Tuesday, October 29, 2019

More Bama navel gazing on the second bye week

We have nothing else better to do, so why not meditate on where the 2019 Alabama Crimson Tide is and where it might be going?

First, when it comes to the "quarterback situation," let there be no doubt that the Tide is just fine. If there were any questions about the potency of Sarkisian's offense sans Tua Tagovailoa, handy backup Mac Jones couldn't have answered them any better against Arkansas. In three full quarters of play, he had a workmanlike afternoon going 18 of 22 for 235 yards and three TD's. Not flashy, but still very effective. He hit the quick passes and threw the ball downfield with all the confidence of a veteran. He never made any potential game changing mistakes. He never held the ball too long, usually found the right receiver and ran the run-pass option calls just as designed. The angst of having to rely on a gimpy-legged Tua has faded. If faced with a choice between a 90% Tua vs 100% Mac, I'm ambivalent. How about you?

The offensive line and the Tide ground game have gotten more comfortable to watch all season long. The return of Deonte Brown to the starting lineup and the shift of Landon Dickerson to center has put the unit in just the right gear going into the most challenging part of the season. Brown is a beast--he is routinely knocking his guy down and getting out to the linebacker, making  holes that Najee Harris and Brian Robinson Jr hit for an average of about 5.2 yards per carry. Any football team that can legitimately choose to either throw or run the football on 3rd and 4 will keep drives alive and wear out any other defense. 

Even with a slightly sore Devonte Smith, Alabama has the best receiving corps in the country and it's a long, long way to second place. Pick any one and you'll have a guy who has great hands, runs routes right, blocks well downfield and can just flat outrun anybody on the other team.

Early in the season, the Tide defense was a unit that had no place to go but up. Thankfully, they have. Last season's defense saw a ton of talent and experience take their skills to Sunday play. The exodus was so great that there are five true freshman in critical defensive roles this year. DJ Dale, Justin Eboigbe, Christian Harris and Shane Lee all played high school football last year and are starters for Nick Saban in 2019. Jordan Battle comes in in dime situations.

Terrell Lewis is finally hitting his stride. Anfernee Jennings is a beast. Raekwon Davis is a monster. Christian Barmore is a terror when subbing in for Dale. Best of all, the defensive backfield are taking away the middle and doing what a 3-2 over/under defense is supposed to do--make the QB patiently beat you play after play in the face of a relentless pass rush.

There is a weakness, though. The left side is still having difficulty staying home, biting on RPOs to their right, getting stuck out of position and leaving the edge soft. LSU, Auburn and any future post-season opponents will try to exploit that. All Lewis and defensive backs Patrick Surtain and Shyheim Carter have to do is pursue a tad bit to the right and a play for a loss can get the first down (ore more. Gulp).

Even special teams are showing marked improvement. We no longer hold our breath (much) on field goals and points after. Freshman punter Ty Perine has become a coach and fan favorite, too.

Alabama is now 8-0. With the exception of Tua's ankle sprain, The team has escaped the injury bug and faces the toughest part of the schedule in good shape. At +13 in the turnover ratio, Alabama leads the nation and the SEC.

LSU's visit to Tuscaloosa on November 2 is probably the game that determines who represents the SEC West in Atlanta on December 7. LSU struggled to put away a middlin' Auburn team, had some defense issues against Florida and really hasn't faced a complete, deep roster on the road.

Not too surprisingly, Georgia has an uphill struggle to get to Atlanta--they will meet a very good Florida Gators team on the same day Bama hosts LSU. Having been upset at home against South Carolina, Georgia needs to beat the Gators at neutral Jacksonville.

Can there be a better time of the year than this?


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