“I guess it’s more about scoring points now than playing defense now.”

We’re living in the time of Nick Saban’s worst nightmare.

Just look at Alabama. This is a team that dominated college football with a very traditional — and successful — offense. But Nick Saban’s defenses have struggled with the spread recently. Johnny Manziel and his high-flying Texas A&M Aggies lit up Alabama for an average of 523 yards and 35.5 points in games in 2012 and 2013. Against Auburn and that uptempo Malzahn spread the last two years, Alabama has surrendered 1,023 yards and 78 points.

Alabama went 2-2 in those four games.

Take it a step further and look at Alabama’s two-game losing streak in the postseason where Oklahoma (spread and tempo) and Ohio State (spread) combined to score 87 points and reeled off 966 yards.

Running quarterbacks, spread and tempo have been weaknesses for Saban’s defenses, so he added all three to his offense this year and watched Alabama set all sorts of offensive records and average 484.5 yards per game (most during his Alabama tenure) and 36.9 points a contest.

“Three or four years ago, Nick Saban was talking about how he didn’t really like [uptempo offense], and the disadvantages to it,” Oregon defensive back Juwaan Williams said. “He’s making the evolution himself.”

Saban doesn’t want to evolve, damn it.  He wants to accumulate more talent than anybody else and then beat the crap out of you with it.  He doesn’t want to win by having to outscore the other guy’s attack.

The problem he’s running into is that he doesn’t have a better angle on defending the spread than anybody else.  And while losing a game or two isn’t a big deal for most college football programs, it’s brutal for an SEC West team expected to make appearances in the CFP annual routines.  That razor-thin margin for error is what’s forcing him to experiment on offense.  Which in turn is an admission of sorts that what Alabama’s been doing on defense isn’t working as consistently as it used to.

It’s a problem across the conference, of course.  It’s just magnified in Tuscaloosa.  And it makes me wonder, if ‘Bama continues to adapt to defending the spread, how Saban defends Georgia’s power running game when his team comes to Athens this season.

24 Comments

Filed under Nick Saban Rules, SEC Football, Strategery And Mechanics

24 responses to ““I guess it’s more about scoring points now than playing defense now.”

  1. joe

    Sabans problem is that he hired a boob oc that wants to try and keep up with the spread teams. If Bama had run the ball off left tackle 45 times against osu, they would have won by two tds. The thing that still kills the spread offenses is when you keep the ball from them. Sabans issues is that he is caught between the old world and the new, and having kiffen caused them to lose their identity this year.

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  2. Biggus Rickus

    This problem is a bit overstated. I’m not saying there isn’t something to it, but the scheme alone is not the whole story. A&M had Manziel, who for all his faults was a great college QB, and OSU was loaded on offense this year. The controlled WVU’s and Ole Miss’s spreads, and they buried A&M. What I’m saying is that while I think Saban does have some issues trying to defend fast-paced spread offenses, you still have to have very good players for it to work against them.

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    • +1. Well stated. Exactly.
      And does this mean it’ll be just another day at the office preparing for us? Like, not near the challenge for him as it is w the spread?
      /start worrying now

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    • DawgPhan

      I agree…but A&M didnt just have JFF, he also had Mike Evans to sling it to.

      So yeah if you have a Heisman winning QB and a 1st round WR, a slew of 1st round OL and a great RB back, that happen to line up in the spread you can give Bama some problems.

      So if everyone could just go get those players they could beat bama all the time and clearly the spread is great..

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    • Bright Idea

      Bama’s defense has gotten bigger and slower and their wholesale subbing on defense for matchup/down and distance purposes has been rendered ineffective by the hurry up. Running those big guys on and off takes a lot out of them.

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  3. Doug

    Interested to see what the “Fire Richt and Hire Kirby Smart THIS INSTANT” crowd makes of all this.

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    • Biggus Rickus

      As someone who thinks Richt will ultimately be fired for not succeeding at a high enough level, I don’t want them to hire Smart. And I haven’t seen anyone else argue that they should hire Smart.

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      • The other Doug

        How long you been a UGA fan? 😉

        The crowd was pretty loud a couple of years ago. I believe they wanted Smart or Muschamp.

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      • I still think Smart’s burned too many bridges in Athens to get the HC spot post-Richt.

        And if Bobo succeeds in Colorado, it’s a moot point anyway. 😉

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        • Doug

          Not that I have anything against Jim McElwain, but I would literally ROFL if he were to struggle mightily with the Gators (to our benefit, of course) while Bobo takes the Rams to even higher heights and gets them into one of the CFP access bowls.

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          • You and me both.

            Of course the risk in that scenario is that Bobo becomes the next flavor of the week before the job in Athens opens up. Boy, the gnashing of teeth that would follow if he went to a rival program as its head coach…

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    • Bazooka Joe

      Bad mistake – we could easily be in the same situation FU had with secret agent Muschamp….. whatever we do, don’t go for Kirby…. go for an established coach.

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  4. Scorpio Jones, III

    If Saban’s idea of what an offense should do, why did he hire Kiffin who is not known as a spread OC?

    My suspicion is that Sauron figures he can noodle around with his offense to get things running a little faster (until the SEC steps in to slow him down) now and then without hiring Gus away from Auburn.

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    • The other Doug

      I think Saban went with Lane because he wanted to use the passing game a bit more. In the past Bama has thrown once they established the run, but last year we saw a bit of the pass setting up the run.

      Saban is chasing UGA’s offense.

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  5. Dawg in Austin

    Last time I checked Alabama still had 6-8 guys over 6’3″ and 300 lbs on the D line, and 4-5 250 lb MLBs filling gaps. For all the talk about changing body types in Tuscaloosa, nothing seemed to change on last year’s defense. I think he’s too stubborn to really change. Just find faster oversized humans.

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    • Mayor

      IMHO Georgia needs to do that, too. Losing all the weight that the D-Line and LBs collectively lost allowed them to get pushed around a bit last year (see 2014 WLOCP).

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  6. W Cobb Dawg

    I’m more worried about our offense than bama’s. We’re going to see a lot more shootouts in the next few years than we’ve seen in the past few. And if saban is having fits with high powered offenses, imagine how we’ll do. I’m sure Schotty can handle a slugfest as long as we have Chubb and a capable OL. But it’ll be interesting to see how he fares when we get into an offensive score-fest and he needs to put up points in bushels to keep us in the game.

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    • Mayor

      That’s why we need another Murray at QB, Westy. There are several candidates including the upcoming signee from the West Coast. CMR will find the right guy.

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