We all know that Joe Paterno plays conservative football. Rarely do Penn State teams run up the score unless it is against over-matched opponents. The play-calling sphincter generally tightens to the point that if he farted, only dogs would be able to hear the sound.
But what about Nick Saban?
Here’s some excerpts on the Alabama coach’s conservatism:
Regarding the BCS Title game against Texas:
Known for his conservative approach to game-calling, Alabama coach Nick Saban went against his usual personality Thursday.
Notes on Julio Jones:
Was underutilized in Nick Saban’s conservative, run- orientated system and might be a better pro than college player with more opportunities
In reviewing why Alabama lost 3 games last season, oddsmaker Danny Sheridan concludes:
They got conservative in those games and that’s why they lost.
And Bleacher Report prefaces a look at what to expect for Alabama football this year with this:
Though he’s known to call very conservative plays and manage the clock, his teams still stun the crowd with a few wild plays each year.
I don’t think I need to post any evidence that Joe Paterno is conservative in “big games.”
So what am I getting at here?
It appears this Saturday’s match-up features two coaches with conservative coaching philosophies. They both have arguably good, if not great defenses. Both offenses are having trouble moving the ball consistently. Neither coach has been able to name a starting quarterback. Alabama has an elephant as a mascot. Can you get any more Republican than that?
I doubt very seriously that we are looking at a 6-4 type of game here, but who knows with the weather threatening. But it might be safe to conclude that it will be low scoring.
If that’s the case, the edge might fall in Penn State’s favor. This is the type of game (think O$U in 2005 and 2008) that Paterno excels in coaching. Moreover, Paterno is more successful against coaches–like Jim Tressel–that tend to play things close to the sweatervest as well. In contrast, Paterno had trouble with coaches like Lloyd Carr, who seemed to have more of a killer instinct and became more aggressive in big games, not content to “sit” on a lead, although Carr had a series of NFL-caliber quarterbacks that made that kind of play possible.
I wouldn’t be surprised if neither team managed more than 21 points. I think it will be a close contest, and it may all turn on a single turn-over.
We can only hope that Bama, with two inexperienced quarterbacks, makes that fatal mistake.
And I also won’t be surprised if old Joe finds a way to squeeze out one more win against Alabama.