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SEC 2010 // Asking About Mark Ingram's Carries and Nick Saban's Crusade

Contrary to popular belief, we actually don't have anything against Alabama here -- but we also don't know them as well as the fans do. So we asked Roll Bama Roll to answer a few questions about the Tide. Here's what we found out:

Who's better: Mark Ingram or Trent Richardson? If Ingram, then why is everyone else seeming to say Richardson? If Richardson, then how do you give him carries by taking them away from the Heisman Trophy winner?

Comparing Ingram and Richardson isn't necessarily comparing apples and oranges, but it is pretty close to comparing oranges and tangerines. I think the biggest reason people are saying Richardson is better is because he seems to have better top end speed once he gets into the open field than Ingram, which is undeniably true. However, Ingram has Richardson beat as far as his vision goes; watch the two run similar plays and you'll see Richardson trying to bull his way through defenders while Ingram (who has no qualms about lowering his shoulder to create holes, either) shows a little more patience in setting up his blocks and letting the guys in front of him create running lanes. So if you're asking me who is the better back right now, I have to go with Ingram for the simple fact that he has the experience advantage over Richardson and is more of "complete" back. However, if Richardson shows the same level of improvement from his freshman to his sophomore year that Ingram did, by the end of the season I could very easily have a different answer for you. To put it another way, Richardson has the potential to be a better running back than Ingram, but he just isn't there yet.

As for taking carries away from Ingram, I don't necessarily know that that is going to be a genuine issue for three reasons. First, Saban has always gone with a "hot hand" approach at running back, so as long as Ingram is producing I doubt he's getting pulled just to give Richardson some touches. Second, look at how many touches each got last year. Including receptions, Ingram had the ball in his hands 303 times while Richardson had it 161 times. I'd say that's a pretty fair split when you are talking about a Heisman Trophy winner and a true freshman backup. If that split stays roughly the same, I don't see how Richardson can complain about his role in the offense and his number of touches, especially since, by the end of last season, he was being leaned on at crucial times instead of just getting token snaps in blowouts. Finally, there are other ways Richardson can get opportunities without taking away from Ingram. He's worked as a kick returner throughout the spring and fall and will likely be filling Arenas's shoes in that role this season, so there's one opportunity to get the ball in his hands without taking snaps away from Ingram. Further, even though McElwain has said he doesn't plan on installing any two back sets just to get Richardson and Ingram on the field at the same time, the Wildcat package is another opportunity to involve both Ingram and Richardson. So no matter which back ultimately turns out to be "better," they are both still going to play significant roles on the team.

Last year, Florida fans had a "National Championship or bust" mindset, basically saying anything less than a crystal football was a failure. We all know how that went. Is there a similar mindset at Alabama this season?

Probably, but when you're a fan of programs like Alabama or Florida or Texas or Ohio State, teams with elite talent being stockpiled and coached by the best coaches and assistants in the country, you should feel like anything less than a National Championship is a letdown. Contrary to popular belief, that doesn't mean we expect the team to win it every season, but we do (and should) expect them to strive for that goal and compete week in and week out with the end goal of being the National Champions in mind. I mean, if you're happy with 9 and 10 win season and making a decent bowl, then fine. By most objective standards that's a "successful" season. But if that's what your team is satisfied with, odds are that's all they are going to achieve. So yes, Alabama fans have that attitude that anything less than a MNC will be a letdown, but that's only because the team has that same attitude:

A lot of people ask, 'How are you being motivated?' The way I look at it is that if you've been to the mountain top, why would you settle for anything less?--Greg McElroy

How good do Greg McElroy and the offense have to be, given the losses on defense?

At the start of the season I'm afraid they are going to have to be very good. The secondary is so thin and inexperienced that there are going to be times when we give up big plays and let teams stay in the game longer than they should have. For example, I went back and watched the Virginia Tech game from last season and was really surprised at how sloppy the defense looked; Guys were making bad reads, looking lost in coverage, and taking bad angles, and that was with experience at nearly every position. Thankfully they were good enough (and Va. Tech was bad enough on offense) to keep us in the game until the offense found its rhythm, but we just don't have that luxury now. There are going to be some shootouts early on, and if the offense can't open it up and start generating some big plays through the air as well as on the ground then its going to be a long season.

Nick Saban has become something of a leader on the Agentgate issue. Have any idea why he seems to have made this his personal crusade?

First, I honestly think he's taken it kind of personally because he has been so open to the NFL and to agents at Alabama. Scouts have been able to come and go virtually at will, and they have gone out of their way to bring agents in so that the players can discuss their futures with them the right way, and yet there are still agents and runners trying to get to players outside of that and I'd bet he's taking that as a slap in the face. He's tried to make things as easy as possible for agents, and yet they can still manage to screw up everything he's worked for with one trip to Miami with zero consequences for themselves or the player involved (beyond losing their eligibility, but if the first round money is there who cares?). Knowing that risk and knowing just how much future NFL talent he is bringing in, its understandable that he would want to level the playing field to make it so the choices are a little bit easier for the players and agents involved and to have one less thing to worry about.

Admit it -- y'all are overjoyed at the chance to annihilate Bill Curry, aren't you?

Not at all. I mean, I don't like Bill Curry and I think he was a bad fit for Alabama and I really think some of the stuff he said after leaving revealed more about his deficincies as a coach than the supposed unrealistic expectations of the fans, but I don't wish him any will either. I will take zero joy in seeing us annihilate a program in its first year of existance just becaues he's the coach, and really just wish the game wasn't happening at all so we wouldn't have to spend the whole week before hearing about it.

Thanks again to Roll Bama Roll for answering our questions, and remember to go there all season long to keep up with the defending BCS Champions.