Alabama Football: 4 Improvements Tide Must Make Immediately
The Alabama Crimson Tide have certainly played like the No. 1 college football team in the nation. Two decisive victories have them riding high, but improvements still need to be made before they can be considered perfect.
The Tide have been spectacular in their first two games.
Alabama opened with an impressive 41-14 win over Michigan. The Tide were up 31-0 before Michigan decided they needed to score.
Against Western Kentucky, Alabama strolled to a 35-0 victory. The Hilltoppers were not expected to test the No. 1 team—and they didn't.
As good as the Crimson Tide have been, there are a few key areas they need to improve on. While they can get away with mistakes against low-end programs and Big Ten teams, the SEC will be different.
SEC teams are unforgiving and play a higher level of football, so 'Bama needs to get ready.
Keep Running the Football
A minor improvement needs to be made in the running game.
Last season, the Crimson Tide had Trent Richardson plowing through people. This season, it looks like T.J. Yeldon could be the feature back.
Yeldon and the Tide obliterated the Michigan defense as Alabama rushed for 232 yards. Yeldon contributed 111 yards to the cause.
Alabama may have just been riding the high of facing the No. 8 team in the nation. They may have thought they would just walk through giant holes against Western Kentucky. Whatever it was, something misfired for the Tide as they struggled against the Hilltoppers.
'Bama could only muster 103 rushing yards in its Week 2 game. Eddie Lacy led the team with 36 yards on nine carries.
This is not good for a team that relies heavily on its run game. A.J. McCarron is pretty good, but he does not run a prolific passing attack.
This should be only a minor adjustment for the No. 1 team, but it is crucial that the run game gets back on track.
Offensive Line Looked Like Swiss Cheese
The run game may have also struggled due to the poor performance of the offensive line.
The line had a day to forget as it struggled in both run-blocking and pass-blocking. The team barely rushed for over 100 yards, and QB A.J. McCarron's new color became green.
McCarron found himself on the grass six times against Western Kentucky, compared to just two times during the Michigan game. A big cause of this was Hilltopper Quanterus Smith.
Smith will haunt McCarron's dreams for the next few weeks as he visited the Tide quarterback three times. He was a one-man wrecking crew and constantly left the 'Bama line in the dust.
When asked about the line's performance, center Barrett Jones responded that "We didn't really execute well." What was troubling was what he said next, "I think we learned that at times we don't bring our best, we're pretty average" (via Bob Ketcham of The Cullman Times).
If McCarron becomes a little more paranoid, it will be understandable. The leader of the offensive line just admitted that the line was not good.
A quarterback does not want to hear this above all else. If a running back or group of receivers is bad, fine—but when the guys that determine if the quarterback will be able to walk off the field admit they aren't good—that's not what he wants to hear.
McCarron may want to invest in a stunt double if the line does not improve soon.
Third Down Needs More Attention
Another area in need of improvement is the offense on third down.
The Tide's play on third down has not cost them yet, but the problem will catch up with them. Alabama went 3-for-10 against Michigan and 4-for-10 against Western Kentucky.
This could be another side effect of poor offensive line play, but the line cannot be blamed for all of the offense's problems. The receivers need to get separation quicker, and QB A.J. McCarron needs to get rid of the ball quicker.
Again, this is a minor fix. Success on third down will also come as the running game heats up again.
As the offense finds its rhythm, the 'Bama offense should have little problem with third downs.
It Is Allowed to Have a Long Drive
The good news for opposing teams is that the Alabama Crimson Tide can be defeated. All opponents have to do is make sure the Tide offense starts within its own 30-yard line.
Yes, it is true that 'Bama can be defeated this way. The offense has only scored twice all season when it has a long field.
The offense has not shown that it can sustain drives. Against Michigan, the Tide had five drives that started within their own 30-yard line, but they couldn't score on a single one. Alabama got close once, but the kicker missed the 52-yard field goal.
'Bama fared better against Western Kentucky as the offense went 2-for-5. Of course, one of the scoring drives only lasted four plays as WR Kevin Norwood hauled in a 47-yard pass.
It is a difficult task to pin the Tide so deep into their own territory. The defense may be the best in all of college football.
Michigan's Denard Robinson's Heisman hopes were probably ended by this defense as he went 11-for-26 for 200 yards. Robinson also ran for a measly 27 yards on 10 carries. Western Kentucky QB Kawaun Jakes did not do any better as he went 20-for-31 with 178 yards passing.
Pinning Alabama deep may be the key to winning, but it may be like saying, "to beat the New England Patriots, just stop Tom Brady." It is easy to say it, but the Tide defense makes it a whole other challenge to actually do it.
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