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Monday, July 22, 2013
Question of the week: No-huddle danger?

By Alex Scarborough and Greg Ostendorf

Editor's note: Each week the TideNation staff will address an issue surrounding the Alabama football program. This week's questions: Are no-huddle offenses good for football?

Alex Scarborough's take

Nick Saban
Nick Saban offered a typically matter-of-fact and practical response to the uproar over up-tempo offenses.
Alabama coach Nick Saban pulled off a nifty bit of political maneuvering at SEC Media Days on Thursday. He must have watched as Auburn coach Gus Malzahn and Arkansas coach Bret Bielema went back-and-forth on the subject of player safety as it relates to no-huddle offenses on Wednesday and realized he wouldn't have to enter the very public fray himself. Malzahn said he thought the accusations were a joke. Bielema said he wasn't a comedian, and the blogosphere took it from there.

So when Saban stood at the podium in Hoover, Ala., and was asked what he thought, he didn't have to bite. Rather, he did the same thing he did to start the debate in the first place, which was to ask whether or not we wanted college football to go the direction it's heading.

"Should we allow football to be a continuous game?" he asked. "Is that the way the game was designed to play?"

It might not be the game he would like to play, but he better get used to it. Every team Alabama faced last year tried to push the tempo, and every team likely will do the same this coming season. Adjust to it, don't complain about it, because as Saban pointed out in his answer, the rules are clearly defined, no one is breaking them currently and it's not likely they will change anytime soon.

If you don't want football to be a continuous game, and you're worried about your players' safety, the solution is simple: Don't let the offense pick up a first down. Then you can get the defense off the field and run whatever offense you want.

But there's also a fundamental flaw in the argument for player safety. While it's true that the increased number of plays associated with uptempo offenses fundamentally creates an increased chance of injury, that's ignoring the fact that by supporting an expanded playoff system, you're supporting an entire game's worth of injury risk. But because everyone wants the best team to be named champion, no one is second guessing whether or not players should be put through the physical beating of another game.

Greg Ostendorf's take

I understand the old-school beliefs shared by Bielema, Saban and others, but I side with Alex on this one. The no-huddle approach is the direction college football is headed, and nothing is standing in the way. It’s a strategy that’s within the rules and difficult for defenses to stop. Why not use it to your advantage?

The high-speed attack Chip Kelly installed at Oregon inspired the latest trend in college football.
Oregon for years has been the model of how to a run that type of offense. Under former coach Chip Kelly, the Ducks were 46-7 with three conference titles in four years. The strategy works if run correctly, and consequently, more and more teams are implementing the quicker pace in college football. It’s like running the two-minute drill all game long.

And like everything else popular in college football, the NFL is starting to catch on, as well. Elite quarterbacks Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have been picking apart defenses for years with the no-huddle offense, but it’s starting to become prevalent throughout the league. Rookie signal callers Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck both used the hurry-up approach at times last season, and it wasn’t anything new, because they had run something similar in college.

The point is that the no-huddle offense is the hot, new thing. It was the spread offense a few years back, and we’ve seen how that has taken over college football, and even the NFL, to a certain extent. Coaches are just taking it one step further now.

If anything, Alabama has proved that you don’t have to run a quicker offense to be successful -- the Tide have done just fine with their methodical, smash-mouth approach -- but they are going to have to be able to defend it.