It’s no big secret that Clemson’s Deshaun Watson has been the ultimate threat amongst college football teams all season long. He was an pre-season Heisman hopeful and he backed up that hype on the field all year long in which he had quite to do with the position that Clemson is in at this very moment: a chance to win the National Championship of College Football.
It’s also no big secret that Saban’s Tide defense isn’t very well known to being able to contain a spread offense. This Monday evening, we will see just how much transitioning to the spread has worked out for them Saban and the Tide because they are probably going to have to play the best game of their lives.
Saban’s teams seemingly have no problem beating up on pro-style teams with their win against Michigan State last week proving that theory, but Saban does have trouble when it comes to spread offenses. Perfect example of that would be during their one and only loss of the season to Ole Miss and their spread offense. So, you have to wonder what’s going to happen Monday night.
Over the years, you can see that Saban has evolved his defense into much bigger depth. He changes the lineup depending on the situation that the offense on the field has given. He also changes the lineup of the defense every so often, like what hockey does with line changes.
Over the years as well, ‘Bama has struggled to have lockdown corners, cover safeties and pass rushers. Although the Tide never has had a problem with people giving up too much space on the field, they have struggled with run teams that give enough room for one-on-one situations with their receivers. A good example of this would be against Johnny Manziel. They had trouble getting pressure on the run. When they did apply pressure on it with blitzing by pulling up a safety, Manziel would burn them with a fade route.
We have seen three different types of defenses that Saban uses. He is most known for his Cover 3 defense. This type of coverage allows more men the box against spread teams, thus creating the best possible scenario for man coverage.
The Cover 7 is Saban’s version of the Cover 4. This type of defense relies heavily on the safeties, especially on the run support front. This involves the safeties to run a tight coverage and great tackling from them.
Their favorite defensive package has to be what is called the “fire zone” which most teams in the nation do run. This type of coverage allows corners to be in a zone without safeties coming over the top.
With all that being said, is this going to be enough to hold off Clemson and the best spread offense in the country? Quite possibly. After all, the Tide have had two weeks to prepare.
The Tide have had practice earlier in the year when they took Ole Miss’ Chad Kelly(171.35) and Tennessee’s Josh Dobbs (139.38), both of which were the top the QBs that Bama faced as far as passer ratings go. Both QBs were able to make a few runS that were good enough for them to stay mobile.
However, Bama shutdown the mobile quarterbacks from Auburn, Florida, LSU, and Mississippi.
But the Bama defense hasn’t faced a mobile quarterback like Watson for quite some time, in which Watson is much better than all the ones I named. He’s ranked No. 5 in passer rating and No. 1 QB rushing yards.
Watson has all the tools to spread Bama out and punish their defense severally. He can force Bama into leaving their run front or deep coverage very thin.
Watson can make those legs very useful with the plan he had for Oklahoma’s offense when he rushed for a season-high 145 yards. It’s not like he has to rest his legs for a game the following week.
Shutting down a good QB runner can be a difficult task. Watkins is the kind of QB that will make defense’s pay if you cheat in. If ‘Bama’s defense drops safeties to allow LBs to stay upfront, obviously the numbers to contain a run are in their favorite, however, it makes it makes it easier for the offense to catch a defense in bad matchups.
I look for Clemson to be able to force safeties to make open field tackles on Watson. The difficult part about that would Watson being able to make a good run enough for him to get into the open field again st ‘Bama’s LBs such as Reggie Ragland and Reuben Foster.
Clemson running quick passing routes has been effective all year long, it’s their deep-ball game that could use work. Throwing down field while protecting Watson against the Tides defense is going to be a pretty tall order.
The secondary, to me, is the Tides’ weakest point on their defense. Whether Clemson will be able to exploit that will be amswered. Another thing that will be answered is going to be if Saban has made the proper adjustments to contain the spread offense, which he better have because the best coming for him Monday night.