Texas A&M Game Review

In life, I think we all want to be appreciated for the work that we do.  Honestly, sometimes a well-placed “atta boy” can be as meaningful as a raise or a promotion.  You know, sometimes a boss can go to the whip too often.  A jockey might get a little more juice out of the horse with a couple of well-timed smacks but if he just keeps whacking away then the horse probably won’t give him the results he desires.

The jockey for the Alabama football team is Nick Saban (please, no short jokes, ok?) and after the Tide put forth a woeful performance against Arkansas (coming on the heels of the Ole Miss loss), there were a couple of ways Saban could go in addressing the team.  After consecutive games of turnovers, penalties and overall mundane play who would have blamed Coach Saban if he’d lined up the team and administered AJ McCarron spankings down the line.  Instead, Saban sensed that his team needed something else so he went on an all-out blitzkrieg against the fans, the media and anyone else who had the audacity to knock his team’s performance.  Saban embraced the team and the Gene Stallings philosophy that the fun is in the winning!  Right now I’d say no one is having more fun playing football than this Crimson Tide team!

So in honor of the Tide’s play this weekend, we at the Lighthouse would like to celebrate the victory with a Jump Around edition of the review – so let’s jump up, jump up and get down with this week’s litany of fun!

Alabama on Offense

The 2014 “Box of Chocolates” edition of the Crimson Tide offense continued but this week we chucked the old nasty Whitman’s Samplers and we went straight for the Godiva chocolates, baby!  This week we got ahold of that delicious, smooth, luxurious, creamy chocolate that is so freaking good you want it to melt in your mouth and in your hands and anywhere else you can get to.  Yeah.  You know.  Sinfully good chocolate.  But with some sprinkles.  Tight ends lined up as tight ends…and wide receivers.  Fullbacks lined up as fullbacks, tight ends, wide receivers and H-backs.  I formations.  Two tight end formations.  Empty sets with five wide receivers.  All from the same personnel grouping.  Hmm – since Lane runs more of a West Coast offense, perhaps we should say it was a Ghirardelli box of chocolates.  Either way, Saturday’s offense was just as sweet!

Last week we stated that Blake Sims needed to run more and use his God-given ability in order to transform this bland attack into something more exotic (a truffle, maybe?).  A zone read (Or was it? – more on this in a sec) and 43 amazing yards later, Sims put Bama up 24-0 with a run that was nothing short of spectacular.  Oh, and later Kiffin actually called a play where Blake Sims’ bootleg went to his left!!!!  Y’all think he’s reading the blog?  Meanwhile, TJ Yeldon was dipping, ducking, spinning and shifting his way to 114 yards on only 13 carries!  Any time you can leave ole Verne speechless then you are immediately my hero and between the exploits of Yeldon, Sims and Cooper I think we all enjoyed this CBS telecast the most!  Uh, WOW!  MY!  WOW!  OY!  I think summed up the Tide’s attack nicely!

Patience is NOT a Virtue:  Saban won the toss and elected to kick A&M’s ass from the opening bell.  Hey Kevin – give me the ball and let me show you were we are going to stick this thing all day long!

One on One, I Wanna Play that Game Tonight:  Dear Mr Sumlin, you might want to put more than one person on Amari Cooper.  I’m just sayin.  I think Hall & Oates would have looked better out there in coverage.  What the Aggies’ defensive coordinator did to their poor corners is akin to child abuse because he continually put them in situations where they could not succeed.  Coming into the game we said Ole Miss and Arkansas played a ton of zone with a lot of success against us but evidently the Aggies are too busy building stadiums and coming up with catchy slogans to watch film.  Danielson showed it better than I ever could but suffice it to say that Amari is waaaaaay too talented to cover man to man (or child to man as the case may be).

Shorty Get Loose:  One more point on Coop.  After a glorious punt return by Christion Jones, Kiffin went for the jugular again by lining up Cooper in the slot where he was once again isolated man to man.  Lining him up in the slot allowed him to fake a hard inside slant, leaving him plenty of room to then fade outside for an easy six.  Lining him up outside eliminates this route and confines him next to the sidelines a little too much.  But lining him up in the slot – easy pickins.  If you are the defender, pack it up, pack it in.

Abracadabra:  Oh, I couldn’t wait to tell you guys about this one!  On the Sims run, please go back and watch the bottom of the screen where Fowler and Cam Sims were lined up as twin wide receivers.  At the snap, Fowler moved to take out Sims’ man because the play was actually a wide receiver screen!  Sims actually talked about this post game but the call was for a screen!  Instead of running the screen, Sims said he screwed up and ran a zone read, keeping the ball for what was a sensational touchdown run!  Please, please go back and watch this play again.  But his running skills – wow.  WOW.  OH WOW!  The first juke off the zone read left three Aggies in the dust.  Next, he bounced outside and made #18 look like a fool.  At full speed he made a slicky cutback move that left Verne and the A&M defender gasping for air.  Afterwards they showed Lane on the sidelines and he didn’t look very happy – now you know why…

Let It Go:  When Sims runs the ball it opens up the rest of the offense.  Numerous times the outside defensive end was left unblocked (on purpose) but he refused to slide down and make a tackle on the running back because he had to stay home and honor the threat of Sims running.  Oh, and Sims happens to be really good at running.  Now, I hope you all saw him wince when he landed on that shoulder again.  We don’t wanna go all “I told you so” but, yeah, we told you so.  Sims’s shoulder isn’t 100%.  So….

Punk You’d Better Back Up:  Sorry – just working in some Jump Around lyrics.  Anyway, so I jotted down in my notes that they were allowing Sims to run more (or maybe Sims was deciding to run more) and that must mean they were quietly developing more confidence in Coker.  As soon as I jotted this down, Gary Danielson (love him – best in the biz at breaking games down) confirmed that Coker looked really good in practice on Thursday and the staff was now believing in him.  I thought Coker played well – that dart to Flournoy-Smith was sublime – and his emergence could/should allow Sims to just cut it loose.

Rebel Yeldon:  I’m sure TJ Yeldon has statistically had better performances but, to me, none were as ridiculous as this one because several times he left me screaming MORE, MORE, MORE!  The first wow moment came on a check down that seemingly took forever.  Sims finally spotted Yeldon alone on the sidelines where, without any room to operate, he proceeded to de-pants two Aggies with a shake that Sherman Williams would be proud of.  On the same drive, he took a toss left and instinctively cut it back inside where there was a gaping hole.  Smoooooth.  But one of my favorite plays of the game was a slant route pass to a well-defended Yeldon who was lined up outside as a receiver.  He caught the ball nine yards down the field with an Aggie draped on his back.  Ten more piggyback yards later he was finally brought down.  On that same drive, Yeldon took a handoff right and patiently pressed the hole until Bozeman (who played extremely well) and Brown (his best game) formed a small crease for Yeldon to slide thru.  To everyone’s surprise, Yeldon was able to wait and then he suddenly burst into the secondary, pantsing yet another jockless A&M defender.  Thirty yards later, Alabama was at the four yard line and ready to go up 17-0.  And then there was the run where his spin move left two Aggies running into one another….he was amazing!

