Monday, April 26, 2010

Special Teams Key To Championships

I love to read statistical analysis of all things football. While many statistics may not have a real bearing on win/losses, most of them do tell a story of why a team is successful or not. Turnover margins are virtually always directly related to the success of a team. The same can be said about yards allowed per game. I could go on and on.

Our dear friend David Hale is one of my favorite statistical reporters. He is one of the few reporters that gives us numbers that link to meaningful football happenings. This rambling leads me to my point for today, special teams. I am not going to spend hours compiling statistics and being a nerd (Sorry Hale). I am just going to simply state my opinion, and base that opinion on facts and things I have researched in the past.

First off, most knowledgeable college football fans know that Frank Beamer put Virginia Tech on the map playing "Beamer Ball". Beamer Ball was based around the fact that VT had some of the most domiating special teams play of any college in the nation over the past 10-15 years. VT realized that there was a lot of benefit to putting offensive and defensive startets on special teams so that the best athletes were covering and returning kicks, as well as, blocking punts and field goals. The number of kicks that VT blocked during the late 90's and 2000's is pretty unbelievable.

It's not as true today as it was 5 years ago, but too many teams were leaving special teams units to be fielded by back-ups and walk ones. Beamer helped make that a thing of the past by proving what a benefit you could get by putting the best man on the field during special teams. You might be shocked to see how high the percentage of plays in a college football game are special teams plays (kickoffs, extra points, punts, field goals, etc.). These plays can be game-breakers.

Too many times, a teams level of success is based on how they did during the special teams portion of a game. Getting a kick blocked can be devastating; missing an extra point can change the complexion of a game; how many games are lost by less than 3 points by a team that missed a field goal?

I know I just went on a bit of a rant, but this morning as I was deciding what I should talk about today, I realized that this Dawg team has the opportunity to be REALLY special on special teams. To quote a fan that had season tickets directly behind me for several years; "Let's Go Special Teams"!



  1. Bama and Javier Arens is case in point--w/o a few key returns Bama may not have won SEC championship and thus BCS championship

  2. I failed to talk about this point. But field position is a HUGE issue when it comes to ST. Arenas, as you said, gave Alabama a huge advantage when it came to field position.

    On the flip side, a good coverage team can set up your offense to have good FP as well.

  3. Andy;

    Look at my series, "The *** is the thing..." There's a reason I leave off special teams. While they can be a gamebreaker and a clincher in some situations, they are not the key to a championship. Having subpar defense and subpar offense will not be enough even if you have the most spectacular special teams. Yes, a blocked punt can be huge. A blocked field goal enabled Appalaichan State to beat Michigan a few years back. Of course, there were a number of other plays throughout the course of that game that played just as much a part in the victory.

    This, in fact, is why I firmly believe that special teams ISN'T a deciding factor in championships. Yes, we'll all remember some field goal as being the "one that won the big one" or something like that. However, we rarely remember the sack-fumble in the second quarter that caused a drive to end, when the team could have scored a go-ahead touchdown.

    There are games every year which would not have been one were it not for some play...a kickoff return, a blocked punt, a long field goal, an interception return, a long pass play, a long run....

    But none of this makes them the key to a title season. They may be the key to one game. But year in, year out, the key to winning, is consistency.


  4. I definitely wouldn't argue that you need O and D to win. My inspiration for this post was from a study I read a few years back (I'll have to go back and search for this one) that showed the direct correlation between high winning percentages and successful special teams play. It was more than just a positive correlation, it was proof that most successful college and professional football teams were at or near the top of all special teams statistical categories. More often than not, the team with top special teams stats came with a stout defense too. I think it's for a reason.

  5. I also read a write-up on Urban Meyer (screech) a few years back where he was talking about one of his biggest emphasis' in a game goes towards winning the battle of field position through special teams play.

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