Power ball vs. Spread and Sputter

By Shane from Centerpoint
According to Sports Illustrated, Saturday’s thrashing of the formerly 9th ranked Clemson Tigers by the Alabama Crimson Tide should serve as a warning to the rest of the SEC that the Tide is ahead of schedule with head coach Nick Saban’s “process”. For once S.I. got something right. Alabama physically dominated the Tigers up front on both sides of the line of scrimmage. The Crimson Tide was relentless, intense and fully-focused on the mission at hand – almost militaristic in their execution. The future looks bright in Tuscaloosa.

Meanwhile, down on the Plains, head coach Tommy Tuberville and his Auburn Tigers are as tough as ever on defense, but apparently bombed with the debut of the famous Tony Franklin spread-offense in their opener against a directional Louisiana school. The entire offensive game plan was scrapped before halftime, with Tubby reverting back to the running game because neither Kodi Burns nor Chris Todd could hit the broad side of a barn with a brick. After Saturday’s performance, Tuberville shouldn’t worry about a quarterback controversy – he just needs to find a quarterback.

After reviewing the Tide’s first outing of the year it was a pleasant surprise to see an Alabama team play with purpose and intensity. First year offensive coordinator, Jim McElwain, called a brilliant game. The Tide offense kept Clemson’s defense off-balance all night and coach Mac controlled the tempo of the game by using up the clock with sustained drives that produced points. Those long drives gave Saban, Steele, and Smart plenty of time to keep the defense rested and fresh, while simultaneously wearing the Clemson defense down.

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On the other side of the state, Auburn fans were thanking the football gods for their stout defense and excellent special teams play. Both combined to score 17 points on LA-Monroe before the offense was able to reach the end zone. By the way, the passing game was a bust. Auburn signal-caller Kodi Burns was 4 of 9 for 15 yards. Quarterback Chris Todd was 9 of 18 (1 INT) for 70 yards. By comparison, most spread quarterbacks throw for 85 yards in the first quarter. First year coordinator Tony Franklin seemed overwhelmed at times Saturday. He couldn’t seem to find a rhythm, or either his field generals couldn’t execute his plan.

In direct contrast to Auburn, the new Alabama offense is based on the running game and focuses on play-action passing to move the ball through the air, with the occasional deep ball inserted to keep a defense honest. However, if a team loads the box with 8-9 defenders to stop the run, coach Mac will quickly convert to a vertical assault. Alabama coaches have the luxury of choosing either method because of senior quarterback, John Parker Wilson.

Back to Franklin, Auburn’s spread offense is supposed to be a pass-oriented attack. The idea behind a spread scheme is designed to create lanes for the receiving corps, while requiring the quarterback to throw accurate passes. The problems begin when the passing game collapses like last Saturday. If Auburn can’t get their spread passing-attack to function against some of their conference opponents, they will become one-dimensional. One-dimensional offenses are usually shut down by the better SEC defenses.

In Atlanta, the Crimson Tide defense manhandled a Clemson offense loaded with All-American senior talent at all the skill positions. None of Tommy Bowden’s highly touted playmakers were able to make anything happen because Alabama’s defensive line disrupted everything they tried to do. Bama spent most of the evening in the Tigers’ backfield. They dominated the line of scrimmage from start to finish.

Down in Auburn, the Tigers defense dominated Pat Dye field in usual Tommy Tuberville fashion. They basically choked the Warhawks into submission by halftime. One thing is for sure – if a team can’t score on you, they can’t beat you. Auburn’s defenders, lead by new coordinator, Paul Rhodes, looked ready to compete in the toughest league in the nation. They will be a force to reckon with before all is said and done.

With the convincing victory, the Crimson Tide, a young team – on the road in a huge circus-like atmosphere – avoided the distractions and finished the job on a stunned, overconfident Clemson program. The result of this game leaves no doubt why the ACC should stick to basketball. This was supposed to be the best team in the conference. Really!

Tubby’s Auburn Tigers are a deep, talented squad according to most experts. However, they are inexperienced at the most important position on the field – quarterback. If the Tigers can’t get consistency and continuity from Kodi or Chris in the passing phase of the spread, Auburn could be in for a long season.

Regardless of how they got there, both Alabama and Auburn had strong, opening weekends. Nick Saban has to be pleased with every phase of his team’s performance, while Tommy Tuberville’s Tigers seem primed for the SEC wars. Nevertheless, one question still hangs over Tubby’s head – can he find a quarterback who can throw the football?