Let’s Hear it for the Boys:  Coming into the game, we mentioned that the Aggie defenders appeared lifeless in their last two outings so it really wasn’t a shock that they appeared to mail it in on Saturday.  But, with that being said, there were several offensive lineman who gave superlative efforts.  On Yeldon’s first TD run, Arie Kouandjio wiped out three A&M defenders with a brutal down block.  Bradley Bozeman not only played well but, at times, dominated – particularly on the goal line 4th and 1 touchdown run.  But, wow, Leon Brown played the game of his life.  He was agile.  He was hostile.  He was mobile.  They worked great as a team, too.  On the TD pass to Coop that made it 38-0, A&M stemmed their line (late shift) and showed blitz.  Immediately, Bozeman, Kouandjio and Brown started waving their arms to communicate to each other who to block.  They easily picked up the blitz and allowed Sims to make the throw.  The interior of the line could not have played much better in this game.

Back to the Future:  Ok, so I’m one of these sick, twisted people who enjoys watching the second string line play so Saturday was mighty good to me.   While I still don’t understand why they took the redshirt off JC Hassenauer I have to admit he was outstanding – he got to the second level and secured his block on nearly every single play and he could not be shed.  As always, I was impressed with Dominick Jackson – he’s a heat seeking missile off the line of scrimmage and when he makes contact, it ain’t purdy.  A couple of times he relocated at least two Aggie defenders against their will.  Grant Hill did pretty well subbing in for Shepherd but he didn’t stand out to me as much as the other two.  And poor Issac Luatua.  Wow.  The film room shall not be kind to him.

Growing Pains:  You know, I thought Coker did a pretty good job when he was in there.  As usual, he held the ball a little long and paid for it with a painful looking whiplash sack (courtesy of a Luatua whiff) but overall he looked better.  On the touchdown throw he was everything you’d want out of a QB.  With the pocket collapsing, he climbed up the pocket and kept his eyes downfield the entire time.  This allowed him to see the tight end come open and Coker delivered a strike to the corner of the end zone.  Mo betta.  And the seed he threw on the run to Ardarius Stewart on the run….wow.  But, perhaps my favorite play was when Coker finally realized it’s actually a good play to throw it out-of-bounds.  As Gary Danielson was squealing “throw it away” on the telecast, I laughed because I’ve done the same thing numerous times.  This time, though, Coker (after a lovely pirouette) finally did the right thing.  Mo betta, agian.

Tidebits

I’m sure the truth is somewhere between the offense that showed up against Ole Miss and the one that played against A&M but it’s exciting to see what it can be.  More than anything, this group needed to have some success, gain some confidence and have some fun.  Check.  Check.  And CHECK!  Meanwhile, heads should be rolling in College Station today because the plan was poor, the execution poorer and the effort was listless.  Frankly, I think they gave up early and often.  On the screen pass to Henry that went for a touchdown, Bama caught A&M in a blitz and Henry was out the gate with no white jerseys to be seen.  Go back and watch but instead of tackling Henry, an Aggie defender (#31) actually just stuck his leg out in a weak attempt to trip up Henry.  A “business decision” to be sure, but a gutless, heartless, weak ass attempt nonetheless.

Alabama on Defense

This defense was everything we hoped it would be and have hoped it would be for a very long time.  Six sacks by the front four meant that Bama rarely had to blitz and even when they did blitz they backed a defensive end into coverage.  So, the Tide defenders showed man but played zone.  They showed blitz but played coverage.  Showed coverage and brought a zone blitz.  I think Saban and Smart had a ball watching their schemes confuse and humiliate the Aggie offense.  So much for the hauntings of a HUNH spread passing attack, eh?  This was abuse from the first snap.  Speaking of, A&M’s vaunted offense didn’t even take a snap in Alabama territory until mid-way thru the third quarter.  To quote Verne, “Wow.  WOW.  OH WOW!”

Don’t be Cruel:  You knew it would be a long day for A&M when even the sideline commentator was aligned against the Aggies.  Allie LaForce’s twitter handle is @AlaForce.  She may be a force to be reckoned with, as well…  J  Sorry – I had to include this b/c it just made me laugh…

Here Comes the Boom:  In our W2W4 we mentioned how the stunts and loops by Ole Miss found their way home several times so it was no surprise that Alabama implemented the same schemes.  It was fun watching ridiculous athletes like Ryan Anderson, Xzavier Dickson, Jonathan Allen and a host of others get to use their exceptional skill sets to get up field and become an Aggie Wrecking Crew.  For the longest time I’ve felt that the d-line has been asked to simply push the pocket and play run first.  In this game it appeared they just let the thoroughbreds run – and run they did…right to the quarterback!  Six sacks?  WOW!  OH WOW!

When I Move You Move:  Four weeks ago, it was Ludacris to think that Trey DePriest could hold his own in single coverage but this week he was a different story.  While the Tide implemented combination coverages, DePriest seemed to be assigned to the backs underneath.  On one interesting play, A&M motioned their back out of the backfield and DePriest flew out of the box to the sidelines to shadow him – to a quarterback, this would typically identify the defense as man to man.  However, while DePriest was locked up in man on the back, the rest of the team appeared to be playing a matchup zone.  They did this time and time again, befuddling the Aggie offense to no end.  Man, this was fun to watch!

Zone Dog:  On one of my favorite blitzes, the Tide lined up showing a four man front and with DePriest showing blitz.  The Aggies made their line call to shift for the blitz.  At the snap, Dickson (lined up at DE) and DePriest dropped into coverage and Maurice Smith came blitzing in off the slot!  He had a free run and disrupted the play – another win for the Tide D…

Sic Em:  When Rashaan Evans and Tim Williams are on the field, it’s one heckuva pass rush!  Evans loves to use an “outside-in” move where he speed rushes outside and then ducks inside the tackle.  The tackle has to honor the speed rush and Evans, as a true freshman, already knows when to take advantage.  As for Williams – he’s just awesome coming off the edge.  Best speed rusher we’ve had in a while.

Stick Em:  This was an interesting wrinkle – Reggie Ragland lined up as a defensive end numerous times throughout the game.  This allowed Bama to show a 4-1 look as well as a 3-2 look and even a 3-3 look without changing the personnel on the field.  On his ridiculous interception, the former high school tight end lined up at defensive end and worked a stunt back inside.  There, he was stuffed by the guard so, instead of continuing the rush, Ragland recognized the situation and dropped back slightly with his eyes focused on watching the Aggie QB.  Next thing you know, ole Reggie is going all JJ Watt on us with an awesome interception!  Incredible play…

House of Pain:  Did you see the sidelines erupt when Ragland made that play?  That was so freaking awesome to see.  After being maligned for their performance in Fayetteville, the benches were alive with the sounds of the music of big hits and big plays.  Whether it was Ragland’s pick, Foster’s bone crunching hits, sacks or big offensive plays, the players were jumping around, laughing and having fun the entire game.  Of course my favorite clip was when they were all jumping around to “Jump Around”, and collectively they made Bryant-Denny become a House of Pain for the Aggies.

Buddy Lee:  I still like Dillon Lee in pass coverage – he showed well once again.

Bang Bang:  The first bang is for the hit that Reuben Foster inflicts on the opposition.  The next bang is for the pain he inflicts on himself.  It was awesome to see him as a heat seeking missile on special teams but it’s disturbing to see him ding himself up with a simple tackle on the QB.  This segment should also mention that Jarrick Williams was completely upended (bang) but still managed to make a tackle from the seat of his pants (BANG!).

