How do you solve a problem like Alabama?

Hey, did you know that Nick Saban’s running a pretty good little program over there in Tuscaloosa?  Mark Schlabach does.  And he’s wondering if there’s a program in the SEC that can do anything about it.

Surprisingly, it’s kind of a lazy piece.  All he really does is line up the teams perceived to be the top contenders in the conference and go through their strengths and weaknesses.

The reality is that there were only three teams that pushed Alabama last year – LSU, Texas A&M and Georgia.  What all three teams had in common was the ability to stretch Alabama’s pass defense.  They were the only three to exceed eight yards per pass attempt against the Tide defense

So how would Florida and South Caroline fare along that line?  The Gators are a tough sell, honestly.  They’re not geared to stretch defenses.  Last season, they averaged 6.6 ypa and only exceeded 8 ypa twice, against Texas A&M and Tennessee, neither of which had defenses which would be confused with Saban’s.

As for Spurrier’s crew, it’s more of a Jekyll and Hyde story.  There are some eye-popping ypas from last season (including a game in Columbia that we won’t dwell on here), but there are also some abysmal averages against good defenses, like Florida, Vanderbilt, LSU… and Wofford.  So you don’t know which offense would show up, perhaps.  But in a one game scenario with Spurrier’s legendary playcalling ability, I wouldn’t bet against the ‘Cocks.

Anyway, I thought this might be a good spot for a reader poll.


Filed under SEC Football, Stats Geek!

52 responses to “How do you solve a problem like Alabama?

  1. At 68% now. By noon we will be the only contender.

  2. Bit of a homerish slant here, but the Dawgs are the only choice really. No way Saban lets Manziel beat him again.

  3. Ralph

    UGA will not play Bama this year and I don’t see them as the representative out of the West in the SECCG. Got to be Texas A&M.

    • Texas A&M? You think Johnny Football is going to play another out of his mind game against Bama this year? I just have to see that one more time before I believe it wasn’t just a one time game of his life.

      • Cojones

        Twist, you invariably show good reasoning in your posts. Why do you think that the win over Bama was outside Manziel’s skill zone shown all year in his qualifications for the Heisman? If UGA had beaten Bama, what would your reply be to someone who posted those words about Murray? Truly, I’m not getting on your case for your opinion, just that you always post clearly and this post smacks of someone like ……um….Cojones?

        • Bryant Denny

          I think a good item to ponder is if JM can play at last year’s level again.

          Though his stats last year were great (and not other-worldly), I do wonder if he can complete 68% of his passes again or if maybe his 9 interceptions become 4 or 14.

          But, given their schedule this year, perhaps replicating those numbers again won’t be too difficult.

        • I remember a number of crazy improvised plays in that game that went in favor of Johnny and Texas A&M. He definitely has the skillset to make amazing plays and deserved the Heisman. Admittedly I haven’t watched him play enough, but we’ll see next year if he keeps it up or falls back a little with the sophomore slump. I’m just skeptical that he could make that magic happen again against Bama.

          The great thing is, we’ll find out soon enough. Is this summer over with? Dang…

  4. It takes balance to beat Bama. If you can’t run the ball against their front 7, Saban can keep the safeties back and play over the top. If you can, the field opens up. Also, you have to hit the big play when it opens up. LSU 2004 is a good blueprint for beating a Saban-coached team.

    • Will (the other one)

      Given Saban’s tendencies, I’d love to see what a Baylor-offense-approach would do to them. Given the new faces on their DLine this year it may the best shot at putting up buckets of points on them for a while.

  5. A&M will lose big. I think LSU has a really good shot. They would’ve beaten them last year except for Miles’s bizarre coaching decisions. LSU won the last time in Tuscaloosa, too, so that’s not a big deal. I like Georgia’s chances in a hypothetical matchup versus Alabama, but I would give the ever-so-slight edge in odds to LSU beating Alabama.

    • Will (the other one)

      If some of their young talent gels and they make big strides on offense, I give Ole Miss an outside chance too. They get a bye and catch Bama off a big game (I think). But it’s still a big “if” that anyone outside of LSU, UGA, or TAMU can give them a run this year (unless VT does a really huge 180 on offense that is.)

  6. I’ve not seen a UGA team under Coach Richt play as hard for a full 60 the way they did against Alabama that day in many years… probably back to at least when Shock was under center and maybe even Greene. I’ve also NEVER seen Coach Richt visibly pissed/upset/disappointed in a loss the way he was. Recall back to just before Saban got Bama on the climb, they thought they were there and dropped Utah. Then Tebow got ’em and they’ve been on a tear ever since. Pain and desire are the two best motivators there are… I think this team felt pain last year like they’ve never felt. They and us realized just how close they came to a dream they weren’t sure was real for them in previous seasons– a National Championship. I for one think it’s time CMR stops saying “win the east, play for the SEC and go from there”. He has a team that wants a National Championship, a fan base the wants one too and for the first time in several years he has a team that can actually do it. I’m praying for a rematch against Alabama in December. Their fans are not, they didn’t even want one extra quarter last year, let alone four.

