During a recent episode of the sports podcast Unanimous Decision its host, DPalm, made an analogy comparing the perennial NCAA football favorite Alabama Crimson Tide to the suffocating snake.
At first I laughed, but the more I thought about it the more it makes sense. The way Bama goes about defeating its opponents on the football field is reminiscent of how a Boa attacks its prey. Take, for example, the game that was played the weekend this particular episode of the podcast was recorded, the SEC Championship game against the Florida Gators.
The Tide started slowly by comparison. It was the Gators that struck first, scoring a touchdown on its opening drive. The next series saw the Tide score a field goal on its initial possession. But, much like when a Boa wraps around its prey, the process is slow and deliberate. The prey thinks, at first, it has a chance to escape — or in this case win.
The game from that point gradually turned in the Tide’s favor like the vice-like grip a Boa slowly but surely employs. The Gators scored on a blocked point after touchdown attempt by Bama in the 1st quarter and a touchdown in its final possession before halftime…then not again for the rest of the game.
The Bama Blueprint
How Bama beats its opponents isn’t dynamic. It’s extremely methodical. It’s why the team has been able to sustain success for so many years recently. It’s also why some call the team “boring” to watch.
Unlike the NFL, where the genesis of offense is typically the quarterback, in the system head coach Nick Saban has devised it’s the defense plus top-level running backs that greases the gears. Everything about Bama’s overpowering nature stems from its defense.
I heard Ryan McGee of ESPN remark on a radio show about how he saw 2nd and 3rd string defensive linebackers for the Tide warming up before the SEC Championship game that would be 1st string starters on other teams. Bama uses this defensive depth to wear down the other team’s defense indirectly.
The quicker Bama’s defense can get an opponent’s offense off the field (usually without scoring), the less time the opponent’s defense has to rest before it has to face Bama’s offense. The Bama offense then, typically through a majority of running plays, takes it from there, exploiting seams in the defense that may not have been there if the opponent’s defense were a little bit fresher. Also, by using the running plays to further wear down the defense, the passing play opportunities tend to increase as the game goes on as well.
This is the pattern that played out during the SEC Championship game. When the Tide defense began getting stops on the Gator offense, it opened up the game for the Tide offense to start systematically gaining the advantage over a Gator defense that was getting less and less recovery time. Or, as the metaphor goes, closing in around its prey making it lose its breath. The imbalance of resting time is the basis of how you end up with a 54-16 final score.
Not flashy, but highly effective.