Tidebits

I think the fact that Kenny Hill isn’t exactly a scrambler helped to defend the Aggies passing game.  In the past, the Tide wasted one player on defense as a spy so he couldn’t help get pressure or play coverage.  But, this year, all hands were available to either rush or play coverage.  However, the real difference in this year’s performance was the defensive line.  Sure, six sacks kind of tells its own story but there are hidden stories in there as well.  Pressures.  Flushes.  Hits.  Even when Hill had time he never looked down the field because he didn’t look comfortable.  Instead of attacking the shorter Bama corners with deep shots, Hill opted for short crossing routes and check downs throughout the game.  I think I remember one deep shot that was well overthrown and that’s about it for the downfield attack.  Coming in, the Aggies’ defense was deplorable and we talked about how bad they looked in previous games.  Our concern was that Hill was still throwing for over 300 yards in those games.  386 yards and 4 TDs against Arkansas.  365 and 4 TDs against Mississippi State.  401 and 2 TDs against Ole Miss.  Folks, that’s getting it done on offense.  But, against Alabama Hill just threw for just 138 yards and a pick thru the air.  Please take a moment to digest how impressive that is.  138 yards passing and a doughnut on the scoreboard – OH WOW!  BTW – wasn’t it good to see that Alabama had been working on defending the bunch formation?  A&M used it so much that they apparently had nothing else in the playbook.

Alabama on Special Teams

It’s nice when JK Scott isn’t the player of the game on special teams (or for the entire team as he was last week), eh?  Even though Christion Jones was bobbling the punt before he took off, it was really, really nice to see him pop one for 47 yards.  Aside from the offense, no one on the team needed a confidence booster as badly as Jones did.

We talked about Reuben Foster puttin’ on the hits but our shout out goes to JK Scott and Geno Smith who combined to bring down the Aggies’ Trey Williams after a 75 yard kickoff return.  Had they not combined to bring him down, that doughnut would have been a seven.  How important is that?  Well, if Alabama is in the conversation for the four playoff spots, psychologically that doughnut will look a whole lot more impressive to the committee than a crooked number.  Could be a huge play down the road…

Final Thoughts

I’ve used this story before but it seems appropriate to reference it again today.  Any time Wade Boggs would go into a hitting slump he’d simply run down to a bar and pick out the ugliest chick in the place for a little “relaxation” and she would be dubbed as The Slump Buster.  On Saturday, the Aggies were certainly the ugliest chick in the place and every facet of the Alabama team that had been in a slump took turns being the best unit on the field.  Slump busted.  And while a lot of that had to do with Alabama’s superior talent, as Gary Danielson stated, no one is THAT good.  Basically, A&M took this one lying down.

But you know what?  Maybe Alabama IS that good when they feel like their coach believes in them.  Maybe they can be that good when there’s some positive energy and a “jump around” attitude on the team.  After the Florida game, I told you guys that I talked to a walk-on who said this year’s team had far more leadership than the 2013 version and I think you are seeing that before your very eyes.  I’ll wait here patiently for AJ McCarron to come out and applaud the leaders on this year’s team…

Sure, the win itself was really, really impressive.  But, what was more impressive to me was the spirit on the sidelines that poured out onto the field time and time again after a big play.  Smiles, hugs, handshakes and rump shakes all around!

JUMP AROUND!  JUMP AROUND!  JUMP UP, JUMP UP AND GET DOWN!

 

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W2W4 – Alabama vs Texas A&M

Welcome back to the Lighthouse, where it’s been gloom, despair and agony over the last two weeks.  As a result we’ve been in a deep, dark depression with excessive misery because the Bama offense has given us very, very little to Hee Haw about.  Now we’ve come to the W2W4 on the schedule that I’ve been dreading the most and, after watching A&M get beaten soundly by Mississippi State and Ole Miss in consecutive weeks, we at the Lighthouse are even more bumfuzzled than ever.  When Alabama is on offense you’ll get to see the classic tilt between the moveable object of A&M’s defense and the resistible force of Alabama’s offense.  And, when the Tide is on defense, you’ll get to witness Dr Kevin Sumlin attempt to surgically shred Nick Saban’s Achilles heel.  But, know that the good doctor will be blindfolded and can be pressured into stabbing himself repeatedly.  Basically it feels like over 100,000 fans will pile into Bryant Denny Stadium to see Sumlin and Saban take turns spinning the Wheel of Misfortune.

To the good, the Aggies are limping into Tuscaloosa after an absolutely brutal three game stretch that saw them get physically whipped by Arkansas, Mississippi State and Ole Miss in consecutive weeks.  After the Alabama game the Aggies will get a much-needed bye week where they can finally kick their heels up (pretty sure their some on their defense wear heels but more on that later) and take a breather after eight consecutive weeks of football.  In the West, the only other team to run the same gauntlet is LSU – they have played every single week of the season.   As a contrast, Mississippi State will have enjoyed TWO bye weeks over the same span of time.  Wow.

Why is that important?  Well, the hope here is that the fast paced Texas A&M offense has actually taken a toll on their own defense because the film certainly seemed to indicate a tired bunch of Aggies in their collective games against the state of Mississippi.  Their whole team looked gassed.  Why?  A&M is first in the conference (and 23rd in the country) in snapping 81 offensive plays per game.  However, all those extra snaps and possessions have also meant that their defense has been on the field for 75 plays per game.  As a comparison, Alabama has defended an average of 63 plays per game – good for second in the country – and Alabama has played one fewer game.  So, this season the poor Aggie defenders have been out there on the field for 147 more plays than Alabama’s defense and their efforts in the last two ballgames certainly seem to reflect tired legs and tired hearts.  Will Alabama be able to take advantage?  Here’s What to Watch For this week….

Alabama on “Offense”

How do we even begin to break this side of the ball down after the last two weeks?  I watched an ESPN “Film Room” last night that detailed exactly what I pointed out in the Arkansas Game Review.  Blake Sims isn’t using his best attribute (his legs) in the pocket and, as a result, the entire offense is bogging down.  Even the likes of Matt Millen could point this out on the telestrator as Sims had huge avenues to run for first downs but, instead, he elected to throw the ball into double coverage.  By now, you know that we feel 100% certain that Sims is injured and both his running and his throwing have been affected by this.  The staff seems unwilling to let him throw the ball down the field and his mind seems unwilling to let him expose himself to more hits.  At some point it would seem that the “more harm than good” rule of thumb would come into play at this position and a change at the QB position would be considered.  I think if A&M pounces on us out of the gate as they have the last two years, you could see Jake Coker make an appearance in the huddle.

Right now, Alabama just needs first downs.  The more first downs they get, then the more plays they can run.  The more plays they can run then there will be more opportunities for repetitions the offensive line will have a chance to gel.  With Arie Kouandjio still nursing an ankle injury and Ryan Kelly still out with a knee, we aren’t sure how optimistic we should be that the running game will be in for a reemergence this week.  But, if ever there were a pick me up bouquet of Hallmark card bearing defenders, it’s the Aggies.

Who Are You:  To this point, Alabama has no identity whatsoever on offense.  Since Saban arrived at the Capstone, 3rd & 2 has been a virtual layup because his offensive lines have generated a huge push and his big, physical backs have been able to get several yards down the field before experiencing the first contact.  This year it’s been different.  Very different.  But, after watching Arkansas, MSU and Ole Miss have their way with the Aggie d-line (it didn’t surprise me to find that A&M ranks a woeful 93rd against the run)  even Alabama should be able to make some hay on the ground Saturday afternoon.  If they can’t, you may want to start looking into reservations for the Music City bowl.

