Is Nick Saban afraid to play Army?
It’s a question worth asking this week after this column from Joseph Goodman at AL.com.
After beating New Mexico State 62-10 this past weekend — which came after a 42-3 win for Alabama over Duke in Week 1 — Saban basically said there’s nothing he can do about Alabama’s soft non-conference schedule (which also features a meeting with Southern Miss and a game vs. FCS side Western Carolina later this year).
“I don’t know why you would ask me that question,” Saban said. “As if I can do something about it when I can’t do anything about it. So, we’re playing the best teams we can get to play us… Why don’t you start calling around and see if you can get somebody else to play us and we’ll play them. We’ll play anybody you can get to play us.”
Taking on that challenge, Goodman phoned West Point. The Black Knights are tough, right? They have, after all, taken Oklahoma and Michigan to overtime in the past year. Army also won 11 games last season and hung 70 points on Houston in a bowl game.
(And Army held Oklahoma to 28 points. The Sooners scored 34 against Alabama, for whatever that’s worth.)
And Army, like New Mexico State, is an independent, so it’s always looking for future opponents.
Turns out, Alabama hasn’t reached out to Army about a future game.
But while Saban or someone else from Bama hasn’t called West Point yet, Army senior associate athletics director Bob Beretta — who handles scheduling for Army football — wouldn’t rule out a future game with the Crimson Tide when talking with Goodman.
“For us, (scheduling) is a very important part for who we are as an academy,” Beretta said. “It’s a major outreach component for the United States Army and the United States Military Academy. Not just football. And we know that. We value that greatly.”
Alabama’s non-conference slate is full next year, as the Tide has already scheduled USC, Georgia State, Kent State and UT-Martin. 2021 is full too, according to FBSschedules.com. But in 2022, Alabama and Army both have holes to fill.
Clemson and Alabama when asked if they want to schedule Army. pic.twitter.com/bqVdyGMmDf— Sons of Slum and Gravy (@OfSlumandGravy) September 8, 2019
The last time Alabama and Army met was 1988, and Bill Curry’s Tide won by a single point in the Sun Bowl. A rematch is overdue.
After the Tide’s big blowout win over New Mexico State, Saban also took the Alabama students to task for leaving the game early, saying, according to the Washington Post: “If I asked that whole student section, do you want to be number one? Nobody would hold their hand up and say I want to be number four. They would all say number one. But are they willing to do everything to be number one? That’s another question. You can ask them that.”
And then Alabama cried some more when the SEC gave its game vs. Southern Miss an 11 a.m. kickoff time. Why did TV networks and the SEC opt for an early kickoff in Tuscaloosa? Because that game is going to be a blowout too, and the fans are going to leave at halftime, and not a whole lot of folks watching college football at home that day are going to be interested in Alabama smacking around an average CUSA team.
If Alabama hosted Army, students wouldn’t be leaving prematurely and the game wouldn’t be set for a brunch kickoff. Army has proven that it can cause headaches for Power 5 opponents. This game would likely be close through the fourth quarter. And at some point, Crimson Tide fans would be worried, just like Oklahoma and Michigan fans were.
Alabama was tied 10-10 at halftime last year with Diet Army: FCS side Citadel. Alabama wound up winning 50-17, but based on that small sample size — and that Army is much, much, much better than the Citadel — it’s not crazy to assume that Army would give Alabama some trouble, no matter how much Alabama fans say that their defense is bigger and faster and superior, and thus capable of shutting down the triple-option. Fans of the Sooners and Wolverines thought the same thing. In 2016, No. 6 Houston and Notre Dame thought that heading into games against Navy — and they lost.
Alabama would probably beat Army, in the end.
But we’ll never know. Because Nick Saban is scared. Scared to lose a non-conference game. Scared to face the triple-option.
Want a tougher non-conference game? Don’t want your fans to leave at halftime?
Schedule Army, Nick.
(Or Navy, or Air Force. Two other triple-option based Service Academy teams Alabama has never played against under Saban either. In fact, Saban hasn’t faced a Service Academy team in nearly three decades.)
Nick Saban vs. FBS Service Academies
|Kent State||linebackers coach||1976||Air Force||W||24-19|
|Syracuse||outside linebackers coach||1977||Navy||W||45-34|
|Ohio State||defensive backs coach||1981||Navy||W||31-28|
|Navy||defensive backs coach||1982||Army||W||24-7|
|Michigan State||defensive coordinator||1984||Army||L||10-6|