Clardy's Corner: The pro set edition

Stanford is 6-0, lurking in the BCS title game picture, and bowl eligible before Game 1 of the World Series. All of that looks pretty good, doesn't it?

If you're not looking at Stanford Football these days, you're missing out. I like watching this team. The way Andrew Luck conducts the offense. The way the defense gets after it. And the way this team seems to adapt and overcome in the second half. It's all so much fun to watch this team do what it does every week.

But there's another reason why I have fun watching this team. I enjoy watching a team that is winning with a style of offense that is becoming extinct in football: the pro set.

Yes, Stanford breaks out the pistol offense every once in a while. Yes, the Card spread it out on occasion. But this offense does its best and most effective work with a two-back set and (at least) one tight end. It's the kind of football that was so prevalent in college just 15 years ago.

Those days are over. Now it's all about spreading out the defense with four receivers, with a splash of the Wildcat occasionally thrown in for good measure. Tight ends and fullbacks are now harder to find than intelligent comments on YouTube videos.

I have always disliked option football. Even when I was growing up in Oklahoma and watching Charles Thompson and Jamelle Holieway run the wishbone to perfection, option football always seemed so primitive and basic to me.

There didn't seem to be much imagination to option football. It seemed to rely too much on tricky ball fakes. It also seemed to all but ignore the passing game, and there was little threat of being able to get the ball downfield quickly. To me, there just wasn't much aesthetically pleasing or rewarding about it.

For the record, I'm not a big fan of the spread option, either. I respect it. When it's run correctly, the results can be absolutely devastating to an opposing defense. When executed the right way, spread option football can be incredible to watch. That doesn't mean I have to like it.

I remember noting in a Corner back in 2007 that speed was beginning to take over college football. Back then, I was talking about the speed of the individual players. Today when you talk about speed in college football, you're talking about the tempo of the game as well.

No team has perfected that spread option, combined the speed of the players with the speed of the game, and taken it all to a new level like Oregon has. It's hard enough to defend Chip Kelly's scheme at a normal pace. But when they're running it at that breakneck speed, things can get out of hand. Fast.

But I'll admit that I find it tough to watch Oregon football at times. The crazy ball fakes that come from every single direction and the obscenely fast pace leave your head spinning. And on top of that, the numbers on the jerseys are impossible to see. Not that I'm speaking from personal experience (thank goodness), but if you did some meth and watched some football, it would look like an Oregon game.

I'm a bit more apt to watch a team like Oklahoma State, with Brandon Weeden playing pitch and catch with Justin Blackmon. There's not much "option" in their offense; they spread it out, play at a high tempo, and put the ball in the air 50-60 times a game. They're not just dinking and dunking and passing for the sake of ball control (like Arizona does). They throw to get downfield and score. I prefer a bit more balance in my offense, but I like what the Cowboys do.

(It also doesn't hurt that their head coach Mike Gundy went to my high school. We Midwest City Bombers have to stick together, you know.)

And when you look at the evolution of the NFL, Oklahoma State is more the model than Oregon is. More teams are turning to their passing attacks to win games, and offensive numbers in the NFL are through the roof. Remember when 300-yard passing games in the NFL were cause for celebration? Not anymore.

I loved the old K-Gun used by Jim Kelly and the Buffalo Bills, and Mike Martz's "Greatest Show on Turf" with the St. Louis Rams. It's still fun to watch Bill Walsh's San Francisco 49ers operate on a plane that no offense had reached to that point.

Nobody killed you with screen passes better than the Oregon teams of the mid-1990s (I still have nightmares about Cristin McLemore to this very day). I remember Ryan Leaf's Washington State attack. I look back fondly on many of Stanford's offenses too, most notably the ones in 1995, 1999, and 2001.

All of those teams were fun to watch. All of those teams were so versatile. And most of those teams featured tight ends and fullbacks in key situations. But that style of offensive football I grew up watching is going away.

It's the price of progress, I guess. But Stanford's nod to football's not-so-distant past makes me appreciate what I am watching in the present even more.

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Yes, I was fairly uneasy about the game last week. Then again, a trip to Pullman always spooks me a bit. Don't get me wrong…at no point did I think Stanford was going to lose. But I certainly didn't think it would be as easy as just about everyone was predicting…

I'd love to be outraged about Stanford being eighth in the BCS standings, but I can't. As I mentioned last week, all of the teams ahead of the Card have notched more impressive wins against tougher competition than Stanford has to this point. It's as simple as that…

I'm not a QB coach, but I know bad quarterback mechanics when I see them. Jeff Tedford is a QB guru, but he's got a lot of work to do with Zach Maynard

cal RT Matt Summers-Gavin had a rough, rough night against U$C. When the tight end was lined up on his side and he had help, things were fine. But when he was by himself, he was turnstiled. Frequently…

Am I really seeing some people trying to make a Heisman push for QB Keith Price? Seriously? The kid's having a good season, but please. Maybe they had some "Jake Locker For Heisman" stuff lying around the office they wanted to still get some use out of…

I'll admit it…I'm rooting for Oregon. I want that November 12 game to mean everything we think it could mean…

Oregon doesn't have LaMichael James or Darron Thomas by the end of their game against Arizona State, but they got Cliff Harris back. And the beat goes on in Eugene…

Four personal foul penalties by Arizona State in that game? Shocker…

I don't know what it is, but Vontaze Burfict just doesn't look the same to me…

Not a Pac-11 thought, but… Tulane's head coach resigned on Tuesday. His name? Bob Toledo. I'll be honest, I had forgotten all about that guy…

Not a Pac-11 thought, but… c'mon. You knew it was just a matter of time before Stanford's old head coach rubbed somebody wrong in the NFL, right? Here's some advice, Jim Schwartz: never argue with a lunatic. From a distance you both look exactly the same…

Not a Pac-11 thought, but… it sure doesn't look like Donovan McNabb really cares anymore, does it?

Not a Pac-11 thought, but… if Boston Red Sox pitchers were drinking beer and eating Popeye's during games, what do you think was going on in the clubhouse during 1986 Mets games? On second thought, don't answer that. I don't want to know…

Not a Pac-11 thought, but… there are folks out there who claim they only watch auto racing for the crashes. If you're one of those people, and you know what happened to Dan Wheldon in Las Vegas over the weekend, I'm curious to know if you still feel the same way…

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Got a thought on this Corner? Drop me a line either at my inbox (username: troyc)... or e-mail me at

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UCLA @ Arizona (Thursday). UCLA's defense can't sack the quarterback. That might be music to Nick Foles' ears. Tim Kish accomplishes in one game what Mike Stoops couldn't do in six tries this year: beat an FBS opponent. I like Arizona by five.

Oregon @ Colorado. It's pretty likely that Oregon won't have LaMichael James or Darron Thomas ready to go for this one. But they're playing Colorado, so quite frankly, it won't matter. I like Oregon by 32.

Utah @ cal. Can you believe this game is being broadcast nationally on ESPN Radio? This never would have happened if I were still in Bristol. I like Utah by six.

Oregon State @ Washington State. What the hell happened to Oregon State? I like Washington State by 16.

Last week: 3-0 (straight-up), 3-0 (ATS).
This year: 10-6 (straight-up), 11-5 (ATS).
Last year: 23-13 (straight-up), 16-20 (ATS).

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Troy Clardy is in his 19th year of following the Cardinal as a columnist, broadcaster, and announcer. In its 10th season of Cardinal commentary, Clardy's Corner appears Wednesdays during the college football regular season on You can also check him out online at, or e-mail him at

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