Nice effort by Jon Solomon with this analytical piece of work. A couple of highlights:
There are two common themes in Saban’s six losses since Alabama reemerged nationally in 2008: The opponent has a mobile quarterback and a run-stuffing defense.
It’s not that Auburn’s Cam Newton, South Carolina’s Stephen Garcia, Utah’s Brian Johnson, Florida’s Tim Tebow and Jefferson (twice) ran crazy while beating Alabama. They averaged 27 yards rushing between them. But it’s the threat of the run and the ability to escape against pressure that can give pause to an attacking defense like Saban’s.
Meanwhile, in Alabama’s six losses since 2008, the Crimson Tide has averaged 78.3 rushing yards per game. They’ve run for 215.8 yards in the 47 wins during that span.
Alabama did find some running success against LSU two months ago. Between the 30-yard lines, Richardson and Eddie Lacy combined for 81 yards on 17 attempts (4.8 per rush). Inside the 30s, though, they gained 27 yards on 11 carries (2.5 per rush).
The closer to LSU’s end zone, the more Alabama’s inability to run, odd substitution penalties and taking a costly overtime sack hurt the Crimson Tide. Alabama ran 17 plays from the LSU 30-yard line or closer and lost 12 yards.
That’s how close the first game was even with four missed field goals by Alabama. Close enough to overanalyze 24/7 for the next week and reach constructive conclusions that nonetheless miss the main point.
Win the line of scrimmage, win the national championship.
That last highlight is worth a double-take: “Alabama ran 17 plays from the LSU 30-yard line or closer and lost 12 yards.”
You have to consider that every team Bama faces loads up to stop the run. There is no receiver that requires a double team, so teams load the box and dare Bama to pass. Typically, Bama takes what you give them and beats you anyway. But against LSU in November, Alabama gambled on being aggressive with the passing game early, figuring to dominate with the run late. A myriad of things caused that plan to not work.
In the rematch, I think we can expect either an identical game plan to Nov. 5th that hopes for better execution, or we’ll see Bama line up and try to run the ball early and often. If I was a betting man, I would bet on the former.