sugar-bowl Sugar Bowl Thoughts #1

In the coming days I plan on getting some abbreviated version of Trench Warfare up on the Crimson Tide.  I re-watched the Bama-Texas A&M game to see how they may play us.  While we don’t have a Johnny Manziel or Mike Evans by any stretch of the imagination, I wanted to see how they would line up defensively against all of the open sets that A&M runs at you.

We quite often run out of the 10 personnel packages(one back/zero tight ends), and hit you with the three-to-four wide receiver sets much like the Aggies,  although we have done that a lot less this year.  Against A&M, Bama only put five-to-six defenders inside the box until the Aggies got down inside the 10-yard line.  At which point they would typically run some six and seven man fronts.  They don’t blitz you a whole lot, rather they just line up and trust that they’re going to beat you man for man.  Occasionally they will blitz, but it’s not a Mike Stoops style defense that has people coming at you from a lot of different angles.

With the fronts they put out there against you, it’s like they’re daring you to run the ball at them.  A&M could have run at them, but they chose not to.  Outside of Johnny Football’s 14 run around and make something happen plays, A&M only ran 18 other times in the game.  Part of that, I believe, was due to the fact that A&M knew it was going to have to score to keep up with Bama.

And while Bama’s defense is really salty, their offense is also sneaky good.

Offensively, they’re experts at match-ups.  They’re very opportunistic and they’ll run or pass most of the time based on what the defense gives them.  Their checks are very subtle, so it’s not like you’re going to see A.J. McCarron up there yelling out all kinds of crazy calls and hand signals.  It’s so natural, that it just lends credence to the image of their dominance.  There are a few plays I hope to outline in future posts to help show you what I mean.

While they don’t need you to make mistakes in alignment for them to be successful, like a great boxer, they can make a living off of their jab just waiting for that opportunity to land a big uppercut.  When you give them that opening, it’s rare that they miss.  They’re experts at exploiting weaknesses in how you line up against them.  The difference for them though is that McCarron checks at the line, whereas our offense this year (and in years past) looks to the sideline for calls.  By letting McCarron do it, it really makes it less obvious and it gives you an added dash of deception.  Mind you they do not need deception to be successful, but what it does is make their already great athletes lethal.

While Alabama has superior athletes to most every team in the nation, their coaches really understand how to put those athletes in the best position to allow them to use their natural abilities to the fullest.  They look faster than everyone else because they can get out and run where there isn’t any traffic.  They dial it down and run with a tight end most of the time, while a three-WR set is probably the most spread you’re going to see from them.  Still, they know how to exploit the match-ups and get you in those big defensive sets.

While they’ll take some shots at you and can grind you down, they’ll lull you to sleep, make you bring an extra defender into the box and then hit you for a big play down field in the pass game.  While they’re the anti-Baylor in how they formation you, it’s essentially the same principle.  Baylor’s going to run, run, run and make you stop that until you have to commit so many people to stopping it, then there’s no one home to give help outside on Christion Jones and Amari Cooper.  You may well indeed stop it a time or two, but they’re banking on you making a mistake in coverage, missing a tackle, or lining up wrong.

Make no mistake about it, this will be the absolute toughest match-up we’ve had all year long defensively simply because of how intelligently they attack a defense.

  • Gary Jackson

    Love the analysis. I know it’s football and anything can happen on any given game day but do you see a scenario were OU comes out with a win?

    • Leroy Jenkins

      #1- no Belldozer package in this game. Not once. Not ever.

      #2- give the ball to Finch/Clay 50 times. Zone read w/ Trevor. Then open up
      some passes down the field to Saunders & Sheperd. We can’t have back-to-back three and outs over and over and over.

      #3- win turnover battle and special teams (obviously).

      #4- Get McCarron off his game early. As a sophomore it was possible, but as a 5th year senior with nearly 40 wins? Much more difficult. Virginia Tech did early,
      but that was mainly because the line was a mess that 1st game. Ironically they’ve only allowed eight sacks this year (Partly because McCarron has bailed them out with his pocket awareness and movement).

      #5- Pray to God for a miracle.

    • JY

      I do. Turnovers and special teams are the great equalizers. Keep in mind that these guys are young people and are very emotional. How much does Bama really want to be there, and how seriously have they taken this game? We’ll need to make them earn everything, and we have to be able to run the ball, and at least stick to it. If we can keep it close going into the fourth quarter, anything can happen.

  • blaster1371

    Not sure how feasible it is to change things this late but I cannot see how OU can stay in the 3-3-5 defense it has most of the year, nor a reason why they should. There is really no one on the OU d-line that requires a double team and if those o-lineman get up on the OU linebackers then Alabama will get 8 yards per carry, easily. Alabama is going to have to turn the football over a couple of times and give OU a short field for the good guys to have a real chance of winning this game. As this game gets closer I am getting more apprehensive about it. The worst part is I will be on a four hour flight while the game is on so I won’t even be able to track the game on my phone- so I will either miss one of the greatest OU wins of the last half century or be spared the agony of a nationally televised defeat unfolding before my eyes.

    • Sooner Ray

      Not a bad position to be in. DVR the game, if it’s a humiliation you don’t have to watch, if it’s epic, you can watch it over and over!

      • blaster1371

        You got that right. DVR will be set. I can watch it replayed on Watch ESPN before I get home.

      • Indy_sooner

        DVR’ing the game too, but win on lose, I will watch the game. I don’t think anything surpasses last year’s Cotton bowl so I think I can handle this one

        • blaster1371

          I turned that one off about five minutes into the third quarter. I always come back to them a few days later and watch them again. But in the moment, I can’t. Dad describes it as like watching your truck burn to nothing.

    • soonermusic

      they might let you use your phone on the flight…

      • blaster1371

        I will be en route to Hawaii so I do not think cell reception will be available. Even if I could watch the game on the flight I would run the risk of big trouble– i have uncontrollable fits of celebration, rage or agony when watching OU as do most of my crimson brethren.

  • Bill Duncan

    I just want to say, keep up the great work guys! This is the best place to get in depth OU content. It was really surprising to get a quick email response to my questions. Thanks again!

  • Indy_sooner

    Surprised at no mention of special Teams. We clearly have it and they have struggled with this. If we can get them to kick field goals / punt, I see us being able to claw our way and at least stay in the game.
    Other than that, we have to be able to test out the middle of the field and mix up the offense with either Bell/ Knight. Purely running the ball will not help us especially if they load the box up like Baylor did.

  • pitbull17

    I think the biggest problem we are going to run in to is having to stack the box to stop the run. I just think their run game is so much better than anything OU has seen this year and they aren’t going to be able to stop it straight up. If OU is somehow able to stop them without stacking the box though, this game gets more than winnable real quick.

    • JY

      I don’t know. Baylor and Texas are two teams that run it really well. I pin those two losses on the offense though. We’re going to have to play our best game of the year, but our guys are winners. They’re gutsy, and they’re going to scrap for four quarters.

      • pitbull17

        I agree, I think ‘Bama just has a much better run game than Baylor or texass, though. If the offense can put up some points early on and keep the D fresh our boys will definitely be in the game all night.