Alabama Football: Offensive ‘Guru’ Bobby Petrino can’t beat Saban defenses


Louisville coach, Bobby Petrino, once known as one of the sharpest offensive minds, cannot beat Alabama football and Nick Saban defenses.

There is considerable chatter among Alabama football fans over the vulnerability of the Tide’s inexperienced secondary going up against a Bobby Petrino offense. If that situation turns into a problem during the Alabama football season-opener, it will be a first for Petrino against the Crimson Tide.

Before explaining our reasoning, let’s acknowledge Bobby Petrino deserves any offensive accolades he has ever received. Those having the good fortune of seeing a Petrino offense from a stadium view can only be impressed. The tighter views offered by television do not show enough. Seen in-person, the schemes and passing routes are noticeably precise. A defense relying more on zone and less on man-press is vulnerable to Petrino’s receivers frequently finding open space.

With a dual-threat QB like Lamar Jackson, Petrino’s offense can run up big numbers. In 2016, the Cardinals were No. 3 in the FBS in total offense, trailing only two teams from the ‘don’t bother me with defense’ Big 12. In 2017, Louisville finished No. 3 again – again trailing two Big 12 teams.

Another side of Louisville stats in 2017, was the Cardinals being No. 98 in the FBS in sacks allowed. In addition, Louisville finished 2017, No. 62 in total defense. Put those stats together and a team can challenge to win the Big 12. Against top teams from conferences who play defense, those stats will not be good enough. Which explains the nine Louisville losses over the past two seasons.

In four seasons since Petrino’s return to Louisville, the Cardinals have beaten Kentucky three times. Against the rest of the SEC, Louisville has only beaten Texas A&M while losing to Mississippi State, LSU, Auburn, Georgia and once to Kentucky.

Petrino against Saban defenses

As we said at the top, we are not worrying about the inexperienced Tide secondary facing a Petrino offense. Why are we so confident? Just look at the history. Petrino is 0-4 against a Nick Saban, Alabama football defense. In four tries, the then Petrino-Arkansas offense averaged 13.75 points per game.

In 2008, Hogs’ QB’s Casey Dick and Tyler Wilson threw 46 passes and had 217 passing yards. They were also intercepted four times. Two Tide sacks and seven QB-hurries kept almost constant pressure on Petrino’s ineffective offense.

In 2009, Ryan Mallet fared better. He threw no interceptions in his 41 passes but Arkansas scored only one touchdown. The Crimson Tide notched three sacks and eight QB-hurries.

The future NFL QB, Mallet had more success in 2010. The Hogs offense fared pretty well against a Tide defense short on team leaders. The four-point loss for the Hogs might have been a home win if Mallet had not been intercepted three times. In the tight contest, the Alabama football defense recorded only two sacks and zero QB-hurries.

Interceptions were a problem for the Hogs again in 2011 with Tyler Wilson throwing three. The game turned into a blowout and an Alabama football 38-14 victory.

Jawon Pass will be harassed by the Tide defensive front

We expect the 2018 game will be similar. With no Lamar Jackson, a talented but inexperienced Jawon Pass will face a defensive front that will stay either in his face or hovering above him while he lies on the ground. That pressure will mitigate the risks inherent in any missed assignments or busted coverage by the Tide secondary.

Bobby Petrino’s name comes up less often than it once did when the top offensive minds are discussed. Hot new flavors like Lincoln Riley, Tom Herman, Dan Mullen and Chad Morris are more often mentioned. Petrino and Mullen have something in common – neither have ever beaten Alabama football as a head coach. And that will not change in 2018.

Next: 25 Greatest Games of the Saban Era

We will go more in-depth in future posts, discussing Louisville on both sides of the ball. Maybe in the deep heat of the July summer, we might even relive the old Petrino and Auburn story about a midnight meeting on a small airport runway. RTR Forever!