This weekend’s game with Ole Miss will present some challenges for the Crimson Tide. Alabama is on its third consecutive championship quest, but through the first three games of 2013, there have been as many questions as answers about this Bama team.
Meanwhile, the Black Bear Rebel Thingies of Ole Miss are off to a good start, with road wins at Vanderbilt and Texas under their belt. #23 Ole Miss heads to Tuscaloosa coming off a bye, with their sites set on greatness by taking down #1 Alabama in its own backyard.
With that idea in mind, here are ten reasons Alabama fans should worry.
10.) If the NCAA finds that Eli Manning has one more year of eligibility. The last time Ole Miss defeated the Crimson Tide was 2003, Eli’s swan song in Oxford. The result was a 44-28 drubbing in Oxford on a day Eli couldn’t miss and Alabama’s depleted defense due to NCAA sanctions couldn’t cover a soul. If the younger manning is re-instated for Saturday’s game, and the NCAA suddenly takes away 18 scholarships that leave the Tide shorthanded, look for it to be a long night in Bryant-Denny Stadium as Bama’s 9-game winning streak over the Black Bear Rebel Thingies comes to an end.
9.) If Bama gets caught looking ahead to Georgia State. Though some refuse to understand or acknowledge this phenomenon, sandwich games are real. As former Alabama head coach Gene Stallings said on Paul Finebaum’s radio show last fall, it’s simply not possible to get a team “up” for every game. The week after an emotional win (or loss) is just flat out difficult to get your head around, especially when the team you’re playing views their contest with you as their BCS National Championship Game…as did Colorado State. Bama went through the motions against an undermanned but inspired Ram football team, and beat them by 25…just what you’d expect the #1 team to do.
8.) If Kevin Norwood (ankle) and Amari Cooper (toe) don’t play, again. Bama’s top two receivers never saw the field Saturday night against Colorado State. The rest of the receiving corps is still talented, but are there bigger receivers in the clutch, in particular on third down, than these two? Both could have gone if needed, but were held out as a precaution, because the opponent was Colorado State, not Louisiana State.
Not to mention Anthony Steen. Steen was set to go but held out due to a headache in pregame as a precaution from a conscussion in the Texas A&M game. Meaning, Cyrus Koundjio was the only member of last year’s offensive line on the field Saturday night against the Rams. And in total, Alabama took the field with some eight starters on the the sidelines for various reasons on both sides of the ball last Saturday night.
7.) If the Saban to Texas rumors are true. Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha!!!!!! That was a good one!
6.) If the Black Bear Rebel Thingies aren’t psyched out over their lack of success in Tuscaloosa. Though no current Ole Miss players were alive when it last happened, these Black Bear Rebel Thingies might talk to members of the 1988 Black Bear Rebel Thingy squad (known simply as the Rebels way back then). The 22-12 Ole Miss victory, their only win ever over Alabama in Tuscaloosa (or any other Alabama city) came on a day when a dysfunctional Bill Curry-led Tide did not complete a single pass.
5.) If the Black Bear Rebel Thingies aren’t psyched out over their lack of success in the series. Ole Miss won the first meeting in 1894, a 6-0 shootout. Since then, the Tide hasn’t looked back, owning the series at 50-8-2. The last time these Black Bear Rebel Thingy seniors saw an Ole Miss win over Alabama they were in the 6th grade. In their last four meetings, bringing it up to speed for current Ole Miss players, Bama has outscored the Hotty Toddy’s 130-34.
4.) If Tide offensive coordinater Doug Nussmeier decides to call another vanilla game. There was nothing complex about what Bama set out to do last Saturday night. There were no complex plays called the entire night. Alabama did almost nothing to mask the offensive line issues presented through another new unit playing together in game 3, minus one of its senior leaders. No intricate blocking schemes, offensive line stunts or pulls, creative play-calling, and not a single screen, a staple of the Alabama offense.
