Evidently we need to say this again. You know why Nick Saban has his head in his hands at press conferences and frequently decapitates reporters for no reason? Because he’s 65 years old and grumpy, and most of his life now is saying old, verified, and effective things over and over again because people forget or won’t listen.
It makes him angry, and we get it, because we have to say the same thing over and over again when someone suggests a way to beat Alabama in this current moment is to somehow go pro-style, [STEP TWO MISSING], and ultimately beat them at their own game. We have to say that especially gets old when it’s Gary Danielson, who can see what’s happening on the field faster and better than we ever have or will.
Here is a list of teams that have beaten Alabama since 2008. For the record: 2007, Nick Saban’s first year on the job, doesn’t count because Kinsmon Lancaster beat Alabama for UL-Monroe in Tuscaloosa, and Saban was just teaching everyone how to lace up their shoes correctly.
Related: We think Kinsmon Lancaster is in the Air Force now, following brief tenures with the Toronto Argonauts and the Bossier-Shreveport Battle Wings, but need to follow up on that, because seriously, that dude is 1-0 against the best football team of his generation, and needs to be remembered for perfection. Brandon Cox also managed to go 1-0 against him via 2007, which is pretty much the best and most appropriate tree-topper to Brandon Cox’s bizarre career at Auburn. Salute.
2008: Florida, Utah
2009: nope, Roll Tide
2010: South Carolina, LSU, Cam Newton
2012: Texas A&M
2013: Auburn, Oklahoma
2014: Ole Miss, Ohio State
2015: Ole Miss
2016: Clemson (it was actually 2017 but fuck you, pedants, the year begins the day after the national title game)
A few obvious notes here.
- Almost all of these teams had good defenses and mobile quarterbacks. Only LSU’s two victories really stand out as aberrations, and that’s where we have to remember just how aberrant Les Miles was in a lot of ways. His teams and his teams alone actually did the thing where they butted heads directly with Alabama and survived, albeit in some of the ugliest games ever committed as crimes against the face of football.
- If those defenses were not statistically elite, they could at the very least be disruptive, force a few turnovers, and otherwise flip Alabama’s unstoppable Wartortle on its back. No, we did not mean Blastoise, because those are the championship teams when Saban got the whole crew to evolve at once. YOU HAVE TO WIN IT ALL TO EARN A BLASTOISE YOU CHEAP BASTARDS.
- Yes we meant to type “Cam Newton” instead of Auburn. Auburn fans should have no problem with this.
- The rest of these teams had enough talent at receiver.
- The only two teams we can authoritatively say laid an absolute biblical grade asswhipping on Alabama and dominated them physically are Utah and Ohio State. Bama barely had 200 yards offense against Utah; Ohio State can invoke William T. Sherman for the rest of their lives because they put up 281 rushing yards on the Tide defense, a watershed moment in the very brief history of beating Nick Saban’s Alabama teams.
- Some Ohio State fans will giddily do this and then also go shitpost about white genocide, too, but remember: America is a nation of rich and varied contradictions, man.
The point is that there’s a pattern and nearly everyone in the SEC West has adjusted in that direction, or at least made sure that they have the capability to play that way when needed. Take the bumpers off the corners of the defense, spread their bulky linemen and gigantic, Predator-sized linebackers out, and hit some shots deep off scrambles and 50/50 balls. If you do that, maybe you’ll get just enough running room in the middle. Pray your defense holds. Hope they have to kick a field goal that matters, because that ends in comedy sometimes.
It’s not hard in theory, but then again, neither is building a fusion reactor. You just need something with the power of the sun, the wiring to contain it, and the luck to put all of those things together at the same time. There’s another way to do it—The Les Miles Protocol—but that’s inadvisable, extremely insane, and usually results in disaster. Which it did, more often than not, for Miles’ LSU teams, since they dropped four in a row following the 9-6 debacle in 2011. Why’d you watch that game, by the way, when you could have been watching Kansas State and Oklahoma State race to the finish in a 52-45 heater? You’re so dumb sometimes, y’all.*
*We watched most of LSU/Bama instead of K-State/OSU. Y’all is us.
It probably won’t happen. But if you’re going to do it, the best and simplest way to do it is with perimeter talent that won’t quit, a QB who can move around enough to dislodge coverages and break up some of Alabama’s pattern-reading in the secondary, and some luck. This is the case history here, not some doctrinaire shit about the spread being a superior way to do things, or a generational argument about football and toughness and a lack of attention to fundamentals or blah blah blah [leaps headfirst into tree shredder to avoid this entire path of discussion]
The fundamentals might be weaker—that’s a perfectly valid point, especially if what someone like Gary Danielson might see as fundamentals no longer necessary to perform well at the Power Five level of play. There probably wasn’t a whole lot of great drive-blocking going on along Clemson’s offensive line—but they don’t use that, don’t need it, and it would be real dumb to focus on it given their system and priorities. Surprise! Deshaun Watson probably needs to work on taking snaps under center and on his footwork in the dropback, because the shotgun is the dominant formation in football across all levels of play right now.
But this is otherwise a great prescription for a loss against Alabama. If you want one, they’ve been handing them out for a while now. They’re more talented and deeper than you are, and you can’t do what they do, and you should just accept that and try to sprint them out of the building. You probably won’t, unless you have the right talent at the right moment, but still: Most everyone is already short-stacked and waiting on the river when you sit down at the poker table with Alabama. Low-percentage plays are your starting point.
We’ve said all this before. We’ll have to say it again, probably after watching pro-style Arkansas come within one or two scores of them on sheer effort, and yet lose to them. (Again.)
P.S. Alabama doesn’t even play this way anymore on offense, Gary, good ord what are you watching.