Seven Mistakes Alabama Needs To Avoid Against Clemson in the Championship Game
By: Larry Burton
Alabama started as a five and half point favorite against Clemson and that line has now dropped to 5. This despite the majority of the bets and the money wagered has all been for Alabama. That tells us that despite the prevailing favor of the people casting their votes with their money, that Las Vegas sees things the other way.
It could indeed be a close game and if it is there are seven mistakes that Alabama must avoid in this championship game. So in no particular order, here are the seven mistakes the Tide had better avoid over the blatent and most obvious catch phrase mistakes you always here. While those apply too we just won’t go there.
Number One – Coach up Patrick Surtain II – In a losing effort, Oklahoma clearly exploited Surtain. At times he seemed to be unable to cover a bowl with plastic wrap. You can bet Dabo’s mouth was watering watching this thinking how he too could exploit this weakness so well defined by the Sooners. If Alabama fails to have Surtain mentally ready, it could hurt.
While it may be tempting to help him out by leaning a safety his way to help in coverage, Clemson will quickly see them doing this and exploit the other side of the field with their equally talented receivers on that side. You can’t risk double teaming these Clemson receivers.
So Surtain needs to be coached up, psyched up and ready to man up and show that he’s not the weak spot Clemson can rely on exploiting. Getting his confidence early is the key and may make Clemson less likely to keep trying him.
Number Two – Coach up Jedrick Wills – I watched the game a second time with a focus on just studying Mills. Not only did his dumb penalties cost the Tide touchdowns, he was often confused as to who he was supposed to block and just outright got ran by on others.
I know the recent changes on the line caused some shuffling, but really, this is late in the season and he should know better. Get this guy coached up and more ready than he appears to be. Not doing so would be a big mistake.
Number three – Keep doing what works on offense – Ok, I get it, you’re ahead 28-0 and you want to start burning the clock, but why? Keep the same pressure on the team that got you that 28-0 lead. Don’t start easing the pressure on the opposing QB, don’t start playing safe, don’t start trying to run long offensive drives to run the clock if quick throwing is getting you points you need.
Keep doing what they clearly can’t stop and you’ll frustrate the hell out of them. In Nick Saban’s own language, it will “Make their ass quit!” Quit doing what works only and only if they show they’ve made adjustments to stop it which OU never did. Keep piling on the points.
Number four – Don’t play defense defensively – There’s nothing I hate more in football than a “prevent” defense. Usually you just end up preventing yourself from remaining the dominant team. In Nick Saban’s history, mostly prior to this year, he seems to get too comfortable with a lead and turns down the defensive pressure to prevent the possibility of a big play. He’s too willing to give up lots of little plays that keep the chains moving.
Doing this restores confidence the opposing team that they can move the ball on you and lights a fire you may not be able to put out.
Number five – Work with the punter – When Alabama swapped punts with OU, they lost lots of field position. Can this punter learn a rugby style kick? Is it a mental thing? What’s his problem. I’ve seen him punt longer before and doubt he’s had inches cut off his legs. Failing to fix this problem could be a big mistake in a close game.
Number six – Get guys to play to the whistle – I never thought I’d say this about a Nick Saban coached team, but I saw players not keeping their eyes on the play and finishing the play till the whistle was blown in the last game. Second blocks that could have been made weren’t because after their first block, they just assumed their job was over when a second block or staying with a block a little longer would have made a big difference. Mack Wilson got his clock cleaned by a much smaller offensive receiver because he relaxed and was trotting downfield and failed to keep his mind in the game and his head on a swivel.
There were also times when an Alabama defensive player would miss a tackle and the others had already relaxed thinking he wouldn’t and extra yards were made. Failure to get all these players to play to through the whistle is imperative in a game this big.
Number seven – Keep your cool – Don’t get suckered into throwing punches, retaliating on what you thought was a cheap hit or a chop block or something else. Clemson surely saw that you can be suckered into those kinds of things and a cheap penalty that could kill a drive or your own or sustain one for the opposing team.
Play like a champion that lets his actions happen between the whistles and not after the play.
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Larry has been published in almost every media outlet for college sports and now primarily writes here for Touchdown Alabama. Follow Larry on Twitter for inside thoughts and game time comments at https://twitter.com/LBSportswriter