Alabama Wins With The Basics

Manti Te’o tackles an Alabama runner. AP photo

In the aftermath of Alabama’s thoroughly dominating victory over Notre Dame, a couple of facts were hammered home. For all its complexities, football has some simple basic elements. If you can’t run the ball and can’t stop your opponent from running it, you’re in trouble.

Alabama’s ability to throw opened up the running game, and both aspects of the Crimson Tide offense were in sync. Notre Dame couldn’t run and became one-dimensional, and the game was over by halftime. It wasn’t even competitive almost from the first snap. That was made even more horrible since I picked the Irish to pull off an upset and took 10 points on a bet with my youngest brother to the winner’s steakhouse of choice.

And perhaps the worst part will be having to listen to the SEC supremacists for at least another year.

But if you want to silence them, you’ll have to beat them, and you can’t help but admire what Nick Saban has accomplished at Alabama. With three national championships in four years he matches Notre Dame’s Frank Leahy and Nebraska’s Tom Osborne. The talent and depth of the Crimson Tide would be remarkable in one year, much less sustained over time.

For Notre Dame, they can celebrate a return to relevancy, and Hawaii contributors Manti Te’o, Robby Toma and Kona Schwenke will be forever part of the Irish resurgence. But Notre Dame and maybe most of the country can look to Alabama and realize they have a long way to go.

* Washington Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan took a lot of heat for leaving an obviously injured RG III in their playoff game against Seattle. Griffin was limping around the field, and Shanahan maintained that his QB insisted on staying the game. Football culture demands that players play through pain, and RG III was not going to take himself out.

It makes you think how different football is from other sports. Another D.C. team, the Washington Nationals, shut down ace pitcher Stephen Strasburg not because he was hurt, but because they were afraid he might get hurt!

Try telling that to an NFL superstar. Yet Shanahan’s decision tells you two things. First, he doesn’t have complete confidence in backup Kirk Cousins. Second, he was willing to risk the next decade of having RG III for the chance to win one playoff game now.

Doesn’t seem worth the risk when you put it that way. Now everyone is holding their breath to see how serious Griffin’s injury is and how long it will take him to recover.

* Speaking of coaches’ decisions, it’s interesting that Oregon’s Chip Kelly has decided to eschew the NFL to stay with the Ducks. Some are speculating that Nike’s Phil Knight decided that he was not going to lose Kelly over mere money. And that bodes well for former Saint Louis QB Marcus Mariota, who should be a Heisman trophy candidate next fall.