Mark Ingram Injury: 10 Biggest Questions Facing Alabama Football

RM Herold@@BR_RollinFeatured ColumnistAugust 31, 2010

Mark Ingram Injury: 10 Biggest Questions Facing Alabama Football

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    Alabama Heisman Trophy-winning running back Mark Ingram will miss the Crimson Tide's season opener against San Jose State this Saturday.

    Coach Nick Saban announced in a statement today that Ingram suffered a knee injury late in practice yesterday and had an "arthroscopic procedure" done this morning.

    Nothing can change a team's aspirations more than an injury to a key player.

    As for now all that is known is that Ingram will miss this week, but let's look into what this could possibly mean down the line.

10. Ingram's Heisman Trophy Chances?

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    As far as the team goes, this is probably the last thing on their minds, but there is a certain prestige that comes with having a returning Heisman Trophy winner in your backfield.

    Next to the National Championship, it is the best calling card that you can have to get your team national publicity.

    And since everyone knows there has only been one repeat trophy winner, having Ingram out of the race early, especially if it means an early loss somewhere, might mean something bigger later.

    Saban has said many times how good a friend Bill Belichick is to him.

    I think we will see a bit of the covert nature Belichick runs the Patriots with, when it comes to Ingram's injury.

9. Will Trent Richardson Emerge As Alabama's Best Running Back?

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    Everyone says how great Trent Richardson is.

    Everyone knows the story of Wally Pipp.

    If you don't here is the quick version of his story: Pipp played for the New York Yankees from 1915-1925 and was the first Yankee ever to win a home run title.

    Lou Gehrig replaced him for one game and never never came out of the lineup again.

    Every athlete has heard the Wally Pipp story, but no one wants to be him.

    Will Mark Ingram be the Pipp to Trent Richardson's Gehrig?

    This might seem like a silly question, but if you look at the stats, Richardson's averages are pretty comparable to those of Ingram's.

    Combine that with less wear and tear and you could have the makings of a running back battle.

8. The Game Against Penn State in Two Weeks

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    Penn State comes to town in two weeks.

    Granted, the Nittany Lions have lost some of their explosive players from last year, but they are head, shoulder, and torso above the San Jose State team that the Tide face in their opener.

    What if Ingram isn't ready to play?

    Penn State might be starting a true freshman at quarterback, but his impact on the game won't be critical as long as he doesn't turn the ball over.

    The Nittany Lions will go as far as running back Evan Royster's legs will take them.

    Look for Royster, a 1,000-yard rusher the past two years, to set career highs in carries this year and possibly against Alabama.

    What if the game is close and Ingram is being eased back?

    I think they have to go with Richardson, even if Ingram asks for the ball.

    How meaningful is a game that early in the season, compared to Ingram's overall health for the rest of the year?

    An out-of-conference game like this, early in the season, even if it is Penn State, is not worth a guy's career.

7. Full Speed at Arkansas in Week 4?

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    The Tide will be playing in their fourth straight game and in their SEC opener when they visit Fayetteville to play the Razorbacks.

    Assuming that Ingram shares carries against Penn State, and maybe takes it easy against Duke in Week 3, does that mean he can go all out now that they are starting SEC play?

    The Razorbacks are ranked in the top 20 in both major polls and have a probable high first round pick and Heisman trophy candidate in Ryan Mallet waiting for Alabama.

    Playing a ranked team on the road that has a star quarterback is a very challenging way to start the conference schedule.

    Particularly if you are nicked up.

6. Is It Ever Good News To Go See Dr. James Andrews?

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    Normally, Dr. James Andrews is like the grim reaper or the guy who cuts people in the pros and asks for your playbook. You don't really want to see him.

    So does that mean the injury was pretty serious since Dr. Andrews was part of the surgical team?

    Unlike in professional football where injuries are more difficult to hide, there is no way of knowing how serious this injury is until Ingram is out on the field.

5. How Will the Offense Change without Him?

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    SEC ball usually involves a dominating defense and pummeling opponents with a punishing ground game.

    Does Ingram being out any significant length of time mean a change in how Alabama attacks on offense?

    Does this mean that Greg McElroy will pass the ball more often?

    The Tide quarterback completed over 60 percent of his passes but averaged less than 180 yards passing per game last year.

    He also threw for 17 touchdowns but only four interceptions. What would happen if he had the opportunity to pass the ball even more?

4. How Does the Loss of Ingram Affect the Defense?

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    It's been reported everywhere that the Tide lost nine defensive starters from last year's national championship team.

    The cliche says sometimes your best defense is a running game that keeps the other team's offense off the field.

    Will more offensive "three-and-outs" have an affect on the defense?

    More time on the field means more time for weaknesses to be exposed.

    All-SEC safety Mark Barron is going to try and make sure that doesn't happen.

    No one knows how good the nine new starters will be, but playing in the SEC against several ranked teams could lead to the team's demise if the running game isn't strong.

3. What Happens When Florida Comes to Town?

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    The week after they visit Arkansas, the Gators come to town.

    This game will most likely have more to do with who wins the SEC than any other game on their schedule.

    This game will be in Week 5, and Ingram still will have eligibility remaining after this year. Is there a game that Saban will mark down as the one to either know that Ingram can go all-out or shut it down?

    Could this be that game?

    Could John Brantley and Jeffrey Demps lead Florida to the upset road victory that changes everything for the Tide?

2. How Will the National Polls Treat the Tide?

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    Although they say it doesn't matter, style points can be the difference between being the No. 2 team that goes to the BCS Championship and the No. 3 team that goes elsewhere.

    What if Alabama games are closer because Ingram has to miss time or isn't 100 percent?

    Will the polls penalize Alabama for style points?

    Even if the Tide stay undefeated, if other undefeated teams are blowing opponents out and they aren't, will it matter?

    Injuries play a part in the rankings, even if style points are said, do not.

1. Can The Tide Win It All Still?

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    Of course this is too early to know, but the question might come up: Can the Crimson Tide repeat if Ingram misses more than one game?

    What if he is back but at only 80 percent all year? Will the rest of the team pick up the slack?

    How far can the champs go with an injured leader?