Surprised by Alabama’s throttling defeat of LSU on Saturday? The margin, maybe. But Bama winning? You really shouldn’t have been. Bama eats teams like LSU for lunch. The scariest part of the Tide is how they’ve been the exact same team for seven seasons now.
Don’t believe me? Go on the most credible source according to your college professors, Wikipedia, and search “2009 Alabama Crimson Tide Football Team”. Click on the depth chart. Then do it for 2010 until 2015 and notice how the Tide program is simply a machine. Once one guy leaves for the NFL, they get an exact replacement. Ingram, Richardson, Lacy, Yeldon, Henry. Power-running back who requires more than one player to bring them down. Rolando McClain, Dont’a Hightower, CJ Mosley, Reggie Ragland. Middle linebacker who imposes their will in the running game. Mark Barron, Ha Ha Clinton-dix, Landon Collins, Eddie Jackson. Do I need to go on?
Because they are, in essence, the exact same team year in and year out, it’s becoming pretty easy to predict their games. At least to me it is. I know, someone should buy me a trophy or something. But there’s only one kind of team that can beat Alabama and if you don’t have it, you’re simply not going to win. If you do not run a spread, high-tempo, speed offense, you are going to get washed up in the Tide (pun intended). Since 2009, Bama has only lost three games to teams that didn’t run that offense – the most recent loss coming in 2011 against LSU where LSU’s defense just out Bama’d Bama. Two of the losses came in 2010 where they lost three games. Power simply does not work against their defensive line and linebackers. It doesn’t matter if you have the best SEC running back since Hershel Walker which LSU has in Leonard Fournette. Fournette was getting hit two yards behind the line in the game on Saturday. He had no chance.
Some teams make Bama’s defense look like a brick wall. How do you deal with a brick wall? You run around it. Guys who give them the most trouble are little quick guys. The point of running plays in the shotgun with multiple receivers split out is to spread out the defense, hence the name “spread” offense. But, in order to effectively run the ball outside against the Tide, you have to be fast. Tre Mason was faster than the defensive line and he turned it into a game where the cornerbacks and the safeties had to make the tackles. They hardly ever had to make tackles in games before that because the front 7 was so phenomenal. They were able to focus solely on their pass-coverage responsibilities. Ole Miss lived on this for their last two wins against Bama. 5’ 8” Jalen Walton scampered to the outside on every play, the secondary had to play the run honestly, and Bo Wallace and Chad Kelly found holes through the passing game.
Now, I’m not saying that if you run the spread, you are going to beat them – because you still might not. You’re going to need a stellar day from your defensive line to shut down the running game. Just because you score a lot of points doesn’t mean you’re going to score more than Bama (2014 Iron Bowl, 2013 Texas A&M game). While the strength of their team is not their offensive fire power, if you forget to play defense, it doesn’t matter how well your running backs get to the edge or how precise your QB throws the ball. Also, a hint of luck doesn’t hurt either. Ask Hugh Freeze what he was thinking when Chad Kelly was about to get sacked and simply chucked the football up almost begging for it to get picked off, only to have it turn into a 60 yard TD.
Bama also has to shoot themselves in the foot. They’re surprisingly not that bad at doing so, but most teams don’t take advantage. Their kicker has to miss 3 field goals (one getting returned for a game winning TD) or their coach has to start the wrong QB who couldn’t move the ball on a high school defense (Cooper Bateman vs Ole Miss).
So what does this all mean for college football in 2015? It means you need to pencil Bama into the playoff. Mississippi State can’t beat them with Dak Prescott alone. Auburn could pose problems if their offense wasn’t run at speeds comparable to paint drying. The SEC championship is going to be a total blood bath and hopefully for Gators fans, Florida’s team bus will run out of gas a few exits before the Georgia dome. They were screwed with Will Grier and even more so without him.
Looking at potential CFP playoff matchups, Stanford doesn’t have a chance. They’re just a poor man’s Alabama. Baylor is nothing without Seth Russell. ND is interesting, but I don’t like Deshone Kizer making plays against a legit defense (sorry, Temple: you aren’t legit). Clemson runs the pistol and that offense is a little too slow against humongous defensive lineman. Clemson’s D should be able to keep them in the game but Deshaun Watson or Wayne Gallman aren’t going to be able to run all over the yard against the defensive line of the Tide. This leaves one team: Ohio State. The Buckeyes are the absolute worst matchup for Bama and will beat them again if they play. Ezekiel Elliot is big and fast. Corners simply can’t tackle him. JT Barret is even worse. He is the fastest quarterback in college football and if you sell out on stopping his running game, he will burn you with his arm. He’s a better Nick Marshall and Marshall had his way with the Tide D. Plus, their coach is Urban Meyer. Heard there’s a rivalry between him and Nick Saban. Interesting.