Five games into the 2013 season, AJ McCarron has equalled his interception total from last season.
Even though top-ranked Alabama is sitting at 5-0 in a position most expected it to be in, the journey to get there has been far from smooth sailing for Nick Saban’s squad.
A quick glance through the Tide’s statistics to date mirrors the inconsistencies that have plagued the team this season.
However, Alabama has a great opportunity to get back on track heading into the latter half of the season.
What are the most puzzling stats from the Tide’s season to date?
*All stats courtesy of cfbstats.com.
Aside from the outburst against Texas A&M, Alabama’s offense has had its share of inconsistencies.
Nowhere has that been more evident than its struggles to convert on third down. Through the first four games, Alabama converted only 19 of its 50 third downs.
Of course, it improved on that figure against an overmatched Georgia State squad by converting six of its nine attempts on third down.
However, the Tide’s inability to move the chains through the first four games are more revealing. Alabama’s 38 percent success rate in that stretch is down nearly 10 percent from last season. The struggles have come mainly when Alabama has six or more yards to gain in order to extend drives.
The main key for Alabama moving forward is to stay on schedule with regard to down and distance.
As expected, Alabama’s offense got untracked against lowly Georgia State. However, before that game, the Tide’s touchdown output came from almost every imaginable way possible.
Through the first four games, Alabama scored seven touchdowns passing, six touchdowns rushing and five scores combined coming from the defense and special teams.
Even though Alabama has not looked like Alabama at times, its ability to put points on the board in a variety of ways makes the Tide a complete team, and a team worthy of its billing as the nation's top-ranked outfit.
Just how prolific was Texas A&M’s offensive outburst against Alabama on Sept. 14?
For starters, the 628 yards of total offense racked up by Johnny Manziel and Co. was the highest total ever posted against an Alabama defense.
Consider that the other three opponents in Alabama’s first four games—Virginia Tech, Colorado State and Ole Miss—combined to net 690 yards, and it becomes clear that the Aggies' outburst was indeed a special and rare occurrence.
Perhaps more telling is the fact that Alabama still ranks 12th nationally in total defense despite the long afternoon suffered in College Station.
Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron entered his senior season with a 25-2 record as a starter. He had also thrown 49 touchdown passes against only eight interceptions heading into his final college campaign.
Included in that figure was a 2012 season in which he tossed 30 touchdown passes against only three interceptions. However, despite returning a deep and experienced group of receivers, McCarron equaled his 2012 interception total after he threw a fourth-quarter pick against Ole Miss.
To be fair, McCarron has been under duress because of breakdowns in the offensive line. He’s also been sacked seven times.
However, considering that taking care of the ball has been one of the strengths, it’s surprising to see one of college football’s most efficient field generals struggle with turnovers.
Sophomore receiver Amari Cooper entered 2013 with All-American accolades and rising expectations after a breakout freshman season in which he scored 11 touchdowns.
As Aaron Suttles of the Tuscaloosa News reported, Cooper was hampered by nagging injuries throughout fall camp. It’s also worth noting that Alabama’s stable of receivers is ripe with talent, depth and experience.
Despite those factors, Cooper’s production—or lack thereof—is still alarming. Through three games (he did not play against Colorado State and Georgia State), he’s only caught nine passes for 100 yards and no touchdowns.
Alabama’s receivers have still been productive, but when Cooper is playing at a high level, he’s capable of adding an explosive dimension to the Tide’s attack.