Breaking it Down: Contrasting Styles

Over the course of this week, the Ole Miss Spirit has broken down the key matchups of the 73rd AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic. Friday's final edition features the comparison of two well-respected head coaches. Read about it inside.

Seeing that the final Cotton Bowl at the original Fair Park football stadium is upon us, the best ending edition for our daily breakdowns would have to be of the two head coaches. And what a matchup it is.

Houston Nutt versus Mike Leach.

Both men carry a staunch reputation for getting the most out of their players and building a foundation for success in all aspects of their respective programs. But each carries a drastically different style of play compared to their counterpart.

First, Leach is a schematic whiz kid. The man has built a well-oiled, high octane machine over his nine seasons at the Red Raider helm, garnering five NCAA passing titles and three total offense titles during his tenure. That hasn't stopped in 2008, as his squad leads the country in passing offense at 417.3 yards per game.

Senior quarterback Graham Harrell has completed 71 percent of his passes for 4,747 yards and 41 touchdowns. Biletnikoff Award winner Michael Crabtree has also totaled 93 catches for 1,135 yards and 18 touchdowns.

All-in-all, Leach's bunch has produced a mind-boggling 6,434 yards for 535 points, based almost exclusively around the passing game.

Chalk it up to the mad scientist.

"A couple of things really stand out when you watch their film," Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt said. "Their spacing of their personnel is precise and very good. Coach (Mike) Leach and his staff know what they are doing in creating chemistry between their quarterback and receivers. You just look at the yards and the touchdowns and they have put up ridiculous numbers."

Nutt, on the other hand, has built his offenses around the run, with the Rebels ranking third in the SEC in that category. A scientist in his own right, Nutt created the Wild-Rebel well before arriving at Ole Miss, which is now replicated by almost all teams be it college or professional.

His squads have led the conference in rushing five of the previous six years and ranked among the nation's top 15 five times.

"We have always emphasized being very physical running north and south in every game plan," said Nutt. "We as a staff have always tried to be physical and really run downhill. Then you can go play action and try to mix up formations. Those things will help your running game."

But don't be fooled by the reputation.

Currently, Ole Miss is fourth in the conference in passing at 215.2 yards per game and 58th in the country.

Leading the charge is sophomore quarterback Jevan Snead who finished the year with 2,470 yards, 23 touchdowns and 12 interceptions Junior Shay Hodge leads all Rebel receivers with 42 receptions for 676 yards and 8 touchdowns, while all-purpose star Dexter McCluster is a close second with 38 grabs for 542 yards and a score.

"Ole Miss absolutely presents challenges with their style of play," said Texas Tech head coach Mike Leach. "Both teams have offenses everyone doesn't see all the time. They have a unique offense that comes to you at different angles and there is nothing gimmicky about it because they understand what they are doing and they block. What makes it a great offense is that they put the ball in everyone's hands and you never know where the ball is going."

Advantage: It's hard to figure which team has the coaching advantage between two of the better leading men in the country, so why try? We like our guy, they like theirs.

Leach has the most bowl wins (5) than any individual coach in the history of the program, while Nutt has taken his teams bowling in 9-of-11 years. Each offers contrasting styles in regards to their offensive schemes and present defenses that were ranked highly in their respective conferences.

So who holds the advantage? Neither team matches up perfectly against the other, while the strengths of both teams counter the weaknesses of their opponent.

Tech's passing game gets the edge over the Ole Miss pass defense, but the Tech running game is clearly at a disadvantage against the Rebel run defense… Tech's offensive line is one of the best in the country, but so is the defensive front of Ole Miss… I could go on and on.

To me, this could be argued incessantly, so I'm taking the easy way out.

Call it a push.


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