Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

16 Mar 2013

The No-Back Formation: College Football's Curveball

Over at Football Study Hall, our own Bill Connelly dissects a sample of college football snaps with no running backs and tests some truisms with the data.

Posted by: Rivers McCown on 16 Mar 2013

19 comments, Last at 22 Mar 2013, 2:15am by Jennie P. Bryant


by nat :: Sat, 03/16/2013 - 9:19pm

Argh! You don't meam truism. Don't spoil a perfectly good and useful word. You mean something like "conventional wisdom" or "maxim".

A truism is a statement that is true by definition, or so obviously true as to be devoid of useful information. Applying statistical tests to truisms would be a complete waste of time. Testing conventional wisdom and football maxims is what FO is all about.

Here endeth the rant.

by JonFrum :: Sat, 03/16/2013 - 10:32pm

Here here, harrumph harrumph!

by JohnD (not verified) :: Sun, 03/17/2013 - 8:34pm

I'm afraid you meant "Hear hear," unless that was the point of course.

by Rivers McCown :: Sat, 03/16/2013 - 11:14pm

I'll meam whatever I feel like meaming.

But you're right, that probably is better.

by LionInAZ :: Sat, 03/16/2013 - 11:40pm

Did you mean 'meam' or 'maim'?

by nat :: Mon, 03/18/2013 - 9:46am

Damn you, iPad typing!

I "meamt" to type "mean".

by dmb :: Sun, 03/17/2013 - 10:02pm

A truism is a statement that is true by definition...

Your defense of a perfectly good word is only contributing to its downfall. Your first definition better fits the word "tautology."

by nat :: Mon, 03/18/2013 - 10:31am

In logic, a tautology is something that is true by its formal structure alone: Either Peyton Manning is the best QB ever, or he isn't.

That statement would be true if we used "Tim Tebow" instead of Manning, or "man with the largest forehead" instead of "best QB". It is true by its form alone. Definitions have nothing to do with it.

In rhetoric, a tautology is "saying the same thing twice". Sometimes it is a mere fault of style ("adequate enough"), sometimes used for emphasis ("free gift with no strings attached").

It can also be used to refer to arguments that substitute mere rephrasing of a premise or conclusion for logical progression. In this sense, it is similar to circular reasoning, but not exactly the same thing.

Truisms, on the other hand, are empty truths, true by the definitions of words and trivial logic.

"You have to score to win" is a football truism that is not a tautology.

It depends on the definition of "win" and trivial logic to be true. It is really true, yet so trivial as to be unlikely to advance our understanding. But it would not be true with a substitution. "You have to have the largest forehead to win" is not true at all.

Truism and tautology are both very useful words. Let's keep 'em in the language in a useful form.

Next rant: "reverse" and "end-around" Use the right word for the right play, damn you!

by Bobman :: Wed, 03/20/2013 - 3:36pm

I believe you mean fivehead, not forehead. There's a great difference. If he was in Spinal Tap, they'd have said "his head goes to five." When he golfs, he yells "Five!" People have asked him why and he can neither explain it nor control it--just comes out that way.

I'm with you otherwise....

by MC2 :: Tue, 03/19/2013 - 6:38am

Applying statistical tests to truisms would be a complete waste of time.

Yes, it would be. And yet, when I was a grad student in political science, that is exactly what we were trained to do.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 03/19/2013 - 10:03am

That's because political science is wasting time.

Or is that a truism?

by MC2 :: Tue, 03/19/2013 - 7:52pm

I don't know. Maybe we should run a statistical test to find out.

by nat :: Tue, 03/19/2013 - 10:18pm

I always thought political science consisted of speaking truisms to power.

by Jeremy Billones :: Mon, 03/18/2013 - 10:17am

How were there 8 plays with 4+ backs?

by Dean :: Mon, 03/18/2013 - 1:47pm

I was wondering the same thing. 4 backs + 1 QB = Illegal Formation penalty.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 03/18/2013 - 3:11pm

Triple-option play where they motion the original QB to the LOS?

I think in reality this captures triple-option jet sweeps where the WR is still on the line at the snap.

by nat :: Mon, 03/18/2013 - 3:58pm

I can imagine zero-QB formations with 4 men in the backfield. It's that plus sign that has me wondering.

by Bobman :: Wed, 03/20/2013 - 3:40pm

I've advocated that for my kids' junior football--when the O is predictable and teh D seems to know it and you have three qualified players who can play both RB and QB, line 'em up side by side in the backfield and let the D flounder about five or six plays per game, (snapping to different guys and running different plays off that same formation, of course).

by Jennie P. Bryant (not verified) :: Fri, 03/22/2013 - 2:15am

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