a little extra on the fake handoff.
You can see in the video when the safety comes flying up and then realizes he has just been faked out of his shoes. This play obviously resulted in an easy score, but the Bulldogs have been calling this play for years.
Murray will continue to trick defenses, and Georgia will continue to produce chunk yardage plays.
The Play: Power-O
Stanford has produced massive offensive linemen over the years and has even more who will make a name for themselves soon. It has also had its fair share of power runners, which makes for a perfect combination to run the Power-O.
The guard pulls and helps create a hole with the help of the halfback. When done right, this play can result in a long run like you see in the video.
It will be interesting to see what types of plays are called with a dual-threat quarterback in Kevin Hogan now on the field, but the Power-O should remain one of the key plays for the Cardinal down the stretch.
The Play: Zone-Read
The bread-and-butter play for Oregon is what the school runs the majority of the time. The Ducks live, breath and eat zone-reads. There are different variations of this play call, but most of it consists of either the outside or inside zone-read. The outside zone-read is when the running back is lined up next to the quarterback, while the inside zone-read is when the running back is behind the quarterback.
The quarterback will read the outside defender and make his decision on the handoff based on what the defender does. If he crashes in to play the running back, the quarterback will keep the ball. If he stays and plays the quarterback, the running back will get the ball.
Sounds easy, right?
Defenses in the Pac-12 continue to struggle.
3. Texas A&M
The Play: Let Manziel Be Manziel
Some offenses don't have a bread-and-butter play. Texas A&M is one of them, and that is perfectly fine. When you have a quarterback like Johnny Manziel, who is capable of making something out of nothing, you don't really need a go-to play.
The play against Alabama is a perfect example. Manziel doesn't see anybody downfield, looks to run, fumbles the ball, picks it up and then finds the open man. One of the reasons scouts aren't sure about the Heisman Trophy winner is because he has this sandlot feel to his game. He kind of plays like he was in your backyard, where you draw the plays in the dirt and just wing it as things break down.
Sometimes, things work out best that way.
2. Ohio State
The Play: Outside-Zone
The outside-zone play is one of the staples of the Urban Meyer offense, and he wasted very little time running it with quarterback Braxton Miller. Sometimes the ball went to the running back, but Ohio State ran a lot of these plays with a direct snap to Miller. The H-back leads the way, and a quarterback with that much athleticism is able to shoot through the seam.
Ohio State has a ton of running plays that Miller can use, including the speed-option and the belly-zone, but this play is a lot easier to run and reduces the risk of a turnover. This play will continue to be run at high percentages.
The Play: Power-O
With the type of runners Alabama usually has and the size of the offensive linemen, it only makes since that its favorite play would be labeled the Power-O. The H-back uses a "kick out" technique, the tackle blocks the man in front of him and the guard pulls to help fill the gap and lead the running back to the promised land.
When everything works like it is supposed to, the Tide see results like this.
Alabama is usually able to gash defenses with this play, and with the combination of elite runners and potential NFL linemen, the chances of slowing this play down are slim to none. It just isn't fair for defenses when this play is called in the huddle. After all, it has helped produce many national titles in the last few years.