Don’t Go Changing
The college football world could be changing quickly, actually slowly might be the better word. Alabama coach Nick Saban and Arkansas coach Bret Bielema are both in support of a rule change that would allow defenses to make substitutions during the first 10 seconds of the play clock.
This would mean that offenses who run a play and attempt to snap the ball as quickly as the ball is marked would have to wait for the defense to substitute before they could snap the ball.
Fast-paced offenses have become more common in recent seasons due to the pressure that they place on the defense. These offenses have turned the tables on defenses because they force the defense to play basic coverage and give them little time to adjust.
Saban is in favor of this rule change and cites the safety of the defensive players as an area of concern.
Is that a noble cause or what?
The fact of the matter is that there is no evidence that these offenses are causing more injuries to defensive players. Furthermore, the defensive players tire in the same way that the offensive players do. The fatigue that a player might experience when defending against a no-huddle team would not result in that player being injured.
Kevin Sumlin, Hugh Freeze, and Gus Malzahn have already spoken out against the possibile rule change. They each have made a point to recognize that there is no evidence that supports the claim that the no-huddle results in more injuries for the defense. In fact, in terms of players getting injured I think we can all agree that more offense players are at risk for injury.
Why do I believe this?
Offensive players are getting hit, tackled, and thrown around by defensive players.
Do you know what we call if it an offensive player tackles a defensive player?
That is called holding. It is a penalty.
I am willing to bet that there are mountains of evidence that would tell you that blitzing and tackling cause the vast majority of injuries in football. Should we simply eliminate the tackling? If player safety is what Nick Saban is so very concerned about then he should probably never let any player play in a game with even the slightest injury. At Alabama if you are not 100% healthy then you may as well not dress out, Saban would never want you to risk your health.
The reality is that Saban doesn’t like the no-huddle because it forces his behemoth defensive players to play more snaps than he would like and they can become winded. It turns out that having the biggest team doesn’t always give you an advantage. Saban doesn’t like the no-huddle, because it equalizes the playing field. He doesn’t like it because Auburn and Texas A&M are two serious threats to his dominance and they are both in the SEC’s Western Division.
Think about it this way, in a boxing match how does a welterweight beat a heavyweight?
The welterweight can’t win if he fights the same way that the heavyweight does. He has to land more punches and keep him in the ring for as long as possible. He must use his agility and quickness to avoid taking big hits. He needs to land more punches. That is the only way he can win.
The welterweight is the team using the no-huddle offense. This offense allows teams in college football without the recruiting capability to beat the heavyweights (Alabama, Florida State, LSU). They can’t beat the heavyweights at their own game. They must fight the battle differently.
Now I’m not telling you that Saban isn’t capable of stopping the offensive philosophy with hard work, I’m simply saying that if the rules were changed he wouldn’t have to invest countless hours playing hypothetical games against Oregon and Oklahoma State. It is human nature for us to want things our own way.
Nick Saban wants things his way. The rule change will almost certainly not be adopted, and the notion that it was proposed in the name of player safety is laughable.
Defenses get to move freely and stunt before the ball is snapped. Meanwhile, offenses must be set and do not have that same luxury. The offense’s greatest weapon against the defense is the ability to snap the ball faster and force the defense’s hand.
Football in the SEC is changing. This season featured two no-huddle offenses in the conference title game. Missouri, Auburn, Texas A&M, and Ole Miss are all running the no-huddle and will look to push the pace against next year. In respect to the no-huddle offense, it is here to stay.
Better hurry up.