It’s not always dazzling, and the box scores don’t jump off the screen like they do with the likes of Oregon, Clemson or other offenses that regularly bloody their opponents with frequent end-zone visits. But Alabama continues to bloody teams in different ways—winning with variety in 2013—and the giant will stay the giant until someone finally takes it down.
This isn’t anything new, of course. This role of favorite is one that Alabama has embraced frequently over the past few seasons, and it will continue to do so through 2013 despite clear issues that remain unsolved.
While many questioned what kind of performance Alabama would put forth after a lackluster showing against Colorado State in Week 4, the Tide delivered. Playing at home against an Ole Miss team with talent and youth, Nick Saban’s group reprised the role of bully to completely shut down (and shut out) an offense ripe with playmakers.
Ole Miss was limited to just 205 total yards of offense and never found the end zone. The Rebels ran for just 46 yards on 25 carries (good for a 1.8-yard average). Quarterback Bo Wallace completed just 17 passes for 159 yards, and Alabama picked off freshman wide receiver Laquon Treadwell on a failed trick play.
Linebacker C.J. Mosley was everywhere, and the defense at every level played a near-flawless score. The final score of 25-0 represents that, and quite frankly, it never felt that close.
But for the third time in three weeks, the Tide offense was underwhelming. The running game was solid at times—the backs averaged 6.4 yards per carry for the game—but a late 50-yard touchdown run by Kenyan Drake certainly helped push this statistic in the right direction.
The offensive line remains a concern, and it had its struggles once again. The injury to center Ryan Kelly certainly didn’t help matters, but this group looked out of sync much of the night.
Ole Miss was in the backfield frequently, running backs were often hit behind the line of scrimmage, and AJ McCarron was drifting out of the pocket to avoid tacklers. McCarron himself played a productive game, but he wasn’t sensational by any means.
Head coach Nick Saban expressed his displeasure on the sidelines at times, and he was particularly unhappy when his team was called for a false start late in the second quarter.
Even with the sloppiness still evident, however, Alabama continued its trend of dominating good football teams without playing a complete game. The defense proved its worth the past two weeks following its struggles against Texas A&M, and the winning formula is again on display. The offense, however, was dominant against the Aggies. In Week 1, it was all about the special teams.
The defense appears to be right on track, and if the offense can catch up, it may not matter which team Alabama lines up against.
Is Alabama still the No. 1 team in the country?
The formula is rather simple, and a fascinating stat showed during the game's broadcast: When Alabama has run for 140 yards or more since 2008, the team is 52-0. It’s both staggering and somehow not surprising, and the ability to run the football has been integral to this team’s success since Saban took over.
With T.J. Yeldon and Kenyan Drake flashing moments of brilliance against Ole Miss, there’s reason to believe that this stat will come in handy and be put to the test through the rest of the season.
More than any stat, however, Alabama has been here before. The expectations are enormous—perhaps too high, even—which is why this team is nitpicked to death each and every week after each and every win. We have grown accustomed to the Tide winning, because they rarely do anything else.
Alabama has yet to play its best football, and this is both concerning and comforting. There is significant room for this team to improve, and that’s a terrifying thought for everyone else.