There are only 2 formations I truly love in college football: the Wishbone and the Spread (Shotgun and 5-Wide preferably). In fact I love them so much, that I created a unparalleled hybrid I call the “Spread Bone” for NCAA 2005. This offense took the Naval Academy from laughing-stock independent to BCS Champion in 3 short years. (side note: The offense couldn’t actually work in big-time College Football. But it would be perfect for a Pop Warner team) as to how any college football offense (including those mentioned above) can be effective:
1. A clearly defined identity
When an offense has a true identity, it gives them an aura of predictability. That allows them to have the upper hand on opponents, believe it or not. It gives the opposing Defensive Coordinator a false sense of confidence and security in key situations. Let me be clear, I don’t mean actual predictability (see: Michigan), just the sense that you might know what’s coming. In addition, it means you do at least one thing well which can make it effective even if the opponent is looking for it.
This is what actually makes the offense unpredictable. While you have to be willing to take a chance to reap a big reward, an offense needs to stay true to their identity (particularly early in a game) for two reasons: a) it may be effective if your execution improves and most importantly b) it sets up your ability to go against your identity and counter-attack a susceptible defense, mentally and physically prepared for something completely different. Of course you can’t be too patient and never adapt (again see: Michigan), which takes us to #3.
3. A willingness to adjust and the skill to do so
Once you established your overall identity and exercised the patience to attempt to execute your preferred scheme, the last step is adjustments. No matter how much film you watch, a coach can never completely predict the reaction of the opposition. So, you have to be willing to take the final step and make the right changes whether it’s in your playbook or not. This could be as easy as a substitution or as difficult as redesigning a play. This is where good offenses exploit weakness and create favorable match-ups while bad offenses either stand pat or make changes at the wrong time (too early or too late).