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History shows the only way to beat Alabama is through the air

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Your stage, Jawon Pass.

NCAA Football: CFP National Championship-Clemson vs Alabama The Greenville News-USA TODAY Sports

“If you’re trying to achieve, there will be roadblocks. I’ve had them; everybody has had them. But obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.” – Michael Jordan

Louisville is going to run smack into a brick wall on Saturday night. That wall is Alabama, a team that has accumulated only three losses over the last three seasons, and 14 losses in the last 10 seasons. Think about those numbers. That’s pretty incredible. What they do when they hit that wall is going to be crucial. Turn around and run away? Fight through it? We are so close to finding out the answer.

Our guy Keith Wynne has already provided you with what the Cards need to do to upset the Crimson Tide. He is great at breaking things down from the X’s and O’s side of things. I will provide just one key of my own.

Utilize the Pass

There will always be puns when you use Jawon Pass’ name in reference to actually passing the football. Obviously, quarterback play is important in every football game. Did you know that Lamar Jackson is not UofL’s quarterback now? If you didn’t, you may hear it on Saturday two or three hundred times.

They key to winning big games is balance on offense, right? You have to be able to run the ball well, right?

Well, maybe not against Alabama. Now as you know, there aren’t too many games to use as samples on how to beat them. So I won’t even go back beyond the last three seasons. Could it be possible that you don’t have to rush for a lot of yards to beat them? Maybe.

Their only loss in 2017 came to Auburn. This one kind of goes against the theory, but I couldn’t just skip over last season. We know Auburn can run the ball against just about anybody, so of course they still piled up 168 yards on the ground, while throwing for 240. With this also being the big rivalry game that it is, sometimes we know that conventional stats go out the window. But Auburn’s QB, Jarrett Stidham, did complete 75% of his passes, his fourth best mark of the season. And his 237 yards passing were his fourth most at that point of the season, and third most against his SEC opponents. He threw for more yards against Alabama than he did against Georgia Southern, Clemson, Missouri, Ole Miss, LSU, Arkansas, Georgia, UL Monroe, and Georgia again.

Let’s go back to 2016. Alabama rolled through their schedule unblemished until they ran into Clemson in the National Championship. In what was a back and forth game with an exciting finish, Clemson had anything but balance on offense. They rushed for a whopping 91 yards on 42 carries, an average of 2.2 yards per carry. Deshaun Watson racked up 420 yards through the air. He was 36/56. Yes, he threw the ball 56 times.

What about 2015? Again, just one loss, and this one to Ole Miss. The Rebels ran the ball 32 times for 92 yards, an average of 2.9 cards per carry. Quarterback Chad Kelly passed for 341 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. He was 18/33 for the game.

So what we see here is that you do have to attempt to run the ball. You can’t just line up and pass it every single time. Clemson ran it 42 times and threw it 56 times. Ole Miss was balanced in their approach with 32 rushes and 33 passes. But the yards gained were anything but balanced. Alabama will stop your running game. But to beat them, you have to be able to pass the ball on them. I don’t think you can expect huge runs. You just need to run the ball sometimes to keep the defense honest. But to get any chunks of yards, it will need to come by way of, that’s right, the Pass.

And if we know of any weakness on this ‘Bama defense, it’s the secondary. On Wednesday, Nick Saban said that the secondary has made a lot of progress, but that he is not completely satisfied with their development. Louisville could have a big advantage in the WR vs DB matchup. Will Puma have time to get them the ball?