Sunday, October 13, 2019

Alabama Crimson Tide is becoming the team the nation feared it would be

Giving up 28 points to a "middlin'" Texas A&M team would have led to pearl clutching and hauling out of the fainting couches just 10 years ago. I admit to feeling a little light-headed after the Aggies' opening drive. That drive ate half of the first quarter, took 14 plays and resulted in the first opening drive TD Bama has given up all season. But by the time the teams trotted into the locker room with the Tide up 24-13, you knew that this was gonna be one for the good guys.

Aggie QB Kellen Mond was the only real weapon Jimbo Fisher had in his arsenal and he got 90 yards on the ground and 264 through the air. Most of it was in garbage time and stats don't tell the story of how the Tide defense handled him. Terrell Lewis, Christian Barmore and Anfernee Jennings weren't letting the Aggies do anything when they needed to. There's no substitute for the combo of depth and experience in the front seven and Alabama is developing both. Splendidly.

On the other side of the ball, the gradual change from the pass-first attack of early September into the deadly efficient balanced pro set we'll need in November and beyond is nearly complete. As this space predicted weeks ago, guard Deonte Brown is changing the whole texture of the Tide ground attack. Alabama ran the ball when they wanted to and threw it when they wanted to, mostly with positive results. Brown was 350+ pounds of murder against Aggie defenders and regularly terrorized the second level. Accordingly, Najee Harris and Brian Robinson combined for 165 yards.

Tua Tagovailoa made only two mistakes, but both were in the red zone. One was a failure to read a fake blitz and resulted in the season's first INT. The other was a miscommunication with WR Jerry Jeudy. Other than that, he was Heisman efficient. He hit seven different receivers for 295 yards and three scores and set a school record for career TD passes. What's scariest for all future opponents is that he's getting even better. He's checking down his receivers to find the open man and he's gaining more confidence. He's improvising as the play develops and making stuff happen instead of panicking ala the 2018 SEC Championship and that Clemson nightmare.

Bama needs to tweak the red zone performance. We need to see fewer penalties--especially the ones that suggest a lack of composure and personal discipline. Defensive consistency needs to improve--there's no such thing as taking a play off and letting the other guys break out and make a play.  Yes, there's lots of young blood on the D side of the ball but a missed tackle is a lack of effort, not a lack of ability. These are not fatal flaws though, and they can all be outgrown.

What we're seeing is a talented, well coached and very deep football team hitting mid-season stride just in time. With LSU, Auburn and Georgia or Florida still ahead, we're about where we'd like to be.


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