Here’s the problem: Nick Saban is forced to play his second and third-string players in the second half and an average Group of 5 offense makes the Tide defense look kinda bad.
This seems to be a pattern against overmatched opponents. Last year against Colorado State, the Tide defense allowed the Rams to ring up 23 points and almost 400 yards, including 144 on the ground. In writing the recap (as a Tide fan) for that game, I was pretty angry with Alabama’s normally stout front seven allowing a G5 opponent to rush for over 100 yards.
Against the Ragin’ Cajuns on Saturday, the Tide defense allowed 200 yards on the ground and if you’re wondering the last time that happened, I’m not sure, but it was probably when Georgia Southern and their triple option came to Tuscaloosa and rang up 302 rushing yards.
The fact of the matter is that if Nick Saban wants some “rat poison” stories written, the Tide defense, his baby, is having some serious difficulty tackling and it’s not just the second team. Granted, backup ‘Bama cornerback Jared Mayden was absolutely rocked by a stiff arm in the third quarter, but there was a moment where safety Xavier McKinney had a Louisiana runner wrapped up for a three-yard loss and he couldn’t finish the tackle.
This is obviously not a big deal against Sun Belt opponents, but against Mississippi State and Auburn, you can bet it’ll be a problem.
Beyond that, there wasn’t much to scoff at with the Tide’s performance on Saturday. The offense rang up up over 600 yards in a game where they saw three different quarterbacks throw touchdowns, six different running backs carry the ball and their Big 5 of receivers/tight ends catch 12 passes for 334 yards. Also, Tua only went 8/8 for 128 yards and two touchdowns.
True freshman Jaylen Waddle further etched himself into Crimson Tide lore by catching three passes for 138 yards and two touchdowns and returning a punt for a 63-yard score. The kid is absolutely electrifying to watch.
While the run defense left little to be desired, the Alabama secondary held Louisiana to 88 yards through the air, which, considering the concern for such a young squad, this group seems to be the strength of the defense. This is going to be major going forward with Missouri, Mississippi State and Auburn still on the schedule.
Most are not going to find fault with a 56-14 win, but SEC opponents, especially those who enjoy running the ball, need to take note: this Alabama defense is not like the others and they can be run on. If you want to find a weakness, attack that and maybe you’ll do enough to stop ‘Bama’s offense.
If Tua Tagovailoa plays more than two quarters, though, you’ll probably need the ‘85 Bears defense to stand a chance. This team is good.