It's been said many times that all trends come to an end. Has that time started to come for the hurry-up?
I first started to notice just watching Pac-12 games. Teams seemed to be backing off from at least just the intense no-huddle or hurry-up. I noticed Oregon slow from their breakneck pace last season as they moved towards a more traditional passing attack with Marcus Mariota and then again this year with Vernon Adams. I also noticed some of the hurry-up dabblers like UCLA, USC and Washington and even the hurry-up passers like Cal and Washington State do a bit of the same.
Once the 2015 season wrapped up, I dug into the numbers and they support my suspicion. Of the Pac-12 teams that have recently run the hurry-up/no-huddle all but two ran fewer plays in 2015 than they did in 2014 and the key team that actually ran more plays, Oregon, still ran far fewer than they did a few years ago.
Overall, Pac-12 teams that have seriously dabbled in the hurry-up ran fewer plays in 2015 than they did in 2014.
Now, there are some other factors that could be making this happen, but with the numbers supporting what I believe I have been seeing, I think it confirms there is at least some slowing.
With that conceded, the key factors to examine from here are why this happened and where I think the hurry-up is going.
Nowhere to go but down
A big part of why the numbers have to go down is I think the amount of plays teams were running might have simply maxed out. Numbers of plays ran skyrocketed in the Pac-12 over a 5-10 year span and why I think they will at least remain near where they are now, they really couldn't get too much higher.
The conference is getting better
Whether it was the intention when it was invented, the hurry-up/no-huddle seemed to become a tactic teams would adopt to give them a unique advantage when competing against teams with more talent than them or even to give them a major advantage over teams with equal of lesser talent. The effective execution scheme requires a ton of conditioning, practice and a large commitment to a specific kind of personnel, so it's not a scheme that a lot of programs that have the talent to simply line up and beat most teams want to commit to. Sure, some might implement it a bit, but will rarely commit all in.
So as Pac-12 teams have improved out of the dark Oregon, Stanford and everyone else years, teams have built up enough talent, coaching and experience to where they can play more straight up and win games.
Even though they were probably the best team in the conference in those days when the hurry-up was at its zenith in the conference, I actually think Oregon is the perfect example of this. The Ducks committed to the scheme hardest a few years ago when they had much less talent than they do now and have slowed as they have used their wild on-field success to help build talent. As the Ducks had Marcus Mariota turn into the nation's best QB and greatly improved their talent at running back, receiver and on the offensive line, they eased off the accelerator because they could. They no longer needed to fly to hammer Pac-12 teams. But, they knew they still needed it to hammer a national power like Florida State as you saw them turn it back up in the Rose Bowl and to try and compete with Ohio State in the championship.
Now that it's everywhere, it's not as deadly
One of the main reasons Oregon's hurry-up was so devastating in the early-2010s was because it was so rare. It was really hard to prepare defenses for an offense they were only going to see one time in a season and one they really never truly practice against.
However, once more teams started to implement the scheme, started to play against them more frequently and could more easily practice against it without having to completely shift what they were doing for a week, it's advantage weakened and teams started using less and less of it.
Where will it go?
Let me say right now, I don't think the hurry-up is going away, probably ever. I just think it's going to fall off at least a little bit.
No more all-in
I don't think we will see anymore teams follow the path of Oregon and Arizona and revolved their program around the hurry-up. The reward of the advantage it gives no longer is worth the investment.
It will continue to be less and less of an advantage
I have already touched on this a bit, but I expect the hurry-up to become less and less of an advantage each year.
It will change
One thing I know about college football... things will always change. The hurry-up might not actually go away at all, it might just change to adjust to the adjustments that have been made against it. I think we have already seen it go from a primarily run-focused offense to a passing offense and I think we will never see it stop changing.