This is why Texas A&M's success in 2012 should worry Alabama's Nick Saban. Saban's defense is designed to stop grinding offenses such as LSU's, but the Crimson Tide's 240-pound inside linebackers and 315-pound nosetackles aren't designed to chase a mobile quarterback who may be on the field for 80 plays. Against most hurry-up teams that wouldn't be an issue because Alabama's superior offense would steamroll the opponent's inferior defense, and the Tide's defense would make enough stops to ensure an Alabama win. But Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin also has access to elite defensive talent. If Sumlin recruits well enough, he'll have a defense that can play toe-to-toe with the Tide. The Aggies won't pitch any shutouts, but they'll make enough stops to allow their turbo-speed offense to pile up the points they need to win. That's exactly what happened last year when Texas A&M shocked Alabama in Tuscaloosa.
Although 'Bama has tinkered with a hurry-up at times, Saban, no surprise, is not a fan. He and Arkansas coach Bret Bielema have even argued that hurry-up offenses represent a safety hazard because more plays create more potential hits and more fatigue and therefore more injuries.
IN THE END, varying tempo may be the best method. For all the praise former Oregon coach Kelly got for training his team to go fast with a holistic approach that turned practices into track meets, Kelly rarely kept the throttle open for an entire game. He'd lull a defense to sleep by milking the play clock for part of a series, then run the same play three or four times in rapid succession. "The kind of no-huddle that bothers me," TCU coach Gary Patterson says, "is the one that doesn't do it every snap." That's why West Virginia's Holgorsen, a Mike Leach and Hal Mumme disciple, had his quarterbacks convene a huddle after most plays during spring practice. "You've got to be able to do both. You've got to be able to mix it up. I've always been a big proponent of changing tempos," Holgorsen says. "If you're just fastball, hurry-up offense every single time, that's easy on defenses. If you have the ability to change your tempo, that's what drives defenses crazy."
Michigan's Borges can handle the occasional change in tempo, but his research hasn't convinced him he needs to floor it on an every-play basis. "If you're willing to redefine good defense and say that good defense is giving up 400 yards a game, then go for it," Borges says. "Because some teams are winning in an up-tempo offense, and it's a darn good way to go about it. I don't have issues with it. I have issues with it here." TCU's Patterson, who still calls his team's defense, has used a no-huddle scheme mixed with a more traditional one in recent years. He will speed up or slow down his offense as he sees fit, but he sees no need to declare a preference. "It's still about finding a way to score one more point.... The thing that people need to realize is that you've got to find some way to do something no one else knows how to do," Patterson says. "Or if they do know, you're just doing it better."