Saturday, November 11, 2006

Off We Go | by Jay

A grab bag of Air Force notes before we zoom off to Colorado Springs...

• A good overview in the SBT on the similarities between the University of the Navy & Air Force:

But Air Force, like Navy, doesn't use the option for the sake of simplicity. Rather both teams use it to compensate for a lack of mass that comes with the service academies' strict admission requirements and the subsequently shallower pool of talent to recruit.

"If you're bigger and stronger than everybody else, then you don't have to worry about a lot of schemes," said DeBerry. "We'll play two teams this year -- Tennessee and Notre Dame -- that are in the top five in the country in recruiting success. They may have to do a few less things than we have to do to compensate for a difference in size and ability."

The option overcomes the size differences on offense. But on defense, there is no grand solution.

Like Navy, Air Force relies on sound fundamentals just to hope and contain teams. The Falcons have given up an average of 323 yards per game, 191 through the air and 132 on the ground.
There's some good background reading on option footbaw at the college level here and here (the latter, a tidbit from an old friend).

• Fisher DeBerry is getting a little fresh:
"Notre Dame better bring its A game because of what's at stake," Falcons coach Fisher DeBerry said, referring to its chances to make the Bowl Championship Series national title game as a one-loss team. "We don't have anything to lose and everything to gain. ... I think we've got a good plan. And I'm interested to see what adjustments we'll have to make as the game goes on."
• John Walters' got an article on the pugnacious quarterback for Air Force, Shaun Carney. Once an Irish fan, now he's a little bitter.
"I was a big Notre Dame fan all the way through my childhood," says Carney. "Then I went to a football camp there and that changed things."

Carney was between his freshman and sophomore years at St. Edward when he attended a summer football camp in South Bend. It was during the Bob Davie era.

"I just didn't like the intensity of it there back then," Carney, who at 5-10 is quite undersized as a college quarterback, says. "I started rooting for Ohio State after that."

"He heard from other coaches that he'd thrown some of the best balls they'd ever seen for a player that age," his mother recalls. "But it was just because of his size that they weren't very interested."

Notre Dame safety Tom Zbikowski was an option quarterback in high school and he attended summer camps as a quarterback at Nebraska and Northwestern. How'd that work out for him?

"I got offered (scholarships)," says Zbikowski, "so I guess it worked out pretty well."

• Irish defensive line coach Jappy Oliver coached at Air Force for eight years.

• Only two teams have held the Falcons to under 200 yards rushing: Navy and BYU (although against Navy, AFA threw the ball 19 times, a season high).

• One thing about playing a triple option team that likes to run the ball 50 times is that you have to make the most of your possessions. You're only going to get 7-8 drives per game, so you can't afford to stall out, punt, or turn the ball over. The Irish offense was brilliant in this regard against Navy, scoring on all five of its first drives.

• While it's true Air Force's option attack is 4th in the country in time of possession with 32:58 minutes per game, look who's there at 13th: the Irish, with a TOP mark of 32:05. Ball hogs.

• Hopefully we learned something about defending the option from the Navy game. If I were gameplanning, I would consider using the brick wall approach from the second half (86 yards given up, no points) and not the soft-as-tissue scheme from the first half.

• Air Force season in a nutshell:
• Came flying out of the gate with a nailbiter loss to Tennessee, 31-30.
• Beat Wyoming, New Mexico.
• Was down all game to Navy, trailing 24-7 in the fourth quarter, but scored a FG and a touchdown to make it a 7-point game. The Falcons even recovered an onsides kick with 3:00 minutes left, but couldn't do anything with it. Lost 24-17.
• Beat Colorado State in a squeaker; lost to San Diego State in another squeaker, the Aztecs' only win of the year.
• Got crushed by BYU, then turned around and crushed Army.
Overall record: 4-4.

BGS sez. I did this a few times last year, comparing average points scored and given up for both teams, and modeling out a score prediction. Here goes.

AFA's offense averages 24.38 ppg, about +3.41 points better than their opponents usually give up.
AFA's defense averages 20.75 ppg given up, about -2.99 points better than their opponents usually score.
ND's offense averages 31.66 (repeating, of course) ppg, about +8.59 points better than usual.
ND's defense averages 22.11 ppg given up, about -0.48 points better than usual.

Average of AFA Off (24.38) + ND Def (22.11) = raw AFA score of 23.24 points.
Average of ND Off (31.66) + AFA Def (20.75) = raw ND score of 26.21 points.

AFA score (23.24) + AFA avg (+3.41) - ND avg (-0.48) = 26.18
ND score (26.21) + ND avg (+8.59) - AFA avg (-2.99) = 31.80

BGS score: ND 32, Air Force 26.

• Will this be the last time we ever play Air Force?