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How Will Alabama Stop Up-Tempo Offenses?

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Up-tempo offenses have given Nick Saban and Alabama some problems over the last couple years. What will they do to counter?

Kevin C. Cox

You have to know Nick Saban has a plan to deal with up-tempo spread offenses. Or at least he has to have tried to come up with a plan. If the last two games Alabama has played did anything, they showed Nick Saban that his defense would have to evolve if he and Alabama are to continue their dominance of college football.

Just because you run up-tempo offense (run or pass oriented) doesn't mean the Crimson Tide should fear you. But if you are close in recruiting level with Alabama, as Auburn and Oklahoma are, then talent level is mostly a wash. The real game is won by the team that gets to the point of attack firstest with the mostest. It's horrible English, but it's a good way to describe the goal in battle. If you can dictate the time and the place of the battle, your chances of winning increase dramatically.

A less talented team will probably have more breakdowns on the offensive line, dropped balls by receivers, and poorly thrown passes by the quarterback. So whatever advantages the up-tempo offense affords them, they give back with mistakes and mental breakdowns. And Nick Saban isn't worried too much about those teams. But he is concerned about the top level teams across the country that are at least adding elements of up-tempo/spread to their offense if not having already gone all in like Auburn and Oklahoma.

Okay, that's the reason for the plan. But what is the plan? To steal from The Hunt For Red October...Nick Saban doesn't take a dump without a plan, son. We don't have to figure out how to stop an up-tempo offense, because plenty of teams have done that. We have to figure out how Nick Saban is going to stop an up-tempo offense.

I'm sure part of his long-term plan will be to recruit kids for the defensive line that maybe aren't quite as big, but with a little more speed. Alabama has traditionally recruited dump trucks for their defensive line, but I wouldn't be surprised to see him go for thinner, more athletic defensive linemen in the future.

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Not that the big boys can't move when they need to. But they do need to be in better shape to be able to last an entire game against an up-tempo offense.

In the short-term, he'll need a scheme that takes advantage of what he has. If I was him, I would try to crowd the line of scrimmage with bump coverage against West Virginia and take my chances that the pass rush will get to the quarterback before one of the receivers gets open. If we had Johnny Manziel in the backfield, that would be another issue. But Alabama knows where our quarterback is going to be once the ball is snapped. The only issue for them is if they can get to him before he gets rid of the ball.

The only issue for West Virginia will be putting together first downs so the up-tempo stuff can actually have some effect on Alabama's defense. Otherwise, our defense is going to be in for a long day.