Shake it Off:  Instead of the Aggies’ small defensive group looking swift, it appears they seem to play more like Taylor Swift.  A&M’s 2014 defensive hallmarks are poor tackling, poor angles and slow-footed play.  Attacking the edges of their defense has worked for everyone they’ve played, including the Arkansas punter who ran virtually untouched 51 yards for a touchdown.  Also, QB keepers on zone reads have bludgeoned the interior of their defense, as well, as both Bo Wallace and Dak Prescott looked like the second coming of Tommie Frazier on zone reads.

Air Supply:  Bo Wallace threw for 305 yards and Dak Prescott threw for 268 so plays via the air should be available.  The Aggies seem hell-bent on shutting down the back shoulder fades and sideline routes with outside leverage but they appear to be more than happy to give up easy slants and square ins.  They also seem content to give up yardage on the WR screens but much of that seems to do with their DBs inability to shed WR blocks or make tackles in open spaces.  Arkansas and Ole Miss both successfully played a ton of zone coverage against Alabama and they rolled it to wherever Amari Cooper was.  However, A&M appears to prefer to play man to man so Amari Cooper you should be cleared for take-off….

Wide Open Spaces:  Both Mississippi schools used tosses and sweeps to outflank the Aggies with a tremendous amount of success.  Look for Alabama to go back to the bunch formation they tried to use against Arkansas and run wide out of that.  With better blocks (or lesser defenders) there should be yardage available there.

500 Myles:  I’ll be the Proclaimer who tells you to watch out for #15 on Texas A&M’s defense – he’s Myles Garrett and he will be a three-year player for the Aggies before he goes on to the league.  He’s exceptional as an edge rusher and will likely have his name called more than once Saturday.

Conclusion

This year things have been about as stacked against Alabama’s offense as they can possibly be.  Gloom, Despair and Agony have taken the place of our three horsemen of Yeldon, Henry and Drake.  Injuries to Blake Sims, Kenyan Drake, DeAndrew White, Arie K and Ryan Kelly have certainly played a part in the Tide’s woes but, still, there have been plays that could have been made with just a little better individual execution.  As bad as things have been, the Aggies defense should be just what the doctor ordered.  It certainly cured Arkansas, MSU and Ole Miss so if Alabama’s offense doesn’t bust out the whoopin stick on Saturday then it may be a year or more before we get to see it in their hands again (unless you count Western Carolina).

Alabama on Defense

Regardless of what you think of the A&M offense right now, you should know that they are still every bit as lethal as they were originally thought to be earlier in the season.  They are still first in the world (ok, top 5) in nearly every single statistical category and their strengths happen to line up perfectly against our defensive weaknesses.  Additionally, this week Kenny Trill, er, Hill, will get his favorite blankey back in the form of slot receiver Malcom Kennedy (#84).  The last time we saw Kennedy, he was catching the game winning overtime touchdown out of the slot against Arkansas.  Kennedy is all of the things the other A&M receivers aren’t – he’s experienced, small, quick and reliable.  In watching Sumlin’s offense on tape I was floored by the number of times the receivers simply dropped the football on perfect passes.  And, it was multiple receivers who dropped them, too, not just one or two.  With Kennedy back, I think Hill will dial him up on multiple third downs and they’ll stand a much better chance of converting than they did in the last two weeks when Kennedy was out.

However, the simple addition of Malcom in the Middle won’t exactly be the Dr Quinn Medicine Woman for all of the Aggies’ offensive ills.  Instead of Kenny Hill focusing on what his brand name should be, he should have been working on his footwork and his delivery because it’s not the same as it was earlier in the season.  Nearly half of his throws are high and behind his receivers and his lethal fade passes aren’t nearly as effective when he’s consistently throwing them out-of-bounds.  The recent Hill is not the Hill from earlier in the season and, as a result, he’s been prone to turning the football over with regularity.  Hill threw three picks to MSU, two to Ole Miss and one to Arkansas.  All three teams simply rushed three or four men and sat in zone coverages, waiting for the ball to bounce their way.  Honestly, there were several more picks available during those games so Hill is lucky to have only thrown six picks in that span.

Fools Rush In:  Sumlin’s offense will make you pay if you recklessly send in the blitzing clowns so everyone I watched usually just rushed three or four (Arky even just rushed two) and tried to use matchup zones with deep safety help.  The Mississippi schools forced A&M to methodically march the ball down the field and sooner or later the negative plays (picks, drops, sacks) caught up to the Aggie O.

Stay With Me:  Kenny Hill must be begging his OL to stay with him for one more game as their play has regressed over the last three weeks.  Ole Miss’ front four found their way home quite a bit against the A&M line using stunts and loops that brought their ends up thru the vacant middle of their line.  The tackles are pretty solid but their guard play has been suspect from what I’ve seen.  And, they have absolutely no running game to speak of so that makes things even tougher for the Aggies.

Waiting for Superman:  From Saban’s comments earlier this week it sounds as though Landon Collins will be playing a ton of linebacker this week.  Alabama plans to defend the Aggies’ four wide looks with a dime package and that means Landon Collins will line up beside Trey DePriest and he’ll have to be superman yet again this week.  I meant to point this out in the Arkansas game recap but, if you still have the Arkansas game, go back and look at the game winning interception.  Collins’ responsibility was the back out of the backfield but, when the back stayed in to block, Collins came in to apply pressure on the QB.  As Allen rolled right, the running back suddenly released down the field.  But, instead of doing what 90% of the defenders would do and get sucked into the pass rush, Collins reversed course and trailed the back and that’s why he was in perfect position to make the interception.  Brilliant play by Collins there and he’ll have to be even better this week.

Allen-town:  Alabama has prepared for this game by working Jonathan Allen, a natural defensive end, at defensive tackle since A-Day and on Saturday we’ll see if it pays off.  Brandon Ivory, Jarren Reed, A’shawn Robinson, and Darren Lake have played a ton of tackle lately but look for Allen to get a ton of reps inside in order to generate interior pressure on Hill.  Quick tackles have had their moments on film against the A&M line so perhaps the Aggie backfield will become Allen-town before the end of the day.

Greased Lightning:  Rabbits, rabbits and more rabbits – look for Alabama to put their fastest d-line on the field for as much time as they can get away with.  Dickson, Anderson, Williams, Evans and Allen will all have plenty of opportunities to generate some pressures and sacks on Saturday.  As a counter, look for A&M to try to run Bama out of this look, especially when Landon Collins is at linebacker.  It will be interesting to see if the Aggies can find some semblance of a running game against this smaller defensive group – if they do, it will wreck the plan that Saban has been crafting for the last year.

And Now for the Rest of the Story:  Alabama’s pass defense has been lacking throughout this season and there isn’t a better passing team on Bama’s schedule than Texas A&M.  Quite honestly, this matchup could very well be a nightmare.  Bunch formations have befuddled the Tide secondary so the fear here is that we’ll see a bunch of the Bunch.  Poor Cyrus Jones will look up to A&M’s receivers all afternoon because they go 6’4, 6’5, 6’0 and 5’11 and, yes, they are all very well acquainted with the deadly back shoulder fade that has given us fits.  Honestly, if it weren’t for some inaccuracies from the QB and some blatant drops by the Aggie wide receivers then this offense would be every bit as menacing as we originally thought them to be.  And, the thought of locking up many of our DBs in man to man coverage makes me physically ill.  Best case scenario for Saturday would be for Alabama’s defense to generate some pressure from the front four and patiently wait for wild passes, ricochets and drops to take their toll.  Blitzing Hill will be akin to handing Jameis Winston a bottle of GHB and locking him in a Seminole sorority house – you’ll be asking for trouble.

