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Bang or Bust: The Air Raid Is A Terrible System

We discuss whether or not the air raid has hurt the Big 12 Conference.



Getty Images - John Weast

As you can imagine, running the LGG takes quite a bit of coordination and planning, and some of the best football discussions happen behind the scenes. I thought (Phillip thought and I agreed) that a discussion from last week would make a pretty good post. That discussion was on the air raid and if it is a terrible system.

So Bang or Bust? Let us know your thoughts in the comments; is the air raid a terrible system?


Chris Ross: Over the last two games, Kansas is +12 in turnovers…wow. Something I noticed on the replay of the Kansas-Rutgers game…Kansas needs to shore up their special teams blocking. (Not that hard to notice when they have two kicks blocked)

Patrick Mayhorn: Oh god, why are you watching the replay of Kansas-Rutgers?

Chris Ross: I didn’t see a lot of it, and I try to watch them back during the week. And let’s be honest, I was kind of intrigued by the game, especially after the outcome.

Patrick Mayhorn: My official take is that Kansas is good. (This did not age well 🤷)

Chris Ross: And by Kansas, you mean Pooka. Bender is awful.

Patrick Mayhorn: Miles Kendrick should start, and Kansas needs to stop trying to run the goddamn air raid.

Chris Ross: Beaty better be sending Pooka a Christmas card.

Patrick Mayhorn: My hypothesis is that Mike Leach having success at Texas Tech with the air raid actively made the conference worse, because basically every team that isn’t Oklahoma has spent the last ten years trying to make a bad system work.

Chris Ross: That’s uh…a take, I guess. I wouldn’t call it a bad system when it’s influenced nearly every team in college football and is spreading to the NFL.

Taylor Midkiff: I don’t think anything is inherently wrong with the air raid, but an understanding of how to pair it with a respectable defense is what is often missing.

Patrick Mayhorn: I think it can be run by very specific coaches at very specific schools (Gundy at OSU), but in general it’s just not capable creating anything other than decent to pretty good teams.

Chris Ross: I think that’s a bit of correlation not being causation. Even Alabama has mixed spread, hurry up, air raid schemes into their offense

Patrick Mayhorn: That doesn’t mean they’re running an air raid.

Chris Ross: No, but by that standard very few teams are. OSU doesn’t run a true air raid.

Patrick Mayhorn: And the teams that are, usually aren’t very successful. I think it has to be modified to be successful, and for a while, most of the conference couldn’t figure that out

Taylor Midkiff: I guess the question to help clear this up is what defines running an air raid system and what defines just using elements of it?

Chris Ross: Is Texas Tech running a true air raid?

Patrick Mayhorn: When i think true air raid, i’m thinking like Texas Tech, Wazzu, teams like that. teams that throw like 60 times for no reason.

Taylor Midkiff: Right. Yeah I think that system is not sustainable for success. It needs to be modified.

Chris Ross: Okay, but if they are running 100+ plays, 60 passes isn’t that bad.

Patrick Mayhorn: 60 passes is bad.

Chris Ross: A 60/40 pass run split isn’t that bad.

Patrick Mayhorn: I don’t think there’s an amount of plays you could reasonably run in a game where 60 passes wouldn’t be bad.

Chris Ross: Against Houston, Tech had 59 pass attempts to 41 carries. Is that bad when you’re only averaging 2.4 yards per carry and 10.3 yards per pass attempt?
You think they should have run it more?

Patrick Mayhorn: I think they should recruit better linemen and running backs. It’s a systematic issue, not a game by game thing.

Chris Ross: Tech is typically around 53% passing, though. I think it’s key to remember how the air raid is used. It helps to compensate for a bad offensive line. Quick passes before the pressure can get to the QB.

Patrick Mayhorn: That kind of production doesn’t beat good defenses, or even decent ones.

Chris Ross: So, are they going to get over the hump with it? Probably not, but what are any team’s chances of winning behind a terrible o-line?

Patrick Mayhorn: Why run a system that you know can only get like 6 wins? What’s the point? You can’t beat good teams running that system. It puts way too much emphasis on talent, which like 7 teams in the conference have more of than tech does.

Chris Ross: That’s like saying the triple option won’t win a national title, so why would teams run any option? It’s a terrible system. Also, Like Gundy brought up in his presser, does he get any credit for bringing the inverted wishbone back?

Patrick Mayhorn: The option minimizes talent differences by slowing the game down. That’s literally the whole point. The air raid does the exact opposite thing. I guess after three years of watching so much of it, i’m just jaded. What i really don’t get is the support it has in tech’s fan base. It’s not particularly fun to watch, and they haven’t run it well in almost a decade.

Chris Ross: I wan’t actually saying that about the option. I was just making a point. But the air raid minimizes talent differences by spreading the ball out and putting it the hands of your 2 or 3 playmakers. For better or worse, it’s an identity. If they are going to suck, at least they can do it with what the fans want.

Phillip Slavin: You guys should make this back and forth a post.


I would like to add, that after Texas Tech dismantled Oklahoma State on Saturday, our good friends at Staking The Plains made a great point about the Texas Tech offense. While they are known for the air raid, their scheme is much more of a mix than people realize.

From Seth Jungman at Staking The Plains: This really deserves more attention, and not included here in the notes, but this is not really an Air-Raid offense. This is a multi-dimensional offense that is much more difficult to stop and you can call it Air-Raid if you want, but I wanted to track the plays from this week because when watching the Houston game, it seemed like Texas Tech was in 11 personnel quite a bit. Of the 97 plays that I tracked, only 37% were in 10 personnel, which is traditional Air-Raid one-back with four wide outs. And 36% of the 97 plays were in 11 personnel, meaning there was at a tight end and one running back. If you want to add in the 6 plays that had a tight end and two running backs, Texas Tech ran the ball with at least 1 tight end or H-back 42% of the time. This is an offense that is varied and multi-dimensional and I credit Kingsbury and Kevin Johns for bringing things to this offense that we just haven’t seen in a long time.

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