Alabama moved to 2-0 in conference play with a 33-14 win over the University of Mississippi on a damp, weird night in Bryant-Denny Stadium. The #1 team in the land trailed for the first time since falling behind by a field goal last season to Tennessee. But 14-seconds and 99-yards later, Bama’s Christion Jones erased that deficit on a kick-off return and the Tide would never look back.
First, THE GOOD.
Alabama has now started 5-0 for five consecutive seasons for the first time in its storied football history. Dating back to 2008, the Tide is perfect in September, including five wins over Arkansas, and wins over Clemson, Virginia Tech and Michigan.
Amaari Cooper. I said it before the season, the kid is going to be a star. 8 catches for 84 yards and 2 TDs is the kind of stats that used to make people say Juuuuuullliooo! Cooper is that kind of talent; not as physical as Julio Jones, but physical, and a bigger downfield threat. And yes, Ole Miss fans, that was a touchdown. When the ball crosses the plain, you get six points. Great breakout game for the young man from Miami.
A 19-point home win. It’s a great sign that your program is in the right place when people grumble over a 33-14 win against a conference opponent. Alabama football has taken on a life of itself in the minds of fans and observers. The expectation is that the other team will be rendered impotent on the stadium floor, unable to do anything at all of positive note against the Tide.
Ole Miss. This is a well-coached football team that is clearly getting better, and on a day of 70-63 and 51-44 football scores, the Rebels tackled as well or better than anybody I watched…including Alabama. The Rebs had life, and a plan that worked at times. There is reason for optimism in Oxford under this coaching staff. This team will beat Auburn, drum Arkansas and give Mississippi State and LSU everything they want. I predict they’ll beat one of those two.
AJ McCarron. 22 of 30 for 180 yard and a pair of TDs, and still no INT’s on the year. Two underthrows were the difference in the game not becoming a blowout. AJ has now passed Brodie Croyle by throwing the most consecutive completions without an interception with a new UA record 206 attempts. Every year college football seems to have a Geno Smith (WVU QB) kind of player that has unreal stats. To date AJ McCarron isn’t that kind of flashy player, but he continues to make good decisions with the football and continues to rack up victories.
This wasn’t Towson, it was Ole Miss. On a night Bama had to play a full game to beat an up and coming Ole Miss team, LSU struggled to put away Towson. If you put a gun to my head I could not for the life of me tell you in what state or classification of football Towson plays. This was a hungry SEC West opponent, a team Bama has now beaten nine straight times, leading the overall series 46-9-2.
Game time. Football games were never meant to be wrapping up at midnight. At no time during spring, summer or regular season practice do coaching staffs take to the practice field at 10:30pm. And yet, for the sake of TV contracts, Alabama vs. Mississippi was forced to tee it up at 8:26pm, meaning the second half wasn’t starting until well after 10:00. Why does this matter? By itself it doesn’t play a factor. But when you factor in an opponent with nothing to lose and everything to gain, intensity levels playing at a weird time of day can come back to bite you. I would much rather play an 11:00am game than an 8:26pm game.
The running game. Where did it go? Bama managed just 125 yards on the ground, led by leading rusher Eddie Lacy’s 82 net yards. Alabama could never open the kind of holes its used to, as Ole Miss stacked the box and threw the defensive playbook at the Tide offense all night.
The matchup. Make no mistake, this was Ole Miss’ BCS National Championship game. But then, that’s true of every team Alabama will face. When you’re king of the mountain…and Alabama is that, the gold standard for college football…you’re going to get everybody’s best shot. But factor in a weird game time, bad weather, and a team hungry to knock you off, and you’ve got match up issues. Putting the 19-point win into better perspective.
Injuries. The off week is coming at the right time, but it appears several players sustained injuries during the game. Receiver DeAndrew White, runningback/returner Dee Hart, safety Brad Lester, corner back Deione Belue and defensive end Ed Stinson all left the game due to injury. Lester was the only one among those that returned. It’s unclear of the nature of all of the injuries at this time, but White’s appeared to be the most serious, pertaining to the knee. From all appearances, it was very serious, likely season ending.
Intensity. Factor in the weird game time, an outmatched opponent, yuck weather, and a quick lead, and you have all the makings of a team that can let its guard down and drop its intensity. And when intensity drops, injuries can happen. When I played I heard over and over that if you don’t go 100%, that’s when you’re going to get hurt. I’ve watched football for over four decades now, and I’ve seen it time and time again.
The Student Section. Can we please stop the insanity and take away half the tickets students get to these games? The Greek section rarely if ever stays the whole game, or even fills up their allotted number of seats. Let’s cut the student tickets to 15K, implement a lottery system for tickets, and kill the Greek seats altogether. Then, make the South endzone available at a reduced ticket price. An endzone upper deck ticket does not hold the same value as a 50-yard line lower level ticket, yet they are the same price. Now I realize the Tide Pride factor into even getting to buy the lower level seating, but follow me here. Make those tickets available to the general public at $30 a pop, and make the students earn the right to see the Tide play. This will end the stupidity of empty seats in full view in the third quarter.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Alabama head coach Nick Saban has much to get after his team about heading into the off week, which is always a good thing for him. The Tide is #1, 5-0, in command of its destiny and still head and shoulders above almost every program in America. A 33-14 win over a conference opponent that you haven’t faced under its new coaching staff and philosophy is a win no matter how you cut it. And there are 118 D-1 programs in America that would trade places right now with the Crimson Tide.
But there’s much to be worked on before Bama heads into October, including three out of the next four games on the road.