The Crimson Tide did their thing against a scrappy but outmatched Arkansas State team on Saturday, but a closer look will tell you it’s not all wine and roses.
While the offense looks all but unbeatable right now, the 2018 Alabama defense might be one of those strange “bend but don’t break” type of squads. Admittedly, their first three games of the season are all against more-than-competent offenses, but the last three seasons of overpowering defensive gamesmanship may be taking a back seat to what can be most conservatively be called an exciting offense.
Three Things We Learned Today...
This is an Offense by Committee
I mean that in the best possible way.
Unlike the last two seasons where bell cows at the receiving position (Calvin Ridley) have been given the predominant looks, presumed Tide starting QB Tua Tagovailoa is spreading the wealth. Even Jalen’s two TD passes went to separate receivers.
In total, five different Bama players caught six touchdown passes from Tagovailoa and Hurts. Jerry Jeudy caught two, also leading on the day in receiving yards, and DeVonta Smith, Henry Ruggs III, Irv Smith, Jr. and Derek Kief all added scores of their own.
Even in the intermediate game, you can tell all the Tide receivers are weapons. Add in the absolutely electrifying true freshman Jaylen Waddle off the bench and you could have the most complete receiving corps in the league.
And what about the running backs? While Damien Harris was subject to substitutions over the last two seasons, he’s been viewed as Nick Saban’s most consistent back. And he still is.
With the emergence of Najee Harris and Josh Jacobs, however, it’s hard to simply leave Damien to the heavy lifting. It’s cliché, but all three of these guys would be starting anywhere in the country and I know that because each three have all had series where you say out loud, “Jesus.”
All told, the Alabama offense through two games is averaging 559 yards, so it’s hard to argue against the impact seasoned assistant Mike Locksley has had as coordinator. We’ll see as the schedule becomes more treacherous, but I don’t see many defenses in the regular season being able to stop these guys completely.
The Defense is Good, Not Elite
It’s hard to say this about any Nick Saban defense, but you just don’t get the feeling that the 2018 squad is as steamrolling as they have been in years past.
And that’s okay. When you lose three first rounders and another five to the NFL, you’re going to take a step back, especially when so many of those vacated positions are pivotal to the defense’s success.
By game’s end, the Tide surrendered nearly 400 yards to the Red Wolves, with 173 of that coming on the ground, which is really absurd to think about. For reference, they allowed 133 rushing yards in last season’s championship game against UGA. And that was with Michel and Chubb.
Four different ASU players had at least 20 yards rushing which doesn’t sound bad until you think about the fact that they rarely allow ONE running back that many yards, let alone four.
The secondary was suspect across the middle for the second straight week with several breakdowns, most especially at the middle linebacker position.
Mack Wilson and Dylan Moses have the potential to be the Tide’s most talented linebacking tandem of the Saban era, but that remains to be seen as communication seems to not be up to the level it was when guys like Rolando McClain, CJ Mosley and Reuben Foster were roaming the middle of the field.
It’s a long season, but with Ole Miss in Oxford on the horizon, this may be a statistically ugly year for Nick Saban’s baby.
The Tide Misses Extra Points Now!
I keep thinking about a BamaInsider article on graduate transfer kicker Austin Jones, where one of his old coaches said that Jones won’t “[crap] his pants on the sideline like the other guy did”.
He’s referring to, of course, last year’s kicker Andy Pappanastos who missed a chip shot field goal at the end of regulation in last year’s championship game.
I understand it’s only two games, but Jones has now missed THREE extra points against Louisville and Arkansas State, including two today. Three, people. THREE!
This, of course, gave way to redshirt freshman Joseph Bulovas taking over all kicking duties the rest of the game, which proved fruitful including a 39-yard field goal AND all successful PATs. I mean, who would’ve thunk it, right?
It’s mean for me to call out Jones, because it was his coach who said it, but it’s just becoming laughable at this point. The one aspect of the kicking game you could at least count on your guys doing was making extra points and now they’re not even doing that.
Bulovas does seem to be the answer going forward until, of course, he starts missing them, too, which, in that case, check my eligibility and I’ll be your guy.
This is still a very dangerous team. The defense may allow some yards, but they’re effective as the field shortens.
Georgia’s win today over South Carolina may be signaling a changing of the guard, but as to when that occurs? Well, that’s still up to your god, Nick Saban.