Only Coach Tubs knows exactly when it happened, but somewhere in the midst of the up-and-down 2007 football season, he decided that a change in offensive philosophy was in order. Maybe it was when Auburn couldn’t score enough points in early season losses to South Florida and Mississippi State. Maybe it was when Auburn had to rely on defense to win low-scoring SEC contests against Arkansas and Ole Miss. Or maybe it was after the last second loss to LSU or the blowout defeat at the hands of the Georgia Bulldogs.
In the end it doesn’t matter when it happened. It only matters that it did in fact happen, as demonstrated by Tubs’ words:
"An old dog doesn't change his tricks very often, but you have to grow with the times."
Enter new Auburn Offense Coordinator Tony Franklin and his high-energy, aggressive Spread offense.
Anyone who followed Auburn’s season last year knows that it took Franklin less than 2 weeks to install the 1.0 version of his offense, which racked up more than 400 yards against Clemson’s top ten defense in the Chick-fil-a Bowl.
In reality, Auburn’s defense was so good, that it’s safe to say that the Tigers had a good shot at beating Clemson with the old offense.
So why did Coach Tubs make the switch?
I can think of five reasons why it happened. And when your team switches to the Spread offense (and eventually, your team will switch too), the reasons for it will be similar.
Reason #1. Points, points, points. This offense can rack up points fast. Scoring seems to come in waves. The Patriots NFL team runs a similar offense, and I noticed this tendency with them as well. You start to wonder if their offense is going to show up, and the next thing you know they’re up by twenty.
Now, please don’t tell me that Auburn is nowhere as good as the Patriots. I know that…I doubt that another Pro offense will be that good any time soon so certainly no college team can compare to them. But, they do run a similar style of offense, and the results can be the same as well.
I remember sitting at Auburn’s Spring game, just about to declare the new offense a failure, and then, in what seemed like moments later, we had scored 3 TDs and a field goal. Can this offense be shut down by a solid defense? Yes. But, that defense better be solid on every single play from scrimmage.
Reason #2. SEC defenses are getting faster by the minute. Don’t believe me? Just ask Ohio State. The Spread is designed to counter defensive speed by forcing man coverage. The problem for the defense is, most teams don’t have 5 or six quality man coverage guys to throw at you during the course of a game. And don’t even think about playing a soft zone. Even a mediocre QB could pick that apart with this offense. And because the defense is spread so thin, every defender must be a sure tackler because one missed tackle and the running back or receiver could be off to the races.
Reason #3. This offense gets many opportunities to score. Franklin’s fast-paced no-huddle version of the Spread ran 90 plays in the Chick-fil-a Bowl. Compare that to the number of plays Auburn ran before Franklin’s arrival. In the Iron Bowl Auburn ran just 63 plays in a 17-10 win against ‘Bama.
The quick pace of this offense also translates into an aggressive on-the-field attitude. Gone are the days when Auburn would sit on a 7 point lead in the 2nd quarter. This offense will not let up until the final whistle blows.
Reason #4. This offense sells tickets. You’ve heard the cliché—defense wins games. In the SEC, coaches live and die by these words. But, there’s another part to that old saying that is equally true. That is, offense sells tickets. Most of you are probably thinking that you’d rather actually win games than worry too much about making next month’s mortgage payment on the stadium.
Athletic Directors, however, don’t have the luxury of being as financially irresponsible as the rest of us. Making money is why they take this sport so seriously. No, really. I hope you didn’t think your school puts so much effort into football because you like it. Sorry to bust your bubble, but you were bound to figure it out sooner or later.
Regardless of what we SEC fans say, nothing is more fun to watch than an offense that resembles a high-flying circus act. I loved watching Spurrier’s offense when he was at Florida. T’was a thing of beauty. Offense really does sell tickets, and by the end of the season, the Powers That Be at Auburn will wonder why Tubs didn’t think of this sooner.
Reason #5. This offense maximizes talent. Coach Franklin coached at Troy before becoming Auburn’s Offensive Coordinator. During his final season at Troy, they played three SEC teams (Florida, Arkansas, and Georgia), all of whom Auburn also played. Now, while Troy didn’t win any of those games, they scored more points against all of these teams than Auburn did. And, Troy did it with far less talent than Auburn.
Auburn scored only 20 points in their loss to Georgia, while Troy racked up 34 points against the Bulldogs, and the game was in question until late in the 4th quarter. Imagine giving Georgia that kind of scare at their home using players who would never dream of receiving a scholarship offer from Georgia.
Now, I know you’re thinking, but Georgia won the game. Well yes, they did win the game. And, if you are surprised that a Sunbelt team lost on the road to one of the better SEC teams in recent memory then you should’ve had a V-8.
But, the question should not be posed as, what did Troy do with the Spread? Instead, we should ask, what would they have done without it? That’s easy to see; just look at the fact that Troy went from being one of the worst teams in their conference in 2005 to winning their conference title in Franklin’s first year, 2006.
So, answer me this. What could your team do with the Spread?
Maybe you haven’t taken the time to ponder that particular question, but I would be willing to bet the 3 dollars in my back pocket that the higher-ups in your favorite athletic department have given the question some serious thought.