As Nick Saban sat at the Game Day desk at the Rose Bowl, he shared some thoughts about his 2013 Bama team. "We were the only team that didn't score 34 points against Auburn in their last 4 games" commented the Tide Head Coach. This statement tells us that CNS felt like we should have scored more points in the game, and in fact if the Tide had scored its average of 38 points per game Coach Saban would have been on the sideline in a coaching polo instead of behind the desk in a coat and tie having to listen and laugh at Lee Corso's head gear routine.
Coaches who are responsible for top-tier programs understand that their team can lose a game on any given Saturday. Their success or failure is based on winning games that their teams should win and winning a majority of their toss-up games. Coach Saban offers statements that provide us insight into his unedited opinions about his team's performance if we listen carefully. Failing to gain a first down on two 4th-and-1 plays in the Auburn game were among the plays that cost the Tide a shot at a third consecutive National Championship. How the Tide would have dealt with Missouri will never be known, but the team would have been a touchdown favorite at a minimum.
The quiet and quick move by Doug Nussmeier to Michigan gives us an indication that the change was approved (if not initiated) by Saban. While Saban may not have a replacement in place, he certainly has a list of candidates in mind and will move quickly and decisively to have an Offensive Coordinator in place to offer to any 2014 recruits who may still have some doubt about where they are going to play football in college.
While the failures on the Plains were crushing and denied the Tide a place as the unquestioned most dominant team in college football, the lack of offensive success in the Sugar Bowl against Oklahoma was probably the final straw. Although turnovers most certainly cost this game, effective play-calling could have helped the cause. Given four weeks to prepare and the physical advantage on the offensive line (even without Senior standout Anthony Steen), the offense should have been able to run a ball control running game and mix in play-action passes and control the flow of the game. The first possession of the game gave us a glimpse of how effective the offense could be. After that, the offense never seemed to get back on track. The last 3 Bama TD's were all long plays, a 67-yard McCarron pass to DeAndrew White, a 43-yard rumble by Derrick Henry and a 61- yard swing pass that Henry broke through the OU defense. Bama's offense never got in a rhythm, some of which was due to 3 turnovers in the first half that led to a 31-17 deficit that could not be overcome. The fourth turnover and touchdown only served to widen the final margin of victory for the Sooners.
Coach Saban's 24-hour rule applies to wins and losses. During his appearance on ESPN he seemed to enjoy himself and was very matter of fact about Bama's results during the season. He did offer some other opinions about the difficulty of defensing the Hurry Up No Huddle (HUNH) offense. This may well indicate that a change in offensive and defensive strategy are on tap during spring practice. Practicing against a HUNH offense will lead to a higher confidence in the ability to slow down the HUNH, and the the lack of success against the HUNH this season has to leave Mssrs. Saban and Smart looking for ways to solve the riddle.