The top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide showed plenty of issues on offense in their season-opening win over Virginia Tech that didn't exist a year ago. With a looming matchup against No. 6 Texas A&M Saturday, they'll need to move quickly to shore up those problems.
Sure, a 35-10 win over a quality (yet unranked) ACC opponent looks promising on the surface. But all it takes is a short glance at the box score for the aforementioned struggles to jump off the page.
Three of Alabama's five touchdowns came from the defense or special teams—Christian Jones returned a punt 72 yards to the house, Vinnie Sunseri recorded a pick-six and Jones doubled up with a 94-yard kickoff TD—while the Tide's offense scored on just two occasions.
It wasn't just a lack of scoring, either. It was an overall lack of success moving the football as the Tide were outgained 212-206.
Not surpassing the Hokies in yards isn't necessarily a deal breaker, but the two-time defending national champions shouldn't be struggling to surpass 200 yards of total offense. To put that in perspective, the USC Trojans were 13 yards short of Alabama in their ugly 10-7 upset loss to Washington State on Saturday.
How many points will the Tide need to beat A&M?
Quarterback AJ McCarron—a player loaded with rings and garnering plenty of Heisman Trophy talk in the preseason—was a pedestrian 10-of-23 passing for 110 yards. He offered one big play in a 38-yard touchdown pass to Jones that all but sealed it in the third quarter, but he was otherwise lethargic against the Hokies' pass defense.
Rushers T.J. Yeldon and Altee Tenpenny each scampered for one 20-yarder apiece, but the feature back Yeldon was underwhelming at times in picking up short gains to keep drives moving.
At the end of the day, a bad offense at Alabama is better than a whole lot of good offenses, and its defense will make up for most shortcomings. But the showdown of the season against Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel in College Station looms.
The Aggies posted the lone blemish in an otherwise perfect season when Johnny Manziel took the heart out of Tuscaloosa with a methodical 24-of-31 passing performance for 253 yards and two scores.
Alabama's offense was on point that night (431 total yards, 309 through the air) before untimely turnovers led to the Tide's demise. They needed all of it—and just a bit more—to beat Texas A&M then.
Much has been made of Manziel's wacky offseason, but he's shown us nothing in these first two games to prove that the summer antics had an effect on his playing skills. If that's the case, Alabama won't be able to completely shut him down, even if it game-plans perfectly.
Good defenses can make up for poor offenses, and Alabama's is much more than good, but its defensive unit won't have many opportunities to score and turn the "tide," if you will. Manziel is not only very dangerous but smart as well with the football, avoiding turnovers.
Oftentimes, one game can be misleading and give folks the wrong impression on a team. Maybe that's the case with Alabama's season-opening offensive struggles.
But there's no doubt that the Tide showcased weaknesses, and those will need to be shored up before they take the field Saturday.