When you think about it, Houston Nutt and Nick Saban seem to have very similar coaching philosophies. That’s why it’s always interesting to watch Ole Miss battle Alabama. On offense these two SEC Western division foes love to run the ball and control the clock. On defense they like to put as much pressure on the quarterback as they can to disrupt an opponent’s offensive rhythm. In addition, they both like to play a chess match with the other team’s head coach. They like to move players around and change formations on both sides of the ball on a turn of a dime.
All of these similarities would seem to make it difficult to predict who would win the yearly head-to-head match-up between Houston Nutt and Nick Saban. At the end of the day, however, there are at least three things that make Nick Saban an odd-on favorite to win a head-to-head match up against Houston Nutt. Here they are:
*Saban’s a better recruiter than Houston Nutt.
Long recognized as a relentless recruiter, Nick Saban always seems to get good players who are fast and strong. This should help Saban in any head-to-head match-up against Houston Nutt because Saban can put better players on the field (at least on paper) at any given time.
*In addition, Saban’s aggressive play calling would come in handy against Ole Miss’s finesse offense.
Nick Saban is a very aggressive play caller who likes to establish control of the line of scrimmage from the start. I think this would come in handy against Ole Miss because it gives the Tide a chance to control the rhythm and cadence of the game. This ought to prevent Ole Miss from being able to establish an offensive rhythm. If you can do that, you have an excellent chance to win a game against the Rebels because Houston Nutt’s finesse offense requires them to get off to a fast start from the get-go.
*Finally, Saban is also a better defensive tactician than Houston Nutt.
How many of you remember Nick Saban’s tenure as Bill Belichick’s defensive coordinator? This stint helped Saban to become one of the best defensive strategists in the game today. You can see the results of that stint when you look at Saban’s 3-4 defense package. It features a bunch of blitzes and stunts near the line of scrimmage that can be used at any time. He also uses his safeties and corners to jam up the line of scrimmage. Saban makes full use of these tactics by using them on passing downs and even short yardage situations.
Compare these aggressive tactics with Houston Nutt’s “Tag you’re it!” defensive philosophy. Even though the Rebels have nine takeaways so far this year, they seem to do it by lulling their opponents to sleep. Houston Nutt is one of the gentlest and nicest people in the world and I think his defense shows this mentality. Instead of knocking the quarterback’s chops, the Rebels seem to enjoy chasing the quarterback much like little kids do when they play tag.
If you watched the Rebels’ game against North Carolina on September 26th, you’ll understand what I mean. The Rebels had many chances to get some hits on Gamecocks QB Stephen Garcia. Instead, the Rebel’s defensive linemen looked like they were playing tag or “statues.” They had Garcia wrapped around several times but no one could put Garcia down. As a result, Garcia was able to get out of many sticky situations and make plays that should never have happened.
As a result, I think Nick Saban is a better defensive tactician than Houston Nutt. Saban’s smash-mouth, “Let’s get him!” defensive philosophy is so much better than Nutt’s “Tag, You’re It!” mentality that the Tide should be able to beat the Rebels 85 times out of 100.
Chris (no last name given). “Coaching Preview: Alabama’s Nick Saban vs. Clemson’s Rob Spence.” Originally published electronicallyy 24 August 2008. Retrieved online 28 September, 2009 from http://smartfootball.blogspot.com/
Stephens, Tim. “Alabama’s Nick Saban Virtually Reinvents Recruiting.” Originally published electronically 25 April 2008. Retrieved online 28 September, 2009 from http://blogs.orlandosentinel.com/.
The University of Mississippi. “2009 Ole Miss Football Season Statistics.” Originally published electronically 24 September 2009. Retrieved online 28 September, 2009 from http://www.olemisssports.com/