3 things to know about Nick Saban, Alabama's head coach

Kevin C. Cox

Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban looks to avenge last season's sole loss. Here's what you need to know about him before Saturday's matchup with Texas A&M.

1. He has a plan

Nick Saban is more Walter White than Satan: Logical, calculating, and obsessed with minute details on a higher level than any other. His product is nearly flawless, and fixing the few flaws that do appear consume him far more than the success. He is a master of his system, and any attempt to play against him within that system is doomed.

There have been times though, when opponents have refused to work within that system. It started with Les Miles, zigging where Saban expected him to zag. Miles' Tigers defeated the Crimson Tide in 2010, and did it again in the 2011 regular season. Saban solved that equation in the 2011 BCS National Championship Game, then again in 2012. Miles may not react as Saban would, but Saban understands Miles as well as anyone can understand him.

Johnny Manziel and Kevin Sumlin are the next variables to be made constants. In last year's loss to A&M, Manziel scrambled his way to 92 yards rushing and extended plays long enough to rack up 253 yards and two touchdowns through the air. But by the second half, Saban had begun the adjustments needed to contain Manziel and the Aggie offense. And Saban's plan Saturday -- contain Manziel and make him a pocket passer, as much as possible -- both acknowledges his ability to shake the system and works directly to constrain it. He's not the first to try this, but he's the best at working on the detals of how it will be done. This is how Nick Saban works and, when successful, how Alabama wins.

2. He doesn't care much for questions.

Saban's responses this week, when asked about allegations that former Tide offensive lineman D.J. Fluker took improper benefits, were both angry and hilarious:

He's not an administrator. He's not a public relations agent. He's a football coach, and this is taking him away from coaching football. If you're not interested in that, or in this week's game, he has nothing more to say.

3. He has a philosophical problem with Texas A&M

Saban does not hate his opponents, as that would place the result of the game over the process, would allow for joy to come with success. Saban does not look for revenge as much as he fixes imperfections, and once those flaws have been fixed, he moves on.

Saban does, however, have a dislike for A&M's style of play. He finds the Aggies' hurry-up offense and spread system a bastardization of the game and a threat to his players' safety:

"I think that's something that can be looked at. It's obviously created a tremendous advantage for the offense when teams are scoring 70 points and we're averaging 49.5 points a game. With people that do those kinds of things. More and more people are going to do it."


"I just think there's got to be some sense of fairness in terms of asking is this what we want football to be?"

If there is a revenge factor at play in today's Alabama-A&M game, it centers on this debate. It is not the first time that Saban has faced a hurry-up offense, and it certainly won't be the last. But Saban stands as one of the last great defenders of old-style, slow-paced football in a conference being invaded on all sides by hurry-up innovators. Saturday is Saban's chance to strike a blow for his side.

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