Football 101: Rose Bowl plays to look out for

Updated: December 29, 2006, 5:42 PM ET
By Jim Donnan | ESPN.com

How Michigan Uses Mike Hart
Michigan sets its offense up to exploit the talented running and catching ability of running back Mike Hart. There are several ways the Wolverines like to get the ball to him. The two primary ways in the run game are the inside and outside zone.

Inside Zone
Against USC it's going to be important that QB Chad Henne makes sure that he gets the Wolverines in the proper play because USC coach Pete Carroll will mix up his fronts and his alignments before and during the snap. With the inside zone it doesn't really matter that much what formation the defense is in. Michigan is going to come up and run a predetermined play and allow its big offensive line to get moving and then Hart will key the blocks and run accordingly.

Michigan Inside Zone
Launch play breakdown

Outside Zone
This is utilized to take advantage of a soft run support system when USC is geared toward playing the pass, particularly on second and third and long. Michigan will spring this outside zone to try and get Hart in the open field.

Michigan Outside Zone
Launch play breakdown

Slow Screen
This play is utilized by most teams to slow down the pass rush and in Michigan's case not only does it meet this purpose, it also is another way to get the ball to Hart in the open field with blockers in front of him. Because of the success USC had in the last Rose Bowl when they played Michigan and sacked John Navarre, look for Michigan to use more screens, draws and delays to overcome any lack of pass protection.

Michigan Slow Screen
Launch play breakdown

The matchup of USC's aggressive defense and Michigan's powerful offensive line will be a key in this game, particularly from a standpoint of if Michigan can establish the line of scrimmage with the run, because then that sets up Henne with the play-action pass, which he has been golden with all year getting the ball to receivers Mario Manningham, Adrian Arrington and Steve Breaston. It's going to be essential for Michigan to initiate its offense by establishing the run, which will it sets up their play-action and eat up clock, keeping USC off the field.

USC's Passing Game
USC's passing game is based on the strength of quarterback John David Booty's ability to not only read the defense but also his ability to have the arm strength to get the ball in various windows that open up on the defense. The Trojans have always done a good job in utilizing formations, motions and shifts to create confusion on the defense and also try to establish some one-on-one situations for their wide receivers.

181 Stop/Block
This play is a staple of any West Coast offense from the standpoint that it affords maximum protection with a three-set drop and gives the offense a chance to throw the controlled short hitch route if the defense is playing zone and convert that to a fade route if they're playing man. There's not much risk as far as protection. One of the things I'm looking for early in the game is how much Michigan plays press coverage against these tremendous receivers and how much they show press and bail out.

USC 181 Stop Block
Launch play breakdown

"0" 78 Wide/Flat
This is a version of a bunch set where the Trojans are trying to disrupt the defense by having the receivers line up close together and hopefully rub-off, or "pick", the defenders. This bunch, or "pack", type of alignment has come in vogue over the last couple of years and defenses are getting better at stopping it, but at the same time, USC does a good job of springing it when it's least expected and Booty does a good job of reading it.

USC 078 Wide Flat
Launch play breakdown

873 Flat/Flat
No. 3: 873: This is a red-zone type play that USC likes to employ to find out whether the defense is in man or zone coverage. By putting Steve Smith in motion, the defense has to declare the coverage: if the corner runs with him, it's man; if the corner shuffles back, it's zone. This makes it easier for Booty to read the coverage. It's a relatively safe pass with maximum protection by keeping the backs in and it allows the offense to go short or deep off the corner if they're playing zone or hit Smith on the zig route if they're playing man. The beauty of the zig is that most teams inside the 20-yard line like to run crossing routes and on the outset of this play, it looks like it is a crossing route but when then Smith plants and goes back to the outside, which when the defender is in your hip pocket, you usually lose him with the zig move.

USC 873 Flat Flat
Launch play breakdown

Michigan is going to be severely tested by the fact that it not only has to worry about Smith and Jarrett but also Patrick Turner, giving them another different way to attack. Plus the Wolverines have to be careful in defending them and the tight end Fred Davis, who's an element in this game to look for because Michigan's defense is going to be so keyed in on the wide receivers that he could become a factor. The Wolverines will also have to do a good job playing the ball in the air because USC is going to throw some jump balls. Bottom line is Michigan is going to have to get a lot better pass rush then it got against Ohio State.

Jim Donnan was the head coach at Georgia and Marshall and is an ESPN college football analyst.

Jim Donnan

College Football
Jim Donnan was the head coach at Georgia and Marshall and is an ESPN college football analyst.

ALSO SEE