Alabama Football: Why Jalston Fowler's Absence Hurts Tide's Title Chances

Matt WestCorrespondent IISeptember 10, 2012

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 01:  Jalston Fowler #45 of the University of Alabama runs for a short gain as Jordan Kovacs #32 of the University of Michigan makes the stop during the game at Cowboys Stadium on September 1, 2012 in Arlington, Texas. Alabama defeated Michigan 41-14.  (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
Leon Halip/Getty Images

The Alabama Crimson Tide have very few weaknesses, both offensively and defensively.

They are a team comprised of NFL-caliber players on both sides of the ball, and even with all the talent they lost last year, look to be a group that could go right back to the BCS title game this January.

But the potential season-ending injury to backup running back Jalston Fowler just threw a serious wrench into their plans. 

Fowler is currently second on the team with 86 yards rushing, and while that might seem rather average, he had taken on many responsibilities as part of that offensive unit this year. The 6'1", 242-pound tailback also spent time as a blocking fullback, helping create running room for Eddie Lacy.

Lacy, however, has problems of his own. He missed all of spring practice while recovering from a turf toe injury, and then sprained his ankle during the end of fall practice. That has inevitably led to an increased rushing load for Fowler. (Lacy had 18 carries combined in the team's first two games, compiling 71 yards and a TD.)

So with Fowler missing significant time, the team will lose a rushing threat as well as one of their best blocking fullbacks. No simple patch-over solution is imminent.

While the offensive line, which is certainly one of the team's many strengths, looked good against Michigan in Week 1, the unit allowed six sacks for negative-48 yards to Western Kentucky last week. That has to be a point of concern, and with Fowler out indefinitely, protecting quarterback AJ McCarron will become a more arduous task.

The Tide did roll to a 31-0 victory, and McCarron continues to impress as an offensive star, but blocking issues cannot be ignored.

Rookie running backs Dee Hart and Kenyan Drake have seen late-game action this season in blowout wins, so Nick Saban and his staff can hardly hope to hand the ball to them on important downs and expect them to grind out yards.

T.J. Yeldon will likely see a healthy amount of carries against Arkansas this weekend, and while he did impress against Michigan in Week 1 (11 carries, 111 yards), he only had six carries for 25 yards last week.

Ultimately, the Tide are still going to be one of the best teams in the country, and they will likely battle with LSU for the SEC title again. But Fowler's absence hurts in more than one area, and the team will be hard-pressed to win a title again if they can't find a suitable replacement.