San Jose won't answer all the questions about the 2010 version of the Crimson Tide, but here are 10 things fans can look for:
No. 10: Can Kerry Murphy help fill the hole left by Mount Cody?
Mount Cody proved to be a valuable weapon against the run game for the last two years. Josh Chapman is back, and he is a solid player, but Alabama needs more than one man to replace Cody. Can Kerry Murphy be that man? Murphy saw only limited action last year, but in his few snaps he showed some spark.
No. 9: Are San Jose receivers open in the Alabama secondary?
It’s unlikely San Jose State can hold back the Alabama pass rush long enough to mount an effective passing game. One may want to observe the number of receivers running loose, however. If it’s a common sight, 'Bama fans may want to stock up on Maalox when the Tide travels to Arkansas.
Fans might want to keep an eye toward the sideline as well; Nick Saban takes secondary mistakes most personally.
No. 8: Is Marcel Dareus in the game?
Hopefully this question will be answered, and in a good way, before game day. If he has not been cleared to play by Saturday, Dareus may not be available for awhile. The loss could be significant. Dareus is so good, opposing coaches have to game plan against him. No one else on the defensive line warrants such attention yet.
No. 7: Is Julio Jones ready to break free of his sophomore slump?
Slump may not be an appropriate descriptor for Julio's play last year, but we—and by “we” I mean everyone with eyes—know that Julio Jones has not reached his vast potential yet. If Jones can do so this year, coupled with Alabama’s established running game, the Crimson Tide could field its most powerful offense since the Bryant era.
No. 6: Will any of the young receivers make it onto the field?
Alabama has been looking for a deep threat burner for awhile. If we see any of the younger receivers early, it may indicate they may have found one. If no true freshman makes it on the field, Alabama fans may have to wait for the younger players to mature.
No. 5: Does Greg McElroy get sacked more than once?
Any team can get one sack, but if San Jose gets two or more, the offensive line may need work. Alabama has a backup plan for right tackle D.J. Fluker in particular if he gets into trouble with speed rushers. Left guard Barrett Jones can slide over to tackle, and backup guard Alfred McCullough can come in at guard. If we see this formation early, we might see it exclusively going forward.
No. 4: Who is the better back, Eddie Lacy or Demetrius Goode?
These two guys have been battling for the third spot in the running-back rotation, and both may get a shot at San Jose State. Lacy in particular has been a bit of an Internet legend, but it's time to find out if there’s fire to go with the smoke.
No. 3 Can A.J. McCarron translate practice to a game?
McCarron should finally make his long-awaited debut for the Crimson Tide against San Jose State. He’s a demon on the practice field, but how’s he going to do with live rushers coming at him? This week may give Tide fans a glimpse of the future.
No. 2: Who makes the big plays at linebacker?
Alabama has two established starters, Dont'a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw. After that, Jarrell Harris, Chavis Williams, Chris Jordan, and Nico Johnson all have some playing experience and have been in a war all fall for playing time. The staff may not know who the long-term starters should be. There is one final litmus test to apply, game action.
No matter how closely you mimic game situations, there are always players who just make plays when the cameras are rolling. In Hollywood, it's called “star power," in football, it’s called “playmakers.”
No. 1: Does San Jose State look physically beaten when they leave Bryant-Denny Stadium?
Probably the most important question to answer. Last year, Alabama physically brutalized opponents. If San Jose State does not look a bit tattered leaving Bryant Denny Stadium, it could be a sign that this Alabama team does not have the same killer instinct that led the 2009 squad to legendary status.