(1) Is a pro style offense best for a team aspiring to be an elite college program in 2009? Florida, LSU, Oklahoma and Ohio State among the major powers, and Utah, Boise, West Virgina... among the next tier all seem to have achieved success over the past 6+ years running a much different offense. USC is an exception I realize (though that looked like more of a power running game late in their game against OSU), but I am wondering whether Weis' offense even at its best works in college football.
(2) Do Pittsburgh and the Giants in pro football, and Bama in college run more of a power game, with a generally pro style? Again, I am interested what someone with more football knowledge thinks about what works in college rather than pro football.
1) One difference between USC and ND's rushing attack is USC has a 2nd and even 3rd "zip" back to go to. As it played out, McKnight got a lot of carries, but it was a fresh #13 that scored the winning TD. But I think ND's and USC's schemes are similar.
I don't know if ND's template for a running game it the "best" for an elite college program. What IS necessary for an NC is building quality depth. This was the difference between Ohio State and both LSU and Florida in OSU's two championship losses. OSU's first team was every bit as talented and fast as UF's and LSU's. However, their 3rd, 4th, and 5th DBs were not on the same level as either of those teams' 3rd, 4th, or 5th receiver; you had OSU guys trying to compensate and getting themselves out of position. Likewise, OSU's 2nd RB and 3rd and 4th receivers were a pretty big drop-off from their first team guys; without contributions from them, OSU's prime offensive players had to carry too much of the load against the wave after wave of bodies both UF and LSU sent out on defense.
2) I haven't seen the Giants play much (I live in Texas); I don't know if I would call what the Steelers do a "power" running game - they just don't string plays out as much as ND did on Saturday to allow the running back to patiently await a seam opening up; instead, they'll just use many of the same blocking techniques as everyone else, but their running backs will run right at you. It's a more physical approach to the same type of running attack that most NFL teams use, and with their personnel, they can wear a defense down and/or require the opposition's front 7 to require more help from the safeties, which opens up passing lanes for their very good corps of receivers.
As for 'Bama, they seem to have more of a traditional "power" running attack. When it's clicking, they will dominate a game. If not, well, remember John Parker Wilson last year trying to pass Alabama to victory in the Sugar Bowl, a good part of the time while running for his life? For 'Bama, not good times. Bad times.
It seemed to me that SC was able to power run it straight ahead in short yardage (against a stout OSU defense), something I am yet to be convinced ND can do even with a now more experienced O line. Your Bama analogy would seem to apply to ND's offense: when Jimmy is clicking, all is good, but when he has an off day passing, now what? I am sure when Saban gets everything set at Bama, his defense will be dominant and a one-dimensional offense will be enough to compete for NCs. I don't see our defense on that level now or anytime soon.
Keep on posting - this is the kind of stuff where NDNation is at its best.
It may be because they have a good FB, but I like the way they ran the zone read out of basically an I formation. The FB would get a read on the hole and open it up for Ryan Grant who had enough "zip" to break off some nice runs. This is exactly what I expected when I heard that Aldridge/Hughes were moving to FB. A lot of the Zone running plays look like they need a bit of a block to really pop open a hole and I think a good FB does that. It's not that they have to block a DT or DE or LB 1 on 1, they just need to double in the hole enough to make a seam to "zip" through.