Conclusion

I’m afraid many Alabama fans looked at the Aggies’ last two losses and decided the A&M’s offense must not be all that.  Statistically, they are all of that and then some.  And, if their wide receivers decide to actually catch the majority of their catchable passes then it could be a long, long day for the Tide defense.  Watching Ole Miss generate sacks and pressures by only using four pass rushers gives me a tremendous amount of hope but, more than that, seeing Hill be inaccurate in the last two games actually gives me some optimism on defense.

Special Teams

Catch the damn ball.  Hold on to the damn ball.  That is all.

Final Thoughts

This may as well be the Christmas edition of the W2W4 because it’s full of ifs and buts and candy and nuts.  IF Alabama can run the ball…IF the same Aggie OL, WRs and QB play the same on Saturday as they did the last two Saturdays…IF Alabama can continue to thwart the run with their dime defense in the game.  And IF a few passes end up landing in the hands of the good guys….then Alabama should escape with a victory.  There are many reasons to be optimistic this week but IF Alabama once again struggles on offense then you’d better know A&M won’t do us the favor of scoring just 13 points.

Final Score:  Alabama 24                Texas A&M 23

 

*Editor’s Note:  If Texas A&M showed even the slightest pulse on defense then the Lighthouse would have predicted a loss for the first time in the history of the site.  Looking into our crystal bulb, there are two very solid chances that will change later this season.

The Arkansas Game Review

In the immortal words of Herm Edwards, “You play to win the game.” Or, to quote someone closer to home, as Gene Stallings always said, “The fun is in the winnin’.” I think it’s important to keep those two quotes in mind throughout this season because this team is not going to emulate the classic Nick Saban teams we are all accustomed to. There will be few if any blowouts. Heaven forbid, games will be contested at halftime and beyond. No, this season Alabama will not simply manhandle their opponents. Instead, like Saturday, games will likely be tightly contested til the end. While Saturday’s offensive display was about as uneven and unspectacular as we’ve seen in a very long time, credit the Alabama defense for finding its mojo at a time when the Crimson Tide needed it most. The Arkansas game wasn’t pretty but it also wasn’t a loss. It’s important to remember that the result wasn’t as bad as it certainly could have (or should have) been. Just win, baby.

But, seriously, what’s going on with the offense? Well, if you’ve been reading along, you know that I’ve been telling you after the Florida game that Blake Sims’ throwing shoulder is not 100% healthy and I think that’s been proven out. Gone are the downfield throws and, instead, everything is short and seemingly forced into the double coverage surrounding Amari Cooper. But, honestly, that was one of the fears going into the season – that Blake Sims wouldn’t be able to carry the team with his arm. However, we all slept well at night knowing that either Coker or Sims could simply hand the ball off to a fleet of talented running backs and we’d be fine. Now we know better. So what is Kiffin going to do with a quarterback who isn’t healthy enough to throw and a running game that can’t run? Well, at this point he hasn’t quite figured it out either and frankly, it’s a mess and his options appear to be limited. This week our crack Lighthouse staff tried to break the offense down as best we can and, as always, we’ll simply comment on what we saw on tape –  whether it’s good news or bad news. As they say, the truth shall set you free – but, can you handle the truth? Because I think we are looking for a few good men…(on the offensive line)…

Alabama on Defense

I’m flipping the script this week and leading with the defense if for no other reason than to give kudos to the group that deserves the accolades the most (short of JK “Great” Scott and the howitzer that is attached to his leg). What a tremendous performance against a really, really good running football team. Bret Bielema’s team is going to give someone a bad loss this season and it dang near was Alabama. The true difficulty and awesomeness of the SEC schedule isn’t just the talented opponents but it’s also the diversity of the attacks that you face each week. If Kirby Smart loaded up his team with smaller, more athletic players to defend the spread, then teams like Arkansas, LSU and Auburn would run the ball down his throat. But, if he were to simply go big, the teams that spread you out and get your bigger players in space can give you all sorts of grief. We’ve seen Arky give Texas A&M’s smallish defense all it could handle and I suspect that Ole Miss will have their hands completely full when they face the Hogs.

Thankfully for Bama fans, size matters at the Capstone and Alabama’s defensive front is about the only SEC defense that can stand up to the biggest offensive line in all of football – college or pro. So, as predicted, the Bama front seven throttled the Hogs running game, forcing them to reluctantly take to the air to move the football and while they made a few good plays, it wasn’t what Arkansas wanted to do at all. As a result, Alabama’s defense won their matchup and won the day.

Ground Hogs: First and foremost, credit has to go out to Bama’s big uns of A’Shawn Robinson (who played his best game of the season), Jarren Reed, Brandon Ivory (who played a key role) and DJ Pettway. The front line held the point of attack beautifully and allowed linebackers Trey DePriest and Reggie Ragland to come downhill and make plays. With each player doing their job, there were simply few if any running lanes for the piggies to exploit.

Livin on the Edge: To me, this was Bama’s best game from their outside linebackers and edge rushers. Ryan Anderson continues to make me proud game in and game out and Xzavier Dickson was huge in holding the edge and forcing the running plays back to the middle of the line. But, a guy who really stood out to me was…

Here I Come: I don’t know how many of you remember me gushing about Todd Williams last season but I continue to say he’s the best pure edge rusher on the team. In very limited action, he was involved in a sack and three pressures off the edge. Wanna know who forced that final pick to Landon Collins? Look no further than the Tim “The Tool Man” Williams. Look for him to play a role this week against A&M.

Lost Boys: For the majority of the season, middle linebackers Trey DePriest and Reggie Ragland have looked lost in coverage and unsteady with their assignments. DePriest has begun to emerge but on Saturday, it was Reggie Ragland who showed up big time with 12 tackles, most of which had a mean spirited nastiness. But, best of all, when Arkansas smartly challenged the backers with passes to their fullbacks out of the backfield (which happened a number of times) neither blew a coverage as they had done in previous games. In fact, this time DePriest was able to influence a critical turnover at the goal line because he was on his assigned back out of the backfield.

Funky Bunch: That damn bunch set bit us once again as the defense blew two consecutive coverages on it. The first time, Bama blitzed and forced Allen to make a quick decision, otherwise he would have been able to spot a receiver running free across the middle of the field as Cyrus Jones completely blew the coverage. The Hogs smartly came back to this play later and, once again, Jones blew the coverage and the receiver was wide open for a huge gainer.

Yer so Bad: Oy, that touchdown to their big tight end was so ugly. The big, lumbering tight end caught a crossing pattern against Geno Smith at the Bama 44 and Smith meekly fell down attempting to tackle him. That left Eddie Jackson with a clear path to fell the big Hog tree but first he took a bad angle and then he compounded his mistake by getting stiff armed to the ground as the big pig galloped to the end zone. So, some big white dude for Arkansas lumbered 44 yards for a touchdown against our defense. Wow.

