Alabama Bandwagon Nearing Capacity As Tide Rolls Into Second Half
Another week, another dominating performance. Another fan-base crushed. More contenders fall by the wayside.
Another week, a few more first-place votes. Another week, more "talking heads" are changing their tune.
When the season started, Florida entered as the odds-on favorite to win the National Championship. It wasn't even a question of "if," but a question of whether the Gators would even be tested.
Now, seemingly everywhere you turn, you hear the new "expert" opinion: Florida's got some company.
Alabama's play has changed the mindset of many, including many of the more vocal members of the national media.
How many different ways can a football game be won?
McElroy, Ingram and company light up the scoreboard with gaudy offensive numbers.
Win, win, win.
Seemingly forgotten, McClain, Arenas and the defense begin to channel the 1992 defense and completely embarrass two of the conference's (previously) most lauded quarterbacks.
Win, win, win.
Greg McElroy exceeded expectations to start the year, but has leveled out somewhat. No problem, enter Mark Ingram and freshman Trent Richardson. The play on the offensive line (especially at center) has improved. There is a stable of six capable wideouts. Tight end Colin Peek may be developing into McElroy's favorite target.
To make things even more frightening for the opposition, Julio Jones hasn't even scratched the surface of his potential this year. And Roy Upchurch, the third-string running back who just might start for half of the conference, can't even get on the field. And yet, there is much room for improvement.
Alabama entered the red zone six times in Oxford and came away with 15 points.
How one-sided could the game have been?
Alabama was one fumble and one dropped touchdown pass away from winning by 30. One could make the case that 19 points was as close as that game could have possibly ended up.
On the defensive side, Alabama took a staggering blow with the loss of Dont'a Hightower. After a very brief "struggle" at Kentucky, the linebacking corps looks as strong as ever.
Rolando McClain would have to be considered the front-runner for the Butkis award, and Courtney Upshaw has stepped into the starting role admirably. Eryk Anders spends his time camped in the offensive backfield, and Cory Reamer is coming off of a career game in Oxford.
Reamer was somewhat maligned after the game at Kentucky, when he was exposed while struggling to juggle two positions. He looked bad on a few plays and it was obvious that Kentucky was targeting him. A slight change in the linebacker positioning left Reamer back at his normal strong-side spot, and the comfort level was obvious. Against Ole Miss, Reamer registered this ridiculous stat line: 5 tackles (1 for loss), blocked punt, forced fumble, fumble recovery, and a pass deflected.
I heard tonight at dinner that Reamer might be questionable for Saturday's game against South Carolina. I figured that he had tweaked a knee or a hamstring. I was informed that Reamer actually had a part of his ear ripped off during the game- And he didn't realize it.
If you are keeping score at home, that tallies one defensive player that was shot on a Tuesday and played that Saturday, and one defensive player that had part of his ear torn off, and didn't even know it.
Gunshot wounds and severed ears?
My God, Patrick Swayze survived "Road House" in better shape.
The defense is beginning to show a swagger that has been absent at Alabama for a long time. Many defensive units have been good in the last 15 years, but its been a long time since one has completely ravaged the opposition the way that they did against Arkansas and Ole Miss.
And then there is Nick Saban and "the process."
Thirty months ago I said that I believed it would be impossible to live up to the hype around his arrival. Unbelievably, I think I was mistaken.
Saban's highlights in two and a half years: 2 top-ranked recruiting classes, wins in 18 of last 20 games overall, 11 straight regular-season conference game wins in a row, 18 regular-season wins in a row, and at least, a supporting role in the firing/resignation of four opposing coaches.
The only thing he hasn't delivered is a championship, and more and more people are lining up to pledge that the big crystal football will find its way to Tuscaloosa, sooner, rather than later.
At age 30, this moment represents the most crowded Alabama bandwagon that I can remember. I wasn't around in the sixties and seventies, when dominance was not only expected, but achieved.
In 1992, the bandwagon reached the finish line before anyone outside of the state jumped on. Last year, the national media heaped praise upon the team, but never really gave them a chance against Florida (fairly accurate, as it turned out).
This year, the lofty national predictions are gaining steam by the day.
This represents a new set of challenges.
Can Alabama carry the weight of the ever-expanding expectations? Will the bandwagon's increasing load prove too much to bear?
Whatever the answer may be, you are more than welcome to jump on and find out. This bandwagon has room for a few more. Just try not to block the view.
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