The opening game for any college football team is always one of the most analyzed and talked-about games of the year.
Fans have waited months to see their favorite teams play, often hypothesizing and fantasizing about what could be after a long offseason. For better or for worse, the game gets put under an intense microscope.
And it's never more true than when you're the two-time defending BCS national champion.
Because of the amount of recent success under head coach Nick Saban, Alabama fans and pundits alike have very high expectations—a little too unrealistic.
Now that we've had a day or so to digest the Crimson Tide's 35-10 victory over Virginia Tech in Atlanta, let's take a look at some things from the game that were concerning and not so concerning.
Concern: The Offensive Line
Alabama was uncharacteristically manhandled up front more often that not at the line of scrimmage.
Part of that credit goes to Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster, who threw stunts and blitzes that the Crimson Tide wasn't prepared for. As adjustments were made, Alabama did better in pass protection and run blocking.
But another reason is the loss of three starters to the NFL draft in April.
No matter how talented you–are and believe me, the Crimson Tide is pretty loaded—that transition doesn't just happen overnight. This is especially true on the offensive line, where communication is paramount and the schemes are tougher than any other position.
Offensive linemen are required to know every formation, blitz, stunt that the defense can throw at them and the corresponding protection. This is another aspect that should get better over time.
Not a Concern: Special Teams
Last season, Alabama's punt and kick returner position was a revolving door.
Christion Jones made sure Saturday that won't be the case this season.
By taking both a kickoff and punt return back to the house, Jones solidified his position as the No. 1 return man. Cyrus Jones and Dee Hart were the other two major candidates, but Jones showed his vision and explosiveness to take command of the job.
Punter Cody Mandell was also rock-solid with the opportunities he had. Mandell hit nine punts for an average of 46.4 and a long of 61. In warm-ups, Mandell was blasting punts from the back of the end zone, out well past the 50.
In the rare instances Alabama will have to punt this season, they have someone who can boom it with the best of them.
Sophomore Landon Collins was also a stalwart on kick and punt coverage.
Concern: Young Running Backs
One of the biggest points of excitement heading into the season would be how and how much Alabama's stud class of freshmen running backs would be used. Alabama brought in 5-star Derrick Henry, and 4-star players Alvin Kamara, Altee Tenpenny and Tyren Jones.
Only Tenpenny and Henry were used in the season opener, and neither had quite the same effect T.J. Yeldon had a year ago against Michigan.
Tenpenny was the fourth back to see the field—after Yeldon, Jalston Fowler and Dee Hart—and Henry was the fifth one in. Tenpenny rushed for 24 yards on seven carries, while Henry rushed just once for a loss of three yards.
Once the starters were pulled, Tenpenny was the primary back.
Not a Concern: Defense
Outside of a 77-yard touchdown run, the Alabama defense stifled Logan Thomas and the Hokies' offense. Thomas went just 5-of-26 for 59 yards with an interception. Virginia Tech also managed just 83 rushing yards without the long touchdown.
John Fulton stepped up into the starting cornerback spot opposite returning starter Deion Belue and held his own with Virginia Tech's receiving corps. Jarrick Williams recorded 2.5 tackles and notched a pass breakup filling in for the suspended Geno Smith at the Star.
Thomas was only sacked once, but his passing numbers show just how much pressure he was under during the game.
Of course, the real test will come in two weeks, when the Crimson Tide will face Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M.
*Star ratings courtesy of ESPN
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!