    Go Dawgs!

    • Mayor of Dawgtown

      Got to get by Clemson, South Carolina, LSU and FU first, though.

      • AusDawg85

        And if we do that, win the East, then yes…I’d like our chances against Bama, so that’s why I voted for the Dawgs.

        • Mayor of Dawgtown

          If we get by all of those teams, me too.

        • Mayor of Dawgtown

          I think that what I’m trying to say is that while I’m guardedly optimistic about this coming season I don’t want the bar to be set so high that if the Dawgs lose a game or 2 the crazies come out of the woodwork like they did last season after 1 loss to South Carolina. If the Dawgs win 11 games or even 10 or 9 games in the regular season that’s still a pretty damn good year. Let’s just not be screaming for blood if they lose to Clemmons or the Dicks or (gulp) both early.

  7. Hogbody Spradlin

    This poll would be more satisfying if the question was: Which team has the worst shot of beating Alabama?

  8. sUGArdaddy

    As much as I want to play and beat Bama, I really want to beat Johnny Tinkerbell.

  9. MGW

    Obviously UGA’s going to win that poll on this site in a landslide.

    I’d love to see the voting if UGA wasn’t an option on that.

    • MGW

      Aside from Georgia, I say LSU. Georgia lost the SEC by a virtual coin toss, and I think the whole offense returning and being one year older and more experienced makes up for the losses on defense; plus the defense may be young but its damn talented.

      But people seem to forget that there’s another team who consistently doesn’t have down years, regardless of personnel losses, and its LSU.

      A&M is going to get humiliated by Alabama this year. Mark it.

  10. “I’m such a homer” I think to myself as I vote for UGA

  11. Bryant Denny

    I would say you have to do several things:

    1) Run the ball (not necessarily run to set up the pass, but run when you need to or can). LSU, A&M and UGA only three teams to rush for over 100 yards last year.
    2) Pass with accuracy. YPA is important, but doesn’t tell the whole story.
    3) Convert on 3rd down. LSU and A&M were the only teams 50% or more.
    4) Win turnover ratio.

    Alabama tries to make you one-dimensional – i.e. do whatever to get you in third and long. If you can run the ball a little and pass with consistency, then you can do the other things.

    Y’all have a good day,


  12. WillTrane

    To get to Bama you have to start yesterday. That has passed. Off season prep is huge with them and every team in the conference had better understand that. Then first minute of fall camp has to have urgency. But it starts at Clemson…win them all and Bama has to come to you.

  13. Comin' Down The Track

    Great. Now that song is stuck in my brain. Thanks for that, Senator.

  14. Slaw Dawg

    Maybe I took this too literally, but since UGA, UF and SC don’t play Bama in the regular season, and they’d both have to make the SECCG to play again, that reduced the odds for me. So, just playing the odds, I stuck with teams on Bama’s regular season schedule.

    Next step in my reasoning is that I think it helps if a team can sneak up on Bama or catch them by surprise. No way TAMU or LSU will do that. I think it’s going to have to be an upset, and I’m going way out on a limb and calling for Miss State to do that. It’s a classic trap game–one week after LSU, and on the road. Would go with Ole Miss, but they’re sandwiched between a coupla blueberry cupcakes (if I can mix my food metaphors here).

    Now, if the question is based on assumption the teams will play, since that’d have to be in the SECCG and the Dawg defense will have gelled by then, gotta go with UGA. UF is clearly gonna be down this year and I’ll be amazed if they make it, SC will be good but think they’re still happy just to be there, but if Dawgs are in Atlanta again, they’ll be a team on a mission from God and they will beat whoever they play, I truly believe.

    • Cojones

      Love that thinking. You are getting some engines revved this day. Voted Dawgs, but your post makes for the best sense of competition and what can happen. Either way, some Bulldog team has the best shot.

      Saban has made a big deal in the media for years that he works hard to keep a team from being or becoming complacent. Believe that he works that into all games prepped. He was realistically worried about that going back to the blackout game in Athens. And he had good reason to worry since we put over 30 pts on them in the second half. That’s where he gets ahead, not by physical ability of players, but mental prep to play an entire game no matter the score.

  15. D.N. Nation

    I really don’t see Aggy beating Bama again; the Tide were coming off of a grueling, heart-pounding, fist-pumping victory at Baton Rouge and were due for a letdown. Remove the initial sock in the mouth aTm gave them and it’s a different game.

    Also, after seeing play after play of Jonathan Football running around willy-nilly on Bama, I think Saban will make his players destroy Manziel every play or have to watch a kitten get shot or something.

  16. Turd Ferguson

    Ask me again after week 2. For now, I think LSU has the best chance.

    I don’t think the Tigers are getting anywhere near the attention *now* that they’ll be getting by the second half of the season. So much talk about Bama and A&M, but I think LSU will be a very close second to Bama in the West. And it wouldn’t surprise me at all if they win that division.

  17. Normaltown Mike

    Are you suggesting Alabama leave the SEC to pursue Captain Von Trapp?

    You’re a cheeky one, Senator.