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Nick Saban Comparing Denard Robinson to Cam Newton Is Just Saban Being Saban

ANN ARBOR, MI - OCTOBER 01:  Denard Robinson #16 of the Michigan Wolverines runs 9 yards for a first quarter touchdown during the game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers at Michigan Stadium on October 1, 2011 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
Leon Halip/Getty Images
Adam JacobiBig Ten Football Lead WriterJune 26, 2016

Alabama head coach Nick Saban made some waves earlier this week when he compared Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson—his Week 1 opponent, if you hadn't heard—to former Auburn QB and Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton.

Yes, we can see you cringing and balking already, readers.

But while Saban didn't come right out and say "their skill sets are exactly the same and we will prepare for them the exact same way," what he did say (per al.com) was close enough that comparisons are being invited here:

"Offensively, they have probably as significant a player as we've played against maybe since Cam Newton in terms of the quarterback position, in terms of what he can do in the game, in the offense and how the offense is sort of built around and features him as a player.

Now, as Barrett Sallee at the SEC Blog pointed out, the limited scope of the comparison that Saban specifically mentioned is accurate: The Michigan offense features Denard Robinson and is pretty well-built around him (especially if RB Fitz Toussaint isn't going to play, but if we're all being honest with ourselves, he will).

Sallee also pointed out that despite being dual-threat QBs, Robinson and Newton are much, much different as actual players—to the point where it's nearly impossible to make a serious comparison of the two.

But, of course, the analogy breaks down under close scrutiny, because every comparison between two things eventually breaks down if you look hard enough for differences—and let's be honest, you don't have to look too hard past "is a heavily-used quarterback" to find differences between Robinson and Newton.

No, this was just Nick Saban being Nick Saban: an overly cautionary head coach who wants to remind everyone that'll listen to him that Alabama is in for a serious challenge on Saturday.

For all you can say about Saban and his fiery temper, when it comes to press conferences, he isn't anywhere near the same guy we see on the sidelines every weekend (or especially that players see during practice over the course of the week). He's calm, smart and measured with his words, ever careful not to say something that doesn't merit saying.

Further, the fact that he brought up Newton is more of a dog whistle of sorts than something to be taken as a face-value comparison.

Remember, Saban only faced Newton as a starting quarterback once: a No. 9 Alabama vs. No. 2 Auburn showdown where the Tide opened up a 21-0 lead then watched helplessly as Newton led Auburn back on a furious rally to take the game and solidify its spot in the SEC Championship (and then the BCS Championship). 

So what Saban's saying as much as anything else is that Alabama needs to worry about playing a full game and not letting up on its pressure on Robinson for the entire 60 minutes. He's seen one do-everything QB crush him with a comeback once, and he's not interested in seeing it happen again.

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