What It Takes to Defeat the Alabama Crimson Tide

Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban met with the media during SEC Media Days in Hoover, Alabama, to discuss the upcoming season and what he expects to see from his team.

Most media members will probably pick Alabama and the Georgia Bulldogs to be favorites in the SEC this year, but what does it take to knock off the Crimson Tide?

Although it’s rare, Alabama has been taken down over the years, and these factors played into defeating the Tide.

Teams needed to have a mobile quarterback

The teams that have knocked off Alabama in the past all had one thing in common: They had a mobile quarterback.

Cam Newton, Johnny Manziel, and even to a certain extent Joe Burrow were all mobile.

When LSU defeated Alabama and went on to win the national championship in 2019, Burrow’s arm put the Tigers in the lead, but his legs sealed the game. The Tide had cut the lead in the fourth quarter, and on a crucial third-down play that could make or break the game, Burrow ran for the first down that pretty much ended the game.

It goes without saying that Newton and Manziel’s ability to scramble and throw on the run caused Nick Saban’s defense fits, too.

Another thing those three players have in common is that they won Heismans, but you don’t have to be a Heisman winner to defeat Alabama. Just ask quarterback Stephen Garcia of South Carolina, who defeated the Tide in 2010.

Play good defense

Teams that have defeated the Tide have also had pretty good defenses. In most years, the Alabama offense has been unstoppable. But when it has been stopped, it’s been because of a great defense.

Although the Tennessee Volunteers lost to Alabama in 2009, they held the Tide in check the whole game. If it wasn’t for mistakes and a bad kicking game, they would have defeated Alabama that afternoon.

Defenses also need to be opportunistic. Saban’s teams rarely make mistakes, but when they do, opponents must take advantage.

When Auburn defeated Alabama in the 2019 Iron Bowl, the Tigers took advantage of several Tide turnovers and uncharacteristic mistakes that cost them the game. 

Play the perfect game

The Alabama Crimson Tide defeated the Ohio State Buckeyes 52-24 |Alika Jenner/Getty Images

What kills most Bama opponents is when they make mistakes. It happened to Florida in the 2020 SEC Championship Game. Alabama was driving when quarterback Mac Jones threw an interception that could have sparked a momentum change for the Gators.

But they couldn’t take advantage. As soon as the Gators got the interception, they fumbled the ball and turned it right back over to Bama, who would later score.

It’s hard to play mistake-free ball against the Tide, but if a team can do that, it has a good chance of winning. A lot of teams have played them toe to toe until they make a major mistake that costs them the game.

If any team expects to take down the Tide this season, one — if not all — of these factors will come into play. So if a team gets that opportunity, it better take advantage because as most know, beating Alabama is rare. 

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