Stu Mandel Gets It So Right

While CFN struggles with offensive concepts, CNNSI’s Stewart Mandel continues to show why he’s one of the top young college football writers around with his discourse on the new offensive wave in college football.

The spread and West Coast are just the latest in a long cycle of offensive crazes that have dotted college football’s evolution. From the single wing, to the T-formation, to the wishbone, to the Run ‘n’ Shoot, enterprising offensive coaches have constantly searched for a new wrinkle that might give them an advantage over defenses. The offensive innovations on offense are often a direct response to systemic changes in defensive philosophy. The recent advent of the spread, for instance — which began to surface more frequently in the late ’90s and has boomed in popularity ever since — is viewed by many coaches as a necessary means to combat the complex, NFL-style blitz packages that have pervaded the college game over the past decade.

Of course, this is the kind of thing we’ve been talking about for a while here at It’s nice to see these concepts and ideas being discussed in the mainstream media. Really, it’s been a long time coming.

As we’ve said before, it all boils down to the continual tug and war between offense and defense. Right now, the offenses are coming up with things that a vast group of coaches and players don’t know how to defend. Eventually, there will be an antidote to these styles of play and then a new permutation, a new wrinkle, will have to evolve.

In the meantime, we believe that the teams that utilize these offensive philosophies will continue to have an edge over the teams that don’t. Which is why we believe that Florida will have great success under Urban Meyer and teams like USC, Cal, Louisiville, Boise State and Utah (provided they keep the same system) will also continue to win a lot of games.

The only thing we would add to the Mandel story is a point about familiarity of systems. We believe that teams that are unfamiliar with certain types of offenses are at a unique disadvantage–witness Oklahoma’s problems with USC and Cal’s problems with Texas Tech last year. It’s this point that led us to attribute Auburn’s success last year to Al Borges (as Mandel did), which leads us to think that the SEC will be unprepared for the Gators, which surmises that Georgia won’t be ready for Boise and that Louisville will continue its offensive dominance after moving to the Big East.

Will it all happen? We think so. But only time will tell.

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Chris Huston, A.K.A. ‘The Heisman Pundit‘, is a Heisman voter and the creator and publisher of, a site dedicated to analysis of the Heisman Trophy and college football. Dubbed “the foremost authority on the Heisman” by Sports Illustrated, HP is regularly quoted or cited during football season in newspapers across the country. He is also a regular contributor on sports talk radio and television.

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