You Can’t Hurry Love: Even though Bielema isn’t a hurry up kind of guy, Arkansas spent much of the game hurrying to the line of scrimmage in an attempt to get the Bama defense to misalign. The Tide D did a fantastic job of getting aligned and prepared so the quick snaps had little to no effect.

I’ll Be There for You: The defense was continually put in awful situations yet they always bailed the team out. Whether it was Christion Jones or Maurice Smith inexplicably touching a punt, Cyrus Jones fumbling or Blake Sims bumbling a 4th and 1, the defense met the challenge posed to them each and every time. The biggest play of the game was when Alabama shut down the nearly unstoppable Hogs on 4th and 1 right after Sims attempted his quarterback…what’s the opposite of a sneak? Anyway…

Anatomy of a Stop: With a line that averages 6’6 and 326 lbs, the Hogs have been nearly unstoppable in short yardage situations. However, facing a critical 4th and 1, the Tide D rose up and stuffed them for a game saving play around midfield. Here’s how it went…

  • A’Shawn Robinson got 2 yards of penetration at the snap which forced the Hog back (Williams) to bounce a little further outside than he wanted.
  • However, the key penetration on the play was Brandon Ivory who’s push into the backfield allowed Reggie Ragland a gap to shoot thru and make the first contact, forcing the running back to stumble.
  • After Ragland made the first hit, Dickson, who was holding the edge, was able to shed his block and stuff an off-balance Williams well short of the first down. Awesome!

Tidebits

I thought Alabama’s defense was far more aggressive during this game and they played with a physicality we really haven’t seen much of this season. Robinson was fantastic, as was Anderson and Williams but I simply can’t say enough good things about DePriest and Ragland. Evidently, Arkansas watched the same Bama games that I’ve watched (or maybe Bielema subscribes to the blog?) and they identified our backers as the weakest link, sending pass after pass to their backs out of the backfield. But, the backers had their best game of the season and the Tide walked out of Fayetteville with a win.

Bama on Offense

The defensive part of the write up was fun, eh? Props to the D for saving our bacon. But now we come to the part of the blog where things will take a bit of a different turn. Just one year ago the Tide rolled up 532 yards of offense against Arkansas, including a robust 352 on the ground. Absorb that for just a moment – last year we gained 352 yards on the ground. This year the Tide rushed for a mere 66 yards. In watching the tape, Bama typically ran at just a six or seven man front and usually had the Hogs outnumbered at the snap of the ball. Also, there were few, if any, missed assignments across the Tide front. So what happened?

For the second week in a row, an ultra conservative game plan didn’t really stress the opponent’s defense much at all. Nearly everything that Sims threw was short and the few times he threw the ball down the field he threw high and wide. He also missed some easy throws and he threw several passes that, at best, were ill advised. On the ground, while Alabama often had the blocking numbers, the right guard position failed to make their blocks time and time again. Also, Arie K (working on an injured ankle) appeared to have trouble getting to his blocks in time to have much effect. But, strangest of all, Alabama ran the same zone blocking scheme that produced cutback lanes galore last season. On Saturday do you remember seeing a cutback? Every play seemed to bounce further and further outside and the backs rarely looked to go against the flow of the play. I counted three plays where the backs actually took the ball and hit the hole at full speed. Three. The rest of the time they were chopping their feet, trying to avoid a big push coming against their right guard or center. Each man on the line knew his assignment, but often they were unable to either make or sustain their block.

What About Now: To me, the best offensive coordinators are the ones who can formulate a game plan that best suits the talents of his personnel. Right now, Lane Kiffin must be at a loss as to what to call. With teams playing a ton of zone and rolling their coverages to Amari Cooper, the ole let Cooper beat his man and throw him the ball play isn’t working. Teams have taken away the wide receiver screens and have played coverage, forcing Sims to survey the field and find the open man. The best plays in the last two weeks have been seam passes to OJ Howard but those seem to be called few and far between. The customary play action pass to Fowler actually drew triple coverage so the same ole same ole plays are not available. Until Kiffin finds some new throws and plays that Sims can execute, teams are going to play a ton of coverage and take away Cooper from the game plan. Where are the other innovative plays like the pop pass that sprung Howard on Saturday?

Throwing It All Away: Blake Sims was awesome in the first few games when he instinctively left the pocket and used his exceptional running ability. His execution of the zone read has always been outstanding, too. Yet, since his injury, Sims seems extremely reluctant to expose himself to hits and that seems to take away the one element that he can still bring to the table.

Rhythm is a Dancer: Even early on in the game, TJ Yeldon showed happy, dancing feet as soon as he got the ball. Sometimes there were holes where the play was designed but Yeldon chopped his feet, bounced and got tackled for a loss. Only twice did he take a handoff at close to full speed and both times he got 7+ yards.

One is the Loneliest: Numerous times my notes read something like this: “Run outside to strong side – we have numbers. Play setting up well until”…and then the reasons for a loss vary but it usually is one single breakdown on the offensive line. Austin Shepherd engaged but couldn’t keep block. Alphonse Taylor whiffed or is blown back into the backfield. Arie Kouandjio couldn’t get to his block. Bozeman pushed three yards into backfield. The main suspects in this game were whoever was at right guard (Leon Brown or Taylor) and Austin Shepherd but, as a unit, this was the O-lines worst game. Vogler showed up on the naughty list a few times as well. Once again Cam Robinson was stellar but the rest of the group consistently had at least one breakdown on nearly every running play resulting in a loss.

Abracadabra: It’s telling to me that both touchdowns were scored on a broken play. On the second touchdown, three Hogs jumped the play action pass to Fowler, leaving DeAndrew White standing alone in the end zone. It wasn’t the way the play was designed but it worked out. The other play was a Sims scramble that forced the linebackers to come up to tackle Sims. This left Yeldon wide open and he made a great play to score a touchdown.

For Your Eyes Only: On almost every single passing play, Sims’ first look is to Cooper. Three times he threw into double coverage and twice he hit the Arky defender between the numbers for what should have been a pick. In the event that Sims comes off of his first read, he appears to be lost as to where his second read should be and things quickly break down after that. And, even when he has plenty of time, he opts for the short throw rather than looking down the field.

Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot: That’s what Saban was asking after Sims tried to vault over a mass of humanity on a critical 4th & 1 – WTF? I have never seen what Sims did before and I hope I never see it again. Had the defense not bailed us out four downs later, this would have been the goat play of the game. Oh, and doesn’t Derrick Henry still play at Alabama? Might be a good idea to let that beast try and pick up a yard. Just sayin. He doesn’t dance much and he brings 245 lbs to the table.

WTF Part Deaux: With Arkansas hell bent on getting upfield and stopping the run late in the 4th quarter, Kiffin felt it would be a good idea to run a reverse to an injured Amari Cooper. This first down play lost five yards and forced an eventual punt. WTF?

Lefty Loosey: Can anyone recall a time Alabama ran a play that called for Blake Sims to roll to his left? Anyone? If you are strictly a right handed team then you are going to be easy to defend. Every play action roll was to the right. Every single one (and it’s been this way all season).

Outta My Head: Facing a 3rd and 1 that could have clinched the game, Alabama called a time out to set up the perfect play. Two plays earlier, Vogler had left the game due to an injury and Dakota Ball was called into action. After the time out, Ball trotted back out again to take his place at the tight end position. Unfortunately, Bobby Williams didn’t let Ball know that Vogler was ready to go back in so with both of them in the game the Tide was flagged for an inexcusable substitution penalty in a critical situation.

