At the beginning of the year, the Tide were fielding an offensive machine that was downright scary.
With game-manager John Parker Wilson at quarterback, Alabama was still the #1 team in the country last year. But junior Greg McElroy was actually looking like an improvement.
He made key throws against the highly regarded Virginia Tech defense, lit up North Texas for Alabama's largest point total in history, and outdueled Arkansas' Ryan Mallett for 291 yards and three touchdowns. He was stretching the field and showing remarkable accuracy and daring, the kind Alabama's QBs hadn't shown in years.
It was around the time of the Kentucky game that the word "confidence" started to come up. Which was odd, because why wouldn't he be confident? He had the top receiver and running back in the SEC to lean on if he needed to.
But confidence issues were there, for whatever reason. The next week at Ole Miss, McElroy was 15/34 for 147 yards and no touchdowns and no completion for longer than 16 yards. Tellingly, the Tide broke out the Wildcat formation (never a good sign).
It didn't help that the Tide would face the fierce Gamecocks' pass rush the following week. McElroy was held out of the endzone again, going 10/20 and throwing two picks. He also failed to complete a pass to Julio Jones. His favorite target? Mark Ingram, for two receptions and 22 yards. Again, the Wildcat came out to seal the win.
Then came the Tennessee game. Same old story: 18/29 for 120 yards, no TDs. That's less than six yards per completion, for those of you keeping count. And though McElroy didn't lose the game, he certainly didn't win it. Leigh Tiffin and Terrance Cody did.
Things allegedly recovered against LSU. McElroy was 19/34 for 279 yards and two touchdowns, and handled the blitz well, scrambling and picking up first downs like his doppelganger in Gainesville.
But look closer: first, there's a pick that's not being counted that likely would've tilted the game in the Tigers' favor, and second, McElroy's longest completion was on a wide receiver screen to Julio Jones.
Against Mississippi State, the recovery appeared complete. McElroy hit Darius Hanks and Julio Jones for long touchdowns and Marquis Maze for a long completion. Though he wasn't asked to do a lot, not a lot was necessary.
These problems might persist, they might not. Perhaps McElroy was unwilling to accept that he is, at heart, a trumped up game-manager. Perhaps he is more than a game-manager, but is finding that he just can't take the pressure.
Alabama is good, but they're not so good that they can just run Ingram at the Gators and expect to win. If Saban has repaired the problem, props to him. We'll know a little more about the state of McElroy's mind in the Iron Bowl.
If he struggles and checks down, watch out. But if he's still stretching the field, all is well.