Where Smart Picks Go to Die
Alabama marched onto the field looking for a test. Could this be the first game they would have to fight for? Could their hated rival give them what they’ve been looking for all season? Could Tennessee be a worthy opponent?
Alabama cruised to another easy victory without much resistance. Tennessee falls to 3-4 and look to be in trouble for the rest of the year. A trip to South Carolina next week looks like a loss and the Missouri and Vandy games will have closer spreads than most in Tennessee are used to.
Everyone was excited to see what the heralded Tyler Bray could do. The answer was not a lot. Before this game he had thrown for 1,730 yards and 16 touchdowns in 6 games (an average of 288 yards and 2.6 touchdowns per game). Bray looked shaken, often missing open receivers by several yards.
Could the Tennessee defense muster 1 heroic effort and stop the Alabama offense? Not exactly. The defense made a few stops early on the run, but eventually gave up 539 total yards of offense. Alabama continued its balanced attack by gaining 306 yards passing and 233 yards on the ground. McCarron went 17/22 for 306 yards and 4 touchdowns, looking like the better quarterback on the day. Yeldon and Lacy combined for 208 yards rushing and 2 touchdowns.
So is there anything to learn from the game? The biggest lesson is not to leave Alabama receivers WIDE OPEN. Blown coverages resulted in most of Alabama’s yards in the passing game. McCarron did show bad decision making the few times he was pressured all night. Once he stepped out of bounds taking a 12 yard loss rather than throwing the ball away.
But a keen observer would notice that Alabama’s biggest weakness was exposed during this week’s game. Special teams. During Nick Saban‘s tenure at Alabama, this has been the most consistent (and one of the only) problem areas of the team. Everyone remembers the kickers from last year being inconsistent and downright awful during some games (see LSU). Unfortunately for Alabama, they have the same kickers this year. Early in the Tennessee game Cade Foster missed two makeable field goals that could have cost Alabama had the game been closer. A closer look at Foster makes you wonder why he is still kicking field goals at all. This year he is 4/8 and last year he was 2/9! Just as big a problem are Foster’s kickoffs. Foster has the leg to put the ball 5 yards deep in the end zone on every kick. However, Alabama has been intentionally kicking the ball higher and trying to get their coverage team down field. While this is good in theory, Alabama does not execute this plan very well. Alabama allowed 4 returns for 111 yards with one return going 45 yards. This gives the opponent great field position and against teams with elite speed (Florida, LSU, Oregon, etc) this could present a real problem.
Will there be a team that can capitalize on the few weaknesses Alabama has shown? Could that team be Mississippi State? For these answers and many more, tune in this Thursday at 5:30 and Andy and I will tell you all you could hope to know about Alabama, Auburn, and all of college football.