3.) If Alabama head coach Nick Saban thinks Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze is one of his former assistants. I will never forget reading Saban’s lips in the 2011 Capital One Bowl as Tide reserve runningback Eddie Lacy burst through the line late in the game on a routine dive for a 49-yard touchdown. I can’t repeat what he said in front of my children. Just as he didn’t set out to embarrass his former assistant and friend Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio (yet somehow still did so accidentally), there was no way under Heaven and earth Nick Saban was going to exploit former assistant and offensive coordinator Jim McElwain last Saturday night. For all the criticism Saban takes of being a tyrant to work for, the opposite couldn’t be more true. He is loyal to those who are loyal to his system, and will break his back to help them. Now grant it, the Tide played as flat as a pancake, and as a result found themselves too close to potential danger for comfort late in the tilt. But a few cosmetic points helped Bama garner 56 of the 60 first place votes in this week’s AP poll, keeping them atop the college football heap. But if Saban hits his head in pregame and believes Freeze to be a former member of his staff, look out for more grace and mercy from the Tide sidelines, and trouble on the scoreboard. Saban is in his sixties now, and the mind is the first thing to go…
2.) If the Alabama Upward cornerback tryouts continue this Saturday. Upward sports is an incredible program teaching young children the value of teamwork, leadership, core faith-based values, and participation by everyone involved. But it’s not meant for use within an SEC defense. Saturday night’s game with Colorado State, what amounted to a scrimmage, was another opportunity for Saban, Smart and company to get a look at corner from some young and/or rusty players. Geno Smith was playing in only his second contest of the year. Freshman Eddie Jackson played like a freshman. Cyrus Jones saw some action at the position, as did John Fulton, Maurice Smith and Brad Sylve. Bama is fine at safety, but corner is a position that needs to get shored up for Bama to make a run this year. The Colorado State game was an opportunity for Bama to scrimmage against a live opponent to gain experience for this much needed position.
1.) If the NCAA grants Johnny Manziel an immediate transfer with full eligibility to “Ole Miss University” (thank you for that, Robert Nkemdiche) in time for this weekend’s game. Ole Miss runs a HUNHOMJM (“Hurry Up No Huddle Offense Minus Johnny Manziel”). This means, Bo Wallace is running the show, and by running I mean taking the snap, handing the ball off, and throwing it. What I don’t mean is, making one man miss, then gashing your already spread-thin defense for 27 yards every time he decides to pull it down.
Simply put, what made Texas A&M’s offensive attack tick was Manziel. While Ole Miss fans think Jevan Snead, erfr, Jeremiah Masoli, errr, Bo Wallace is this year’s edition of “the answer,” the only proven hurry up spread team that has managed to beat the Tide since 2010’s fighting Cam Newton’s was last year’s brand of Texas A&M. The spread is not new. The hurry-up, no huddle offense is not new. And the approach to beating it…wait for it…is not new. Ole Miss is much improved, and deserves (and will get) Alabama’s full attention Saturday night. But if you think for a fraction of a minute Ole Miss’ offense is more threatening than the brand Bama defeated in the searing south Texas heat on Texas A&M’s home Kyle Field, I sincerely am interested in knowing what you are smoking.
Are there areas on this Bama team that needs fixing? Absolutely, just as almost any team three games in has punch lists that need working out. But anyone believing Ole Miss will face a team remotely resembling what Bama fielded in its “trap” game against the Rams either doesn’t understand football, or is so intoxicated by their own team’s Koolaide that they shouldn’t be driving.
A road win in Austin was enough to get Rebel Black Bear Thingy fans believing, but they should probably remember the bunch at Texas is about as dysfunctional as the Kardashians. It was a good “name” opponent, but then so would a win over USC right now. The two share a lot in common.
Saturday’s game should be a good one, but one that this Tide alum will not lose too much sleep over. The Tide will be ready to play, seeing a capable opponent, and eventually winning going away. Again.