Triple Option Is Challenge For Tide

There have been a lot of victories posted by teams running a triple option offense in Bryant-Denny Stadium. Fortunately for the Crimson Tide, most of those wins were by Alabama teams in the heyday of the wishbone offense in the 1970s and early 1980s. There will be a version of the wishbone in Tuscaloosa Saturday, this time one that Bama will have to defend.

Alabama hosts Georgia Southern at 1 p.m. CST Saturday in Bryant-Denny Stadium in a battle of teams that are both 9-1 and ranked third in the nation. The Crimson Tide is ranked third in BCS competition and the Georgia Southern Eagles, champions of the Southern Conference, are ranked third in the Football Championship Subdivision.

Alabama Coach Nick Saban said Monday that the Eagles "do what they do extremely well. They kind of run a flexbone offense. I don't know the appropriate name; sort of a Georgia Tech-style kind of option offense that is very similar to the wishbone, but it doesn't line up like the wishbone."

The Georgia Southern offense of Coach Jeff Monken averages over 320 rushing yards per game (second in the nation), and as with many triple option offenses the yards are spread among a number of rushers, led by fullback Robert Brown (5-11, 203) getting about 83 yards per game.

The Eagles had 68 carries for 634 yards in a 52-20 win over Western Carolina.

"They are one of the best running teams in the country," Saban said. "They have about as many rushing yards as anybody in their division or our division."

The Tide coach also noted that triple option teams have the ability to hit big pass plays "because of the way you have to play defense." He added that Georgia Southern quarterback Jaybo Shaw is very experienced. (He started his career at Georgia Tech.) The Eagles average over 20 yards per completion.

Georgia Southern averages 37.4 points per game.

"This is a team that is 9-1 for a reason," Saban said. "Teams like this beat Division I teams all the time. Appalachian State beat Michigan a couple of years ago. We need to have the proper respect for who we're playing and how they do what they do.

"We also need to understand that it's not about them, it's really about us, what our goals are and what we're doing. It really doesn't matter who you're playing against."

Saban said it had been a long time since he had coached against a triple option team, perhaps when he was head coach at Toledo in 1990 against Navy. The Midshipmen took a 14-10 win, one of only two losses for Toledo that year.

Alabama didn't wait until this week to begin preparing for Georgia Southern.

"We did a lot of research and a lot of study and a lot of work in the off-season," Saban said. "We knew they were going to be one of the most different teams that we played. They give you a lot of formation multiples which makes it a little harder to adjust. They do a really good job of executing what they do. It takes a lot of discipline on defense, everybody doing what he's supposed to do.

"It's going to take a lot of preparation for the entire defense – how you play the blocks, who takes what on the option up front, how the linebackers and front fit together, and then how the secondary rotates and where the run force comes from and the discipline you've got to have on the edges when you get the ball outside and pitch the ball.

"They make some big plays sometimes handing the ball off to the fullback. But they make a lot of big plays on the perimeter pitching the ball where somebody breaks down."

Alabama nose tackle Josh Chapman has looked at the film and said "it looks different to play against, but it's all about guys going out and reading their keys and doing their jobs. You're going to get a lot of cut blocks playing down there, a lot of different blocking schemes, but it's all about going out and doing our job. Watching film and watching the paths of the running backs."

Chapman will be facing smaller offensive linemen than he faces in the Southeastern Conference. The Eagles have a center at 268, guards at 271 and 294, and tackles at 271 and 255.

Chapman said that presents a different challenge.

"I've been against small linemen from high school on up," he said. "You think you're going to overpower those guys, but those guys stay on you like gnats."

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