I noticed, after Bama’s loss to Sakerlina, that Saban’s defense was running a lot of quarters coverage, which is a really simple read-and-react defense that can create quick double-teams on deep receivers. It’s a really common coverage in college, but one of the things that’s made Saban’s defenses so good, historically speaking, has been their commitment to disguised, tight zone coverage mixed with heavy blitzes. Saban’s reluctance to try and confuse Steven Garcia (a bizarre choice, given Garcia’s booger-eating tendencies) allowed Steve Spurrier, perhaps the most successful offensive coach ever against vanilla coverages, to isolate Alshon Jeffery in favorable one-on-one matchups, and the rest is history and Dre Kirkpatrick’s shattered pride.
The reason for running such basic coverages had several causes, I’m sure, but it seemed obvious that DeMarcus Milliner’s blown coverage to allow a touchdown in the early seconds of the Arkansas game got caught like molasses in the delicious waffle that is Nick Saban’s brain. The Ole Miss game featured a more typical diet of Saban Specials (i.e., zone blitzes and rotating zone coverage), largely because a. Jeremiah Masoli is dumb and b. Ole Miss’s offense doesn’t take many shots downfield. It was a low-risk, high-reward decision, and I wasn’t surprised to see Alabama come out swinging with those zone blitzes against LSU. Unfortunately for them, it lost them the game.