Armed with Tua, good luck finding Tide’s kryptonite

It was always a curiosity piece with me.

These pop-gun, point-a-minute college offenses have been muddying the statistical waters for quite a while now, often annoying the biggest and brawniest of teams.

At first it was, like, well, that’s cute — certainly different — but nothing that really might catch on in serious college football.

Defense, brother, you win with defense, when you’re not overloading on ball control and winning those sacred special teams.

Generally the run-and-shoot and all its run-pass-option offspring had to be covering up something, probably overcompensating for a defense that couldn’t slow down a herd of kittens.

It always seemed to be the up-start programs trying to crash the big party. They were considered nouveau riche, some would say gauche, and certainly not worthy of being invited to college football’s upper-class soirées.

But I always used to wonder what would happen if one of your traditional defensive powerhouses ever got a wild notion to take the plunge. Maybe it just wasn’t possible. Maybe selling your soul to the no-huddle, up-tempo jibberjabbish meant never being able to count on a three-and-out again.

But what if you ever did get that combination?

It appears we may have the answer (to be revealed in a moment, on the outside chance you haven’t already guessed).

But I also used to always wonder, what would happen if Alabama and Nick Saban ever got themselves a bona-fide quarterback?

For about 25 years, even pre-Saban, for the life of me Alabama had the same quarterback, some dude named John Parker Brodie McElroy or some such who kept coming back every year.

Oh, the Alabama fans, entitled as ever, were always convinced that A.J. Coker Wilson-Sims should be the Heisman Trophy front-runner because he always won, mostly by standing around and minding his own business and not doing anything totally stupid while the Alabama defense was tearing the arms and legs off another one of those new-age offenses.

Oh, he might throw an occasional forward pass, usually an ugly, fluttering thingamajig that Julio Jones or Calvin Ridley would snatch out of the air. His job description — Heisman material in the eyes of Tide fans — was mostly handing off to a legitimate Heisman candidate and taking his offensive linemen out to eat every Thursday night.

But, at heart, he was just an innocent caretaker, which was usually good enough to get a year or two with an NFL team, strictly for good behavior.

Now Alabama has this cat Tua “Call him Tua, You’ll Only Hurt Yourself Trying to Spell the Last Name” Tagovailoa.

He doesn’t fit the Alabama quarterback mold. He’s the odds-on favorite to win the Heisman — on merit — and really, probably is the best quarterback in the country, with the NFL salivating after him as something other than taxi-squad fodder as a favor to Saban.

And, yes, the fast-paced offense has become part of the dreaded Saban Process.

Which almost doesn’t seem fair.

So the Tide, after years of pounding and plundering teams into submission, is now on a scorched-earth mission to ransack the college game.

Alabama is taking care of scoreboards so quickly and efficiently before turning it over to backups that Tua may win the Heisman without playing enough to letter.

The punter, whoever he is, is only spotted on the sides of milk cartons.

This may have been the team Saban has been dreaming of and planning for since the 9-6 overtime loss to LSU in 2011.

It was said at the time that the Game of the Century, intense and thrilling as it was to greybeard traditionalists, set the sport back two centuries (the critics failed to mention that, when not playing each other, both teams were averaging 39 points per game that year).

But Saban saw the future that night, and has been evolving his offense and his program ever since, just to stay ahead of the RPOs.

This year is the end result — or, if its not, college football is in big trouble.

LSU’s Les Miles, perhaps thinking the victory validated outdated modes, didn’t really adjust much. Eventually, it led him to a budding acting career, where he is still a very nice and lovably quirky guy, now eating turf in beer commercials.

So the Tigers are playing catch up under Ed Orgeron, who is genuinely trying to join the 21st century with offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger as a willing accomplice.

They’re getting there, even if the stats don’t quite show it yet.

But the dynamics have changed. For LSU against Alabama, it used to be a matter of figuring out some way to scratch out a touchdown or three against that Tide defense and take your chances.

Accomplish that now, and you still might get lapped and left behind by the team that leads the nation in scoring (54.1 ppg).

“We’re going to figure out a game plan that fits this week, a game plan that fits this team,” Orgeron said.

But, he added, “We haven’t figured it out yet.”

They’d best cook up something that gets north of 30 points, which LSU hasn’t done against Alabama since 2007.

It’s a new world.


Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at shobbs@americanpress.com””

Alabama quarterbacks Jalen Hurts (2) and Tua Tagovailoa (13) and head coach Nick Saban watch from the sideline during the second half of the NCAA college football playoff championship game against Georgia in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

AP Photo/David J. Phillip