Tidebits

As good as the Bama defense was, the Tide offense was that bad. Nick Saban went into the season saying Alabama was going to get back to the physical style of play that would strike fear into the hearts of their opponents. However, six games into the season the Tide offense has yet to establish any kind of identity at all. If I were forced to define their identity, I’d say it was a finesse offense rather than a powerful one and I certainly don’t think anyone fears this group right now. If I’m right and Sims isn’t 100%, then that means the playbook Alabama has to work from is very limited (and it’s certainly been ultra conservative over the last two games). In asking my regular doctor about having a couple of surgeries, he told me that when my body isn’t allowing me to do everyday things then it’s time to have surgery. I’m not sold on Jake Coker by any means but IF Sims’s health is limiting the play calling and keeping the Alabama offense from doing what it wants to do then I think it would be a good idea to put Coker into the lineup. Yes, Sims’ teammates are strongly backing him but at this point there’s no denying that the offense hasn’t been as effective as it was pre-injury.

Also, coming into this season I felt it was a huge season for offensive line coach Mario Cristobal. While there’s no denying that he’s a phenomenal recruiter, his resume for coaching the O-line wasn’t what Joe Pendry’s or Jeff Stoutland’s was. Last year Alabama’s OL took an expected step back with Cristobal being the new OL coach and the loss of Fluker, Jones and Warmack, so everyone got a pass for last season. However, this year I don’t believe there should be any excuses. Six games into the season the Tide is still looking for a viable starter at right guard. The current players aren’t getting it done and evidently there isn’t a backup (Dominick Jackson) who has been prepared to take their spot. As a result the Bama offensive line has been underwhelming. Injuries to Ryan Kelly and Arie Koundjio certainly haven’t helped, either. During the last two weeks I’ve watched the zone blocking scheme either fail to cut the backside defenders to create a cutback lane or keep the defender from crossing their face and getting into the backfield. Could be the scheme. Could be the talent. Could be the coaching. Frankly, I have no idea what the issue is but I’ve seen the same issues plague the line during the last two games (with Arkansas being the worst by far). Maybe the upcoming bye week after Tennessee will allow them to work on the fundamentals or get someone else ready to play.

Conclusion 

I’m skipping the special teams section this week as there is not a lot to say that you don’t already know. Christion Jones and Maurice Smith made two of the worst decisions you can make on a punt and therefore turned the ball over. With the staff tired of Jones’ turnovers, Cyrus Jones was called into action and he promptly fumbled, too. How bizarre is that? At this point it’s gotta be in their heads so I’d almost just rush 11 and let the ball bounce freely. But the player of this game was JK Scott. Without his ability to flip the field, Bama would have lost that game.

So where do we go from here? I wish I knew. I also wish Kiffin and/or Saban knew. At some point I think you either have to cut Sims loose and allow him to do the things he can do with his feet or you need to find another option because the current offensive plan won’t allow Alabama to defeat any of the SEC teams left on their schedule. The defense may be coming around but rest assured Texas A&M, Mississippi State and Auburn will certainly score more than 13 points. And I’m not sure Alabama can.

So, tune in next week as we open up yet another candy in the 2014 box of chocolates known as Alabama football – as Forrest Gump would say, “You never know what you’re gonna get.”

W2W4 – Alabama vs Arkansas

This weekend’s game against Arkansas may be Nick Saban’s toughest challenge of the season. No, the opponent isn’t Bama’s toughest challenge – that’s not what makes this one so interesting. No, this game may be the toughest because it wasn’t supposed to be tough. This one is interesting because it wasn’t supposed to be interesting. Arkansas wasn’t supposed to be this good and Alabama certainly wasn’t supposed to have this many question marks. Somehow Nick Saban has to find a way to motivate and inspire this group to play their best football on a weekend that they weren’t supposed to have to gear up for. But maybe most interestingly, this week we’ll find out if Alabama’s football team can be a team that AJ McCarron can be proud of. Note to AJ – from what I hear from inside the locker room, there is actually more leadership on this year’s team. Hopefully that will shine thru on Saturday…

Last year’s game against Arkansas saw the bacon getting sizzled quickly. Hog balls, anyone? The Tide’s running game looked like the running of the pachyderms and these little piggies cried all the way home before the first half even ended. It was a rout. However, this year’s Bama team doesn’t appear to have the same thunderous punch in the running game and with the loss of Ryan Kelly and injuries to Arie Kouandjio and Blake Sims, moving the football will certainly be more of a challenge this year.

Defensively, Alabama and Nick Saban get to return to that classic good ole American version of smash mouth football. Where is Dave Neal for this “Big man on big man” tilt? Arkansas boasts the largest offensive line in the country – in college or the NFL – and they have two outstanding backs who can tote the rock. Also, Brandon Allen is healthy this season and is more of a weapon in the passing game than he was last year. So, as you can tell, this ain’t last year’s matchup.

As for the W2W4, know this: it’s not about Arkansas this week. No, this week it’s all about Alabama. If the Tide does what it should, then it should handle business and return to the Capstone as a more confident and resilient bunch. That’s what should happen….here’s what to watch for….

Alabama on Offense

Alabama’s approach against Ole Miss was extremely conservative but I continue to believe that is because Blake Sims isn’t 100% healthy. I also believe that Ole Miss’ secondary and defense against the passing game is exceptional, so Bama truly attacked them in the best way they thought possible – by hammering at them on the ground. Were it not for a ridiculous amount of penalties, drops and negative plays, Alabama could have stayed on schedule and been far more productive against the Rebels but, alas, that didn’t happen. This season, Alabama has continuted to hold it’s own feet at gunpoint, pulling the trigger time and shooting themselves in the foot and time again. This week, that has to stop. The Tide offense needs to begin to turn the corner where penalties and blocking assignments are concerned and get back to the mistake free football that is the hallmark of a Nick Saban coached team.

Oops I Did It Again: You may as well line up Brittany Spears on the offensive line because if she’d just lay there and take it then she’d save us at least five yards a pop. False starts. Snap infractions. Holding penalties. It’s been a ridiculous array of ineptitude and now that Arky fans think they have a chance to pull the upset, it’s going to be yet another hyped road environment for Blake Sims and the line. Time to get it together boys.

All Over You: Thankfully, the Arky front seven isn’t nearly as quick and aggressive as the Ole Miss front seven is and they don’t appear to be overly athletic. In particular, the Hog linebackers typically are easily blocked so even our overhauled Bama line should be able to complete their assignments and open up some holes on Saturday.

Twilight Zone: Perhaps it’s because the Hog linebackers don’t have the ability to play man but the Razorbacks appear to play a lot of zone coverage – similar to Ole Miss. Now, granted, I only watched Arkansas against A&M in preparation for this W2W4 so they could have just been playing a ton of zone due to the Aggie passing attack. Regardless, the Aggies roasted these little piggies deep numerous times so look for Amari Cooper to get loose a few times behind the secondary. I’d also like for DeAndrew White to remind folks that he’s still on the team, as well. Also, there’s a ton of room behind the linebackers on the deep in or dig routes – Auburn exposed this flaw repeatedly when they faced off earlier this season.

