ESPN’s Rece Davis: No. 4 Huskies need to take deep shots to have chance vs No. 1 Alabama
Dec 17, 2016, 6:00 AM | Updated: 2:43 pm
When Rece Davis was hosting ESPN’s Saturday College Football Final earlier this decade, he would often hear an adage about Alabama coach Nick Saban from his on-air partner Lou Holtz, a legendary college football coach in his own right.
“That Nick Saban’s a greedy sucker. He doesn’t want you to have four inches. You’re better off trying to get 40 yards.”
And that’s why Davis told “Brock and Salk” that it would be foolish for the No. 4 Washington Huskies to be conservative in their game plan against the undefeated, top-ranked Crimson Tide in the national semifinal Peach Bowl that will air live on 710 ESPN Seattle on New Year’s Eve.
“If you can get chunks of yardage against them, that’s the best way to beat them,” said Davis, an Alabama native who now hosts ESPN’s College GameDay. “Your chances of beating them all day consistently on 10-play, 80-yard drives … aren’t that great.”
The numbers bear that sentiment. Alabama leads the country in total defense, allowing just 247.8 yards per game and 3.94 yards per play to opposing offenses this year. And while the Tide is certainly stingy against the pass, ranking 15th in the FBS with 184.5 passing yards allowed on average, it’s their top-ranked run defense (63.4 yards allowed per game, 33.5 less than second-best Wisconsin) that truly stands out.
That means that while the opportunity to move the ball through the air isn’t exactly huge, it’s much better than trying to win the war on the ground against Alabama’s bruising defensive line.
“I would take plentiful shots against them because while I think their corners are good … a perfectly thrown ball to a good receiver’s going to beat even good coverage,” Davis said. “You hit a few big plays and all of the sudden it makes those drives go a little bit quicker. That would be healthy in my game plan, is plenty of shot plays against Alabama, but the trick is of course having time to get the passes off, too.”
Ah, yes, another reason to worry about that Crimson Tide D-line.
Davis was quick to mention that there are reasons for Alabama to be concerned about Washington, too – chiefly the fact that it hasn’t been tested by a team quite as balanced as the Huskies this year.
“I think Washington’s the most complete team that they will have played up to this point this year,” he said. “Most of the other teams that Alabama played this year in the SEC had some type of hole. LSU couldn’t score. Texas A&M for whatever reason doesn’t play physical enough to beat Alabama consistently and they end up sorta wilting in the fire most of the time. Ole Miss had defensive issues. Auburn wasn’t any good on offense and Florida was the same way.”
He went on to add that Ole Miss, which gave the Tide a run by totaling 522 yards of offense before falling 48-43 on Sept. 17, may have been the most offensively gifted team Alabama has seen, but that UW could rival the Rebels on that side of the ball while having a much better defense.