After a disappointing showing in their opener against Virginia Tech on Saturday, the Alabama Crimson Tide must fix their offense to challenge for a third consecutive national championship.
College football fans, prepare to hear about this for the next week, as the Crimson Tide doesn’t have an opponent this weekend.
The problem has nothing to do with senior quarterback A.J. McCarron. He didn’t have a great game against the Hokies by any means, but when a guy has two national titles, he’s not the problem.
One thing that has made Alabama a power in recent seasons has been a strong offensive line. This year’s line was exposed against Virginia Tech and the Tide need to rectify that issue before it’s too late.
Alabama won the game 35-10, but it was the beneficiary of 21 points by the defense and special teams.
The offense managed only 206 total yards and 96 on the ground in Week 1. Those numbers are not typical of a Nick Saban team, and they have many Alabama fans worried.
Replacing three linemen is no easy task. Guard Chance Warmack and tackle D.J. Fluker were picked back-to-back in the first round of the NFL draft while guard Barrett Jones went in the fourth round.
That’s a lot of talent to replace, but fans are used to reloading.
Third-year starter Anthony Steen lined up at right guard, junior Cyrus Kouandjio was at left tackle and sophomore Arie Kouandjio lined up at left guard. Kellen Williams replaced Arie Kouandjio in the second half. Junior Austin Shepherd was at right tackle and junior Ryan Kelly played center.
Arie Kouandjio, Shepherd and Kelly were all newcomers to the line, but even the returning members struggled.
Virginia Tech’s defensive line did a good job of moving around. The linemen didn’t go straight at the Crimson Tide. They went side to side rather than attacking straight ahead, which caused issues for Alabama’s offense.
The Hokies had four sacks and 12 tackles for loss. Those numbers aren’t common for Crimson Tide opponents, so Saban will have to find some way to get his line to play better—and fast.
With a poor offensive line, the Tide could not establish a running game. The team averaged 227 rushing yards per game last season, and it was well short of that mark in its first 2013-14 game. McCarron couldn’t get his feet set, which led to his troubles.
Alabama will travel to College Station next in what might be the biggest regular-season game of the year.
Texas A&M was the only team to beat the Crimson Tide last season, so Alabama will be looking for revenge. That loss did not turn out to hurt the team, but the Tide want to shut down Johnny Manziel this time around.
The defense was stout as usual in the opener, but the offense needs to step up against the Aggies. Alabama can’t expect 21 points out of the defense and special teams every game.
Luckily, the team has two weeks to prepare for this big game. A loss to Texas A&M puts the Aggies in control of the driver’s seat in the West division and the Crimson Tide would need help just to get back to the SEC title game—let alone Pasadena.
Alabama will need Cyrus and Steen to lead the line. They know what it takes to be part of a dominant line, so they will need to find ways to get their teammates to step up their game.
This is a team that has won back-to-back championships. Saban will have to do his best in order to get a chance at a three-peat. He has two weeks before his next game to make adjustments.
All stats are courtesy of ESPN.com.