Alabama Football: Can the Crimson Tide Avoid Disaster in Knoxville?

Walter KirkwoodAnalyst IOctober 18, 2010

Its the small misses that are adding up
Its the small misses that are adding upKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Just how bad are the Tennessee Volunteers? 

Lets throw out bullet points.

Their "quality win" so far has been a 32 to 29 squeaker over UAB.

Their "quality loss" was a 16-14 loss to LSU.

They are currently 2-4, and didn't leave Knoxville until October.

They got blown out by Georgia!

Their team leader on defense is a former walk-on linebacker who is 5' 10".

They have a defensive lineman starting who weighs 232 lbs.

Taking a closer look at their best effort against LSU.   Tennessee was out-rushed 219 to 96.  Tennessee had only 12 first downs to LSU's 20.  LSU almost doubled Tennessee's passing yards.  LSU turned the ball over twice to Tennessee's once.  How was this game ever close?  Leave it to Les Miles to find a way. 

This is without question the worst Tennessee team I've ever seen. Someone should check for activity at the Knoxville National Cemetery, General Robert Neyland is probably rocking the coffin by now.

2010 will not end well for Tennessee. 

They have one chance,  just ONE CHANCE to make 2010 count for anything more than a bad memory, and it's Saturday in Knoxville when Alabama comes to town.

If you're hoping that Alabama gets up for this game.  You might be disappointed.

So far in 2010, Alabama has gotten crushed in the first half of its two SEC road games. 

Many of Alabama's players are hobbled by injury and all of them are tired and beat up.

They have absorbed poundings from three straight SEC teams coming off the bye and here comes the fourth. 

Greg McElroy is mired in another mid-season slump. Unlike last year he is hitting passes, just not any deeper than a linebacker. Nobody, and I mean NOBODY is scared of Alabama's passing game and Trent Richardson and Mark Ingram are paying the price for it.  

These guys are getting hit at or behind the line of scrimmage on about half their rush attempts.  In most cases they are getting hit by defensive backs that took a 10-yard run at them to do the maximum damage.  It's like watching hunters kill deer that are tied to trees, I want to avert my eyes.

On occasion you'll see the defense pay for abandoning the deep safety position.  Richardson took a "give up" third and long screen the distance Saturday, and Darius Hanks took a 50-yarder to the house against South Carolina.  But opposing coaches will gladly give up the cheap touchdown to avoid Alabama pounding with the run game and eating the clock.

Saturday, on the one side is a really crappy team playing in what amounts to their Super Bowl, on the other side a team that might have its mind on the off week.  It's a recipe for disaster. 

Unfortunately for the young Tide defenders the game will be on them. After consecutive games against Ryan Mallett, Steven Garcia and Jeremiah Masoli they now get a vagabond quarterback named Matt Sims. 

Sims is the son of former NFL Quarterback Phil Sims. As a senior in high school he was a top recruit, and played in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. He signed with Louisville, but washed out eventually landing at El Camino Community College in California. 

If his dad were not famous it probably would have ended there, but Tennessee jumped on the "poach a screw up quarterback" bandwagon and signed him.  His production the last few weeks has been respectable, but nothing to shake in your boots about. 

Sims does have some experienced receivers to throw to and they do spread it around somewhat. Alabama's young defensive backs are going to have to be on it, or Sims will suddenly start looking more like his father. 

It's no secret why Alabama's offense doesn't work well,  no deep passing equals containment. Greg McElroy started out the Ole Miss game well, trying three deep passes. He was "0-fer" on the three, but Julio Jones probably would have caught one of them for a touchdown if his hand were not broken.

The other passes were about where they needed to be,  Our guy had a chance to get it and the other guy didn't.  That's what you want on a deep pass.  Where Greg went wrong was he stopped trying after the first quarter. 

Alabama needs to take some of these quarterback bootleg calls, which are about as effective as toilet paper in dishwater and replace them with a deep shot.

Alabama will NOT beat LSU or Auburn without the ability to throw deep.  Forget it,  it's not going to happen without a major crash and burn on the other teams' part. 

Saturday is the last chance to try and work out the kinks on a live opponent.  As badly as Tennessee needs something to hang its hat on, Alabama needs something going on offense. 

Alabama still has a clear path to Atlanta, but the road to get there looks almost impossible.  The key for the players is to ignore the road ahead and concentrate on the small part of it in Knoxville.  It's a pretty smooth section, but there are big ditches on both sides.  Avoid the ditches.  


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