Alabama Football: Crimson Tide built for Saturday’s chess game

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports /

Ben Hill Griffin Stadium will be filled with exceptional Alabama Football and Florida Gators athletes Saturday afternoon. In a head-to-head battle based solely on athletic ability, the Crimson Tide would likely prevail, but Florida too has an abundance of athleticism.

The game also offers intriguing matchups and options for the two coaching staffs. The schemes and the play-calling by the four Coordinators will be akin to a chess game. The Crimson Tide has an advantage there as well. Bill O’Brien against Todd Grantham favors the Tide by a wide margin. Dan Mullen against Pete Golding and Nick Saban gives the Crimson Tide another advantage. Stating that is not meant to disparage Mullen. The quirky Mullen, though having a highly respected offensive mind, is sometimes not properly acknowledged. That happens to coaches who spend too many years in Starkville.

O’Brien has weapons aplenty. Grantham, with not as many, will be forced to gamble. Gambling has been his professional disposition throughout his career. He brings heat, with early and often blitzes. His defenses disrupt opponents’ offenses. They also get burned by big plays. Florida’s best chance on Saturday is to rattle Bryce Young in the intimidating environment of The Swamp. Grantham will try to pressure Young into mistakes. If Grantham can also slow the Tide’s rushing attack, Young might lose patience and try to do too much.

Unless the Gators can stuff the Tide’s running attack, O’Brien can be patient. The OC and QB can look for openings and seize on Florida mistakes.

Florida Offense vs. Alabama Football Defense

An even more interesting chess game will be when the Gators are on offense. Dan Mullen loves to run the football and he has two quarterbacks that are good at it. One of them is especially good. If Anthony Richardson has fully recovered from a hamstring problem, he can be a game-changer. Richarson is a tough, physical matchup for any opposing player or team. He is big and fast and could be the most physically gifted quarterback ever for the Gators.

On Wednesday, Nick Saban talked about both of the Florida quarterbacks. Saban also knows Mullen excels at using two quarterbacks. Saban made these comments about Mullen,

"When he(Mullen) was at Mississippi State he did it with Dak …… It’s very challenging because you have an extra blocker on a lot of these plays when the quarterback runs the ball. So you need a plus-one player on defense all the time. And the guy that’s assigned to the quarterback better be athletic enough to take him."

Did Nick Saban divulge he plans to ‘spy’ the Gators’ QBs? Particularly with Richardson, it would make sense. Florida likes to get its running backs outside the tackles. The preferred run for the QBs is inside. Either Henry To’o To’o or Christain Harris may have the job of making sure those QB runs don’t become explosive plays. First, the Tide defensive front will try to shut down the running lanes. If that unit is successful, a major weapon for Mullen could be neutralized.

None of that is as easy as it sounds. Florida’s raucous stadium environment will challenge Tide defenders having to make pre-snap and after-snap reads. Tide mistakes could lead to the kind of big plays Florida has executed against its two, 2021, lesser foes.

Alabama football fans need not be overly concerned. Very carefully, over the last three or four signing classes Nick Saban has built a somewhat leaner, quicker, but still powerful defense. It is a defense built to match the tempo and speed of today’s top offenses. This season promises to be the big defensive payoff.

Check out how former Tide players performed in NFL Week 1. dark. Next

All of the above leads to a simple conclusion. Dan Mullen and the Gators have the more daunting task on Saturday.