Ugh, that sentence was kind of depressing to type. I don't WANT to be through 25 percent of the college football season already.
Anyways, after a couple of big matchups on the weekend, we think we know some things (I mean we probably do, but there's still a lot that's going to change this season). For me personally, I had a few ideas after watching most of the night games after LSU on Saturday:
- Folks are panicking a bit on Alabama. This may be something of an unpopular opinion, but people are making a bit too much of their Saturday loss. Not that I mind, they're well past due to have to battle the #narrative a bit, but keep in mind that they're not going to turn the football over five times again this season, nor are they likely to lose when they can put up 500-plus yards of offense, either. Ole Miss needed at least one fluke score that's never going to happen again to pull that off.
- That said, there are some issues of identity of that team. Alabama's always been primarily a zone-blocking team, and they've always been somewhat spread-oriented in terms of their formations. But it seems as though they've skewed a bit too far in that direction with this current team, and it bit them on the backside for a couple of reasons. For one, that's the exact style of offense that Ole Miss' 4-2-5 defense is designed to stop. If you look at the teams that had the greatest success on them last season, LSU and Arkansas just went right at them and negated their speed by taking away pursuit. Both teams rained down body blows and wore that defense out. The Tide did the opposite on Saturday.
- Which brings us to this Roll Bama Roll piece from yesterday, bringing into question the offense's identity. I don't think there's anything wrong with the spread. It's not "high school," or "Mickey Mouse" or anything silly like that. Lots of teams blend it well with a physical, powerful offensive line. That's what Alabama is lacking. They can still get people moving and create some lanes for Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake, but it's become much more boom or bust. They can't just line up and wail on your front seven for four quarters, and to be honest I don't know that they've been able to do that since the 2012 squad. Frankly, they don't have the kind of backs for it either. Yeah, Henry is big and fast for his size, and tough to bring down in the secondary, but he tends to chop his feet in between the tackles and he's just an inconsistent short-yardage guy. That's why T.J. Yeldon got those carries last year -- he was the much harder runner.
- And not to pick on Bama (not that there's anything wrong with that), but I don't think Jacob Coker is all that bad either. He doesn't need to be relied on for 250-yard total offense games, but he can do enough. He's just a bad fit for the style they run. And frankly, without Amari Cooper there just isn't a go-to receiver on that team that really scares anybody right now. That was also a matchup problem against Ole Miss's secondary.
- Their brothers in Auburn have to ask some hard questions right now. Not so much on defense -- I said it this summer -- they just don't have the horses right now. Will Muschamp will get things going on that side of the ball but it's going to take a year or two of recruiting. No, I'm talking about the offense. Believe it or not, Jeremy Johnson has some skills they can develop, but what I saw Saturday was play-calling that would have fit Nick Marshall. It isn't necessarily a dual-threat/pro-style thing, because Johnson has nice speed for his size and can be an effective runner to some degree. But Auburn can't run the ball well enough to throw off play-action right now and their drop-back passing game looked set up for much more limited guy like Marshall. So many fakes and gadgets, I think you could probably count on one hand the number of times Johnson was asked to straight drop and go through his progressions. Marshall could make a lot of that work because the defense had to be sure he couldn't take off because he was a legit big-play threat there. But Johnson's going to have to work from the pocket some, and Gus didn't give him much of a chance to do that last week.
- That said, HOW IN THE HELL ARE THEY FAVORED AGAINST MISSISSIPPI STATE?
- On to Ole Miss. One thing I'll own up to is being wrong about that defense. I thought they'd miss some of the key seniors that graduated, but that's still a fast unit that is going to fly to the football against teams that try to spread the field. But the question remains: will they be able to hold up against physical teams that are just going to pound them in the ribs for 60 minutes?
- Chad Kelly definitely surpasses Bo Wallace on talent, but Hugh Freeze needs to start calling games like it. Against Bama he wasted drives trying to throw short. I understood doing that with Dr. Bo, because he didn't have the strongest arm. But Kelly has the strength to push that ball down the field and he's got a very dangerous group of receivers to do it with.
- That said, they still can't run the ball, and being that one-dimensional will cost them at some point. And look, using Robert Nkemdiche on offense is cute and all and yay let's show all the recruits something fun, but relying on it in big moments is just not sound football.
- Arkansas...OH BERT...BERT BERT BERT...I'm a fan of coaches talking and showing their personality, but this just ain't cute anymore. The whole Tiff With Kliff? You look like somebody that can dish it out, but can't take it. Steve Spurrier's built a legend talking about ass-whippings, but that includes the ones his team has taken as well dished out.
- Losing Jonathan Franklin seems to have really hurt that offense. Alex Collins is a talented runner, but he doesn't look like a back that can carry an offense right now, and none of their other backs seem to be capable either.
- That said, watch Arky snake-bite the HELL out of Texas A&M on Saturday in the Jerradome. That'd be some peak college football.