Nick Saban no fan of no-huddle offenses, asks 'Is this what we want football to be?'

By Jerry Hinnen | College Football Writer

In a shocking, shocking Wednesday development, dyed-in-the-wool pro-style offense and lockdown-defense devotee Nick Saban revealed that he's no fan of no-huddle attacks like the kind that produced 133 points between West Virginia and Baylor.

"[The no-huddle]'s obviously created a tremendous advantage for the offense when teams are scoring 70 points and we're averaging 49.5 points a game," Saban said on an SEC coaches teleconference, as quoted by the Birmingham News. "With people that do those kinds of things, more and more people are going to do it.

"I just think there's got to be some sense of fairness in terms of asking, 'Is this what we want football to be?' "

But Saban wasn't just arguing against the no-huddle over its lack of "fairness" to the defenses -- he views it as a safety hazard as well.

"At some point in time, we should look at how fast we allow the game to go in terms of player safety," Saban said. "The team gets in the same formation group, you can't substitute defensive players, you go on a 14-, 16-, 18-play drive and they're snapping the ball as fast as you can go and you look out there and all your players are walking around and can't even get lined up.

"That's when guys have a much greater chance of getting hurt when they're not ready to play."

While the reference to 70 points seems pretty clearly a nod in the Mountaineers' direction, this particular gripe could be headed in Ole Miss's -- though Hugh Freeze's newly installed Rebel no-huddle scored only 14 points on Saban's defense last Saturday, it did so on a pair of long touchdown drives, one 13 plays and the other 16 plays.

Whether offenses like Freeze's might actually create an injury risk is an issue that's going to require actual research -- the position here is one of skepticism, but without the numbers, it's impossible to say Saban's wrong. What we can answer is whether pointsplosions like the ones in last year's Alamo Bowl and the Baylor-West Virginia game are what we "want football to be."

And the answer here is that games like those are like a bowl of your favorite ice cream -- you wouldn't want college football to try to live of off nothing but an Art Briles-style sugar rush, but as an occasional treat within a much larger, more responsible college football diet? Oh my, YES, that's what we want college football to be. The push-and-pull between philosophies as starkly different as Saban's and Briles' is a huge part of why college football is the riveting sport it is. No offense to our colleagues at the Eye on Football, but we if wanted to watch Saban's model of a more-stringent rule book limiting every team to a few minor offensive variations within the same universal framework, we'd watch the NFL.

Which is not to say we mind Saban puttting his crankypants on and airing his views, views that can tend to get marginalized in the excitement over a game like Bears-Mountaineers. But if we're discussing the direction of college football, as long as games like those are the exception rather than the rule, the no-huddle is a fine direction to head in.

 
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