Alabama Football: Tide Enters Bye Week with Many Unanswered Questions
On one hand, it feels good to know that Alabama can perform well below its potential and still sleepwalk its way to a 33-14 SEC victory. On the other hand, two consecutive lackluster performances have left the 'Bama Nation with much to discuss at office water coolers and coffee shops for the next two weeks.
There was a time not so long ago when back-to-back wins by a combined score of 73-21 would have been celebrated. With the accelerated degree of excellence that head coach Nick Saban has elevated the Crimson Tide to, though, this is not that time.
Going into the one and only off week of the season, periods of uninspired play and multiple injuries are beginning to cause legitimate concern from Decatur to Demopolis.
There have certainly been moments of greatness, including Christion Jones' explosive kick return, perfection from kicker Jeremy Shelley and the emergence of Amari Cooper. Still, with the meat of the schedule on the horizon, Alabama has a few things to address in its week off.
Why does it seem that Alabama is unwilling to run outside the tackles?
Eddie Lacy is a punishing running back, and pounding him up the middle relentlessly sounds like a pretty solid way to attack, but if that is all he does, teams like Ole Miss are able to overload the box and force Alabama into third-and-long situations—like they did last weekend. T.J. Yeldon is not as imposing of a physical force as Lacy is, but he also appears to be limited to running up the gut.
Does Alabama have a legitimate deep threat at receiver?
A.J. McCarron began the Ole Miss game on fire, completing his first 10 passes. Even so, he was averaging less than six yards per completion in that start, allowing the Rebels to sell out to the run and short-passing game. Between Cooper, Kevin Norwood, Kenny Bell and DeAndrew White, one of these guys should be capable of getting open more than 15 yards downfield with some consistency.
What is the deal with the offensive line?
Only 22 quarterbacks in the nation have been sacked more than McCarron this season. What has been touted as the best offensive line in the nation has to take some of the blame for this. Alabama is not in the top 10 in rushing yards like it has been in recent seasons (currently 43rd nationally, 83rd in passing yards), and McCarron must have time if the Tide is going to be able to muster a deep-passing game that will, in turn, open up the ground attack.
How are mounting injuries going to alter the offensive game plans?
When running back Jalston Fowler was lost for the season early, he apparently took the I-formation with him. Against Ole Miss, Dee Hart suffered what appears to be a minor knee injury and DeAndrew White left with what could be a more serious knee issue that Saban will likely address in Monday's press conference. If the O-line cannot protect McCarron and he goes down, there will be real problems. Meanwhile, the multiple injuries that are starting to add up are making it that much more difficult for the young kids at skill positions to define their roles more clearly.
What is the problem in the red zone?
In the last two games, aside from the electrifying kickoff return by Jones, the Alabama offense has scored six touchdowns while settling for a disturbing eight field goals. This again goes back to what has at times been an unimaginative offense. While Shelley and Cade Foster should be commended for their impressive work, leaving points on the board could prove costly in October and November.
Is this all a part of Saban's grand scheme?
We should all know by now that we can and should have trust in Saban. As the coaching staff continues to search through the deep talent at its disposal, it could be possible that Saban is taking advantage of large early leads to work on the things that Alabama struggles with. If nothing else, this would help to explain the vanilla play-calling.
How great is it to be this spoiled by success?
Hey, folks, it was not too long ago when a win over Ole Miss was far from guaranteed. Alabama is ranked No. 1 in the nation once again, the Tide defense is allowing just seven points per game and no one has played well enough to even give Alabama a decent game after the second quarter. This, of course, guarantees nothing, as the toughest stretch of the schedule is right around the corner.
It is fair for us to enter the bye week with moderate trepidation and to be mildly concerned about what has transpired in the last two games. We must temper these fears, though, with the knowledge that Alabama has Nick Saban holding the keys to the football program.
The only thing we can really complain about is the fact that we are not playing "perfect."
Not too shabby.
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