Auburn's Back To The Future Offense Makes Them One of 2010's Most Interesting Teams

When Auburn hired Iowa State coach Gene Chizik last summer, Tiger fans were apoplectic. Charles Barkley said it was racist. Alabama fans laughed. Alabama fans might still be laughing, but after Chizik's first season we saw Auburn tack on three extra wins despite a major drop off in defense (from 29th to 68th in total yardage) and the continued presence of noodle-armed statue Chris Todd at the offense's helm.

Auburn managed this trick by seeing their offense improve from 104th to 16th, which was almost entirely the doing of Gus Malzahn, the high school coach turned offensive coordinator at the heart of Arkansas's telenovela-style meltdown during Houston Nutt's final year as head coach. If you follow college football at all, you know that Malzahn's offense is weird and fast, but here's ten minutes explaining some of the many ways in which it is weird and fast:


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The video doesn't explicitly mention this, but since I just edited an article about the history of the state of the art in football offenses and I've got this stuff on the brain: Malzahn's offense is a modern-day version of the single wing. This is not exactly a new assertion. When the New York Times has mentioned the same thing you have, you are not breaking ground. But you can say the Malzahn offense is the single wing 2.0 and people will nod without actually understanding it.

The above video provides an excellent introduction for anyone wondering just what the heck people are talking about when they say this. The single wing…

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  • incorporates many possible different ball carriers that head in different directions.
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  • uses misdirection as the primary way to acquire big plays. It's not "keeping the defense honest" so you can run your bread and butter without the opponent cheating, it's an attempt make the defense confused on every play.
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  • often features a primary ball handler who spins wildly to set up playfakes heading in opposite directions.
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  • depends on sowing confusion and can be vulnerable to teams that are well-drilled at stopping it.

Auburn's offense was alternately explosive— putting up 49, 41, 33, and 38 against various BCS opponents and putting up 21 points against Alabama's outstanding defense—and disappointing—clunking out just 10 against LSU and, more alarmingly, 14 and 23 against Kentucky and Arkansas, respectively, in ugly losses against a couple of the worst defensive teams in the country.

It'll be fascinating to watch the SEC adapt to the offense, and whether that will be offset by the Tigers's massive athletic upgrade at quarterback, where former five-star recruit and Tebow heir-apparent Cam Newton replaces the game but limited Todd. What will Malzahn be able to do when his quarterback is a threat to take off? You'll have to ask 1930s-era Heisman winners.

(HT: Smart Football.)

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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