*Note: I continue to be more and more impressed with Chris Black and would like to see him out there more often.

Swing Dancin: The corners for Arkansas like to drop pretty deep so the deep slot between them and the deep safeties is a really tight squeeze (they nearly picked the Aggies three different times on this particular throw). However, because the corners drop so deep, swing passes to the running backs in the flats should be wide open. It’s too bad Tyren Jones appears to be injured as he could excel in this type of open space.

Back to Life, Back to Reality: When you watch Ole Miss’ defense on tape, their speed and tenacity really pops off the screen. When you watch Arkansas’ defense, nothing really stands out except for missed tackles. Darius Philon, a former member of a Bama recruiting class until he was told that instead of having a scholarship offer he’d have to greyshirt, did show up several times against the A&M center so Bradley Bozeman may have a tough assignment on Saturday. However, I thought Bozeman (a greyshirt recruit, himself) acquitted himself very well as a blocker and only needs to elevate his shotgun snaps in order to get a passing grade.

O.J. Can You See?: No one had a worse game against the Rebs than OJ Howard so I’m really curious to see how the staff rewards him with playing time. His blocking was atrocious and you know they are sick and tired of his costly holding penalties. We’ll see how much time he gets on the field on Saturday

Bleed it Out(side): A&M got out wide on a reverse and on a couple of sweeps and that seemed to expose the lack of team speed of the Hog defenders. Last year these types of running plays made the Hogs squeal so look for several running plays to go outside the tackles.

Conclusion

If Alabama can’t get back to being a competent offensive team against the Hogs then we will be in big trouble the rest of this season. This is not a good defensive team and they seem more than content with sitting in zones and hoping for other teams to make mistakes. Prior to the beginning of the season, Nick Saban said he wanted to get back that physical ass kickin’ style of football that he originally brought to the Capstone so after a miserable failing at this in the Grove, this Saturday will be the perfect opportunity to practice a little “make his ass quit.”

Alabama on Defense

Here comes the boom! Here comes the boom! The Razorback offensive line is the biggest one in all of football and they are not just big – they are talented. They have produced gaping holes throughout the season against smaller, inferior defensive linemen who were probably better suited to stop today’s spread attacks than today’s road graders. However, Nick Saban is Bret Bielema’s huckleberry as he has the beefy, girthy, physical defensive line that is the kryptonite to this attack. The Hogs will call for several play action passes that could produce some open receivers but, by and large, they do not possess the type of talented skill players at receiver that the rest of the conference seems to enjoy. It will be a man’s game in the trenches and the thought here is that the Tide defense is geared to stop this kind of attack, so long as they can man up on Saturday. Given the team’s mood coming out of Oxford, this shouldn’t be a problem.

DRAW!: Arkansas’ favorite play is the lead draw. The tackles appear to pass set, inviting the defensive ends to come up the field to rush the passer. They then shove the ends up the field and the fullback or Hback comes downhill and wipes out the linebacker assigned to that gap. The rest of the line is typically able to engage and hold their blocks so this creates a pretty sizable hole for the backs to run thru. A&M adjusted to this in their game by not sending their ends flying up the field. Once they did this, they seemingly began to win the line of scrimmage more times than not as the game wore on.

Where’s the Beef: Arkansas isn’t subtle. They like to put 8 or 9 guys up around the line of scrimmage, employing two tight ends and a fullback in a 100% run look. They want you to know they are coming right at you and they don’t care that you know it’s coming. Grab your lunch pail boys, you’re going to work.

Wiggle, Wiggle, Wiggle: The two Arkansas running backs are outstanding. Alex Collins is a former five star running back but, to me, Jonathan Williams looks to be the better of the two. He has size and decent speed but his patience and strength are next level attributes. However, what sets him apart is his ability to shake and bake. He’s more than a handful in one on one situations so if you meet him in the open field, you might wanna phone a friend.

She’s So Tight: Hunter Henry, the Arky tight end, is their main threat in the passing game and they love to spring him loose on play action passes. The Razorbacks are deadly good in short yardage situations so Bielema likes to sometimes take a deep shot to a tight end off of play action in a 2nd and short or 3rd and short situation. I think he knows that if they miss the pass, they’ll just pick it up on fourth down.

The Thunder Rolls: Trey DePriest and Reggie Ragland will be in their element on Saturday and it will be up to them to avoid the blocks of the center and the backs in order to make plays. They have been woeful in pass coverage but should excel at these fist fights in a phone booth.

Funky Bunch: Arkansas loves to run the toss sweep out of a bunch formation. They actually run a couple of different plays out of this look but they primarily like to bunch their receiver and tight ends next to the tackle and then use them to crack down on the defense so that their backs can get the edge. Look for this funky bunch formation quite a bit.

Breakdown: Similar to Alabama, Arkansas can ill afford to get behind the chains as they are not equipped to convert third and longs. As good as their O-line is, they were caught for tripping, holding and false starts against the Aggies. If they get behind the chains, there’s a better chance that Katy Perry is sober than there is for Arkansas to convert a first down.

Conclusion

I don’t mean to minimize the Hogs’ ability to threaten the Bama defense but it just so happens that Saban’s behemoths were born to stop this style of attack. A’shawn Robinson (where has he been?), Jarren Reed, Dalvin Tomlinson, DJ Pettway and Brandon Ivory should all be right at home knocking heads against these big pigs. Even DePriest and Ragland should be in their element on Saturday. With Ryan Anderson and Xzavier Dickson on the edges, the Tide shouldn’t give up much outside the tackles so it will take the Arkansas fans quite a while to call these hogs into the end zone. The one big fear that I have is that they will find a way to isolate our linebackers and safeties on play action, as that will likely lead to some big plays down the field.

Special Teams

As bad as the offense was (scoring 10 points) last week and as bad as the defense was last week (giving up three touchdowns in a little more than a quarter), the goat in the Grove was the Bama special teams. Other than JK “Great” Scott, special teams were a complete disaster. We will need to see some renewed venom on kick coverage (Arkansas is 2nd in the conference in return average) and we will likely see a new kick returner this week, as well. As for Adam Griffith, I still think he’s a talented kicker and I actually gave him some props for coming back and hitting a critical field goal against Ole Miss after missing badly on his first two attempts.

On the other side of the ledger, the Hogs’ place kicker is just 2 of 4 this season with one gigantic miss against Texas A&M that essentially lost them the game. Arkansas is ranked 6th in punting average at 43.2 (Bama is first at 48.5!) and they give up over six yards per return so this could be an opportunity to break one.

Prediction

Alabama is the far more talented team on both sides of the ball – all those #1 recruiting classes should show up quite well this week. Arkansas’ strengths happen to be our strengths so there should be very few advantages for the Hogs going into this game. If Alabama can find a way to stop shooting themselves in the foot then you should see an improved offense. I also think that you’ll see Alabama open up the offense a bit in this game in order to take advantage of their numerous four and five star athletes. They’ll open it up not because of AJ McCarron’s comments but because the staff won’t be as scared of committing a turnover in this game. I think the Tide wins comfortably Saturday. If they don’t, well, there won’t be many other opportunities on the schedule for this ailing offense to get well.

Final Score: Alabama 31      Arkansas 14

The Ole Miss Game Review – It’s Not Pretty

For Ole Miss, it was the perfect day. For Alabama, it was the perfect storm. After scoring what should have been a death blow touchdown at the end of the first half, