Alabama week is here and LSU and the Crimson Tide are playing for first place in the SEC West. LSU’s doing all this despite being in a quote/unquote rebuild and Brian Kelly having to clean up the mess he inherited from the previous regime. So I’d say all feels right in the world.
Despite what you may think, there are SOME decent Bama people out there like my good pal Brent Taylor from our Tide sister site Roll Bama Roll. Y’all make sure to give him a hearty HEY PAWL.
1. Many are saying (it’s me, I’m many) that actually Nick Saban hasn’t won a legitimate championship since 2018. What do you say to the haters, of which there are many, that old man Saban’s lost his touch and it’s been five years since he won a non-Mickey Mouse championship?
If Saban losing his touch means that my football team has been in 6 of the last 7 national championships and won 50% of them, with the only year missing the playoffs being due to a broken QB, then I’ll take an out-of-touch Saban over anyone else’s program. Feel free to keep telling yourself it will end though. Whatever gets you through.
2. What’s the deal with Elias Ricks?
It’s been interesting, that’s for sure. When he first transferred in, it was mentioned that he had lost a lot of weight from his injury and was trying to both rehab and get back to playing size. Then Saban made some ominous comments in the spring about him having to learn to “do things the Alabama way.” (I can only assume that means he had to scrub off all the corndog stank).
Then going into fall camp he had some back problems or something and missed some time. After going into the season as a three-way rotation for the left cornerback spot, Ricks got flagged for pass interference nearly every time he rotated in, while redshirt freshman Terrion Arnold made some nice plays. And after the first couple of games, Arnold won the job and that was that.
Well... Then all of a sudden he was the starter against Mississippi State and broke up like 10 passes or something ridiculous, looking every bit the All-American we expected. When asked, Saban was kind enough to tell us that “he wasn’t ready befor
3. How healthy is Bryce Young? Any lingering effects from that shoulder injury a few weeks back?
Bryce seems fine. He’s had plenty of zip on his throws the last two weeks and I haven’t seen any visible signs of his shoulder bothering him. He did apparently miss all of practice for 3 weeks though, and Saban has said a few times it affected some of the offense’s chemistry and gameplan installations. He was expected to fully practice this week, so I think he should be totally back to normal.
4. For the first time in a while I”m not completely terrified of Alabama’s receiving corp. What’s going on here? Missed evaluations? Young guys just not ready to compete yet? Bill O’Brien just being Bill O’Brien?
A little of all of that. Our 2017 and 2018 recruiting classes for WR were legendary... But the problem was that they all went pro after three. And then 2019 couldn’t take many receivers, since the two classes before were so big. John Metchie was really the only guy there, and he ALSO left after 3. 2020’s class was a bust. Not really misevaluations, just whiffed on the position. 2021 was misevaluation and some headcase busts and some injury. Ja’Corey Brooks is the only real contributor from that class, and while he’s a good possession receiver to move the chains, he’s not explosive. 2022’s class is showing some promise and flash and speed, but they haven’t taken over yet.
And then there’s the Bill O’Brien factor. If you LOVE hitches, sticks, and comeback routes, you’ll love BoB. But if you like your receivers to have any sort of chance for getting yards after catch or getting a deep shot downfield, you’re in for a drudge of a game. It’s just a very, very stark contrast to the vertical passing and creative horizontal spacing we got from Lane Kiffin, Mike Locksley, and Steve Sarkisian before him. And it’s not a good contrast.
5. I’m definitely not wearing a wire and you’re definitely not testifying under oath or anything like that. So with that in mind, how much did you guys pay for Jahmyr Gibbs?
However much we paid him, it’s not enough, that’s for sure. If it were up to me, I’d donate all of O’Brien’s salary to Gibbs.
Funny enough, we actually recruited Gibbs pretty heavily a few years ago and he was ready to come to Alabama, but when we prioritized Jase McClellan and Roydell Williams, he moved on and went to GT. Now he’s the every down starter ahead of McClellan. Funny how those things work, huh?
6. Does it feel like things are starting to change at all in the Alabama football ops? Maybe it’s just me being overly optimistic but the Tide don’t feel unbeatable anymore. They’re still really really effing good of course, but not “what’s the point of even taking the field” good. Are the cracks starting to show or am I putting too much into a couple of bad road outings to Texas and Tennessee?
That’s definitely been the talking point the last 12 months. And there’s a lot of internal debate among Alabama fans about it. For whatever reason, this rendition of Alabama in 2021-2022 just plays poorly in the first half in road games, and that kind of consistent trend has now gotten out to the media. There seems to be a hesitancy in this team. They’re not lazy or entitled (we’ve seen Alabama teams like that before), they just seem to struggle with the fear of losing and the repercussions of failed expectations, rather than playing to dominate. If that makes sense.
All of that said, They’ve lost 3 games in 2 seasons, and two of those losses were against a team that was ranked #1 in the country afterwards (and the most recent came down to a kicker’s foot luck... It was essentially a dead-even game to the wire). Saban’s only had two 0-loss seasons in his entire tenure here, so it’s not like our previous years haven’t also had about 1 loss and a couple of tight games that shouldn’t have been throughout the season. We lost to Ole Miss twice in 2014-2015, then barely survived a bad Tennessee in 2015 and the “dynasty was crumbling”. It also began crumbling again after losing to Clemson in 2018 and then LSU AND Auburn in 2019.
In short: Yeah, this team seems to lack some of the killer instinct of previous squads. But we’ve seen many previous Alabama squads have some gross games and wind up winning out afterwards, so I wouldn’t put too much stock into it until you see it happening. Especially when the two data points (Texas and Tennessee) featured nearly 40 combined penalties against the Tide (most legitimate-ish, of course). Good luck to any team trying to maintain any semblance of dominance, attitude, or consistency against that onslaught of negative and yellow.
7. As much as I hate saying it, Tiger Stadium has turned into Tuscaloosa West for Alabama. LSU hasn’t protected their home field since 2010 and the last two meetings in Tiger Stadium Bama’s laid the smackdown on LSU. If the script were to be flipped on Saturday, what would a Tide loss look like?
More penalties on every good play we make. -_-
OK, more seriously, I think LSU has to shut down the Tide’s run game. It can definitely be done. We aren’t an efficient running team, but we are an explosive one. You just have to increase the stuff rate enough to convince BoB to stop giving Gibbs more chances to break one. In the passing game, just keep things over the top. BoB won’t really scheme up anything explosive for the WRs. They’re just there to convert first downs. We’ll get some, and just be okay with that, knowing it won’t be a big score. The only real explosive passes tend to come on scribble plays from Bryce Young, and there’s not much you can do about that. Bryce gonna Bryce, and it may turn out well, or he may deliver a dud.
As far as your offense, throw the ball quickly. Will Anderson is coming, and teams are just getting the ball out as quickly as possible to prevent sacks. More importantly, though, you need to stand up, have your sideline receivers run deep, and then make sure you underthrow it. Alabama will be in cover 3 with our corner isolated on your guy, and as long as you underthrow it badly, it will be a pass interference 100% of the time. Eventually our DBs will start trying to actively avoid the receiver, and then you get free big plays. It’s been by far the most consistently effective strategy against this defense for two seasons now. Saban complains that the rules are unfair to the DBs (he’s right! and basically everyone in the country other than Big 12 folks agrees), but he continues to refuse to adopt a more 2-high defense to give them safety help. As much as I’ve praised Saban over the years for completely abandoning his old ideals on offense and in the front seven to adapt to the modern game, this is the one area he’s stubbornly hung on to as the NFL and the rest of college football have shifted to two-high zones and into bend-don’t-break strategies.