Your Best 11 Mailbag: Malzahn to Texas, My Favorite Bowl and a Lot of Auburn-FSU

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Your Best 11 Mailbag: Malzahn to Texas, My Favorite Bowl and a Lot of Auburn-FSU
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We've been gone for a good minute, but now we're back to bring you some hot college football takes. We did have a question hog today, but before we get to that, we'll hit on the other three so they get their due. Time for fun question time!

Ah, my favorite bowl game. Surely this is an answer any and everyone can guess.

The Rose Bowl.

Not the Rose Bowl itself, as an institution. Rather, I love this year's matchup of the Stanford Cardinal and the Michigan State Spartans.

I love both of these teams. They play football the way it should be played, and watching this game will be my treat from watching the throw-it-around-no-defense contests elsewhere.

There is just something I love about two teams that take it personal when opponents gain yards. That's defense, baby.

I don't assume it would be after the title game; that's way too long to wait to look for a coach. If you're going to hire the guy, you want him now, not after he gets done playing in another sandbox.

If Malzahn is the Longhorns guy, they need him to pound the pavement and press the flesh as soon as possible—sort of like how Notre Dame needed Brian Kelly there during the Sugar Bowl.

Although, if Malzahn took the job, Auburn could go with some weird "co-head coaches" like Utah did in 2004.

That said, I try not to think about it too much. If he leaves, good for him, but I think he's a better fit with The Family at Auburn. To me, Texas is too big from an outside stressors and politics standpoint to mesh with the far homier feel of Malzahn.

Good quarterback play, good defensive line play and playing in the SEC East?

James Franklin was outstanding for much of 2013, when he was not hurt. Coming off a 2012 season when he was injured, he showed how big of a difference maker he could be on the field. Maty Mauk, when pressed into action, made some big-time throws, used his legs and got some help from both LaDamian Washington and a rapidly improving Dorial Green-Beckham.

Up front, the Tigers started hot with Michael Sam on a tear. As teams shifted assets to stop him, Kony Ealy showed up in a big way. When a team has two NFL-caliber studs as bookends and capable players in the back end, it tends to make things happen.

Mizzou was a good team in 2013. It executed and showed plenty of quality players. It also played in the SEC East, where teams absorbed injuries, failed to show up and just were not very good on a consistent basis.

Georgia had injuries and was up once it got out of September at 3-1. Florida's injuries mounted and created a train wreck in Gainesville. South Carolina lost the division because of the loss to Tennessee that no one saw coming.

That division was a mess, and Mizzou rose to the top. Kudos to them.

Here we go with the Florida State stuff, something that I've actually been looking at for most of the day. For those who do not know, MOFC means "middle of field closed" in coverage. In other words, one-high safety looks that generally entail Cover 1 or Cover 3.

Why is that important? Because it allows Florida State, a team with confidence in its cornerbacks and safeties, to add an additional run defender into the box. Instead of a six- or seven-man box near the line of scrimmage, Florida State has personnel to push and get an eighth run defender closer to the line of scrimmage.

It means another body to tackle, and it greatly improves the Seminoles' ability to play against Auburn's rushing system. The big questions will be how the 'Noles adjust to Auburn going with 10 and 11 personnel to spread those run defenders out, and will Auburn have success trying to force FSU to respect the downfield passing game.

The read player is the guy who is left unblocked and allowed to do his thing—whom Nick Marshall will "read" to determine what to do with the football. At the edge, it will be either a defensive end or a linebacker, and "coping" with being the read player is easy, as long as you do your job.

Auburn is not the team to "try and make something happen" against. It is waiting for Johnny Linebacker to go rushing in toward Tre Mason to get that momentum-turning tackle for loss, so that Marshall can give it to the jet sweep and get around the edge for a first down.

Playing your responsibility is a must. Some teams like to slow play, and others like to attack. Both strategies can work; the key is that everyone does his job.

If slow playing is the goal, then holding the spot and letting the action come to you, to string out, is what must be done. If attacking is the answer, then each player has to tackle his responsibility; there's no guessing or doing someone else's job.

As for "arc blocks," they are offensive players taking an "arc" path to get to the second level. Usually, these players are trying to get to the linebacker or safety, who would be a factor on the pitch of an option, the jet sweep wide. They are looking to get to that player, create space at the next level and pick up more yards. 

The simple answer is if the defender is slow to move toward the edge and get to the line of scrimmage, then he will be pinned inside, lose contain and give up a big play. If the offense can get to the second level and stop the defense from pursuing and stringing the play out, then that's a win for Malzahn's team.

Teams handle this in different ways. Some teams like to have defensive ends get hands on everybody. That includes tight ends and tackles, so that those players are not free to release to get to linebackers. Other teams expect their linebackers to get across these blocks on their own and maintain the gap integrity of the defense.

Obviously, Florida State is going to have to figure something out. If tackles get around to Telvin Smith or even Lamarcus Joyner, the Seminoles will have a problem.

The area of this that would scare me the most is that counter play. Auburn runs a nice little counter, and the Tigers block down hard to move the defensive tackle, leaving the end to get kicked out by the pulling guard.

Honestly, I don't think splitting players and trying to get up the field is the key against Auburn because it will take you down into the wash as you try to get penetration and then run away. I think it's a lot more important to keep blockers from getting to the second level when they block down and move the line of scrimmage back toward the backfield.

Essentially, I think Timmy Jernigan's game will be about occupying one or two bodies, disengaging to make tackles when the Tigers run near him and working that every play he can to keep the linebackers free to flow. So, with respect to the down blocks, when he gets that pressure on him, he has to fight it to stop from being blown down inside and creating a gap that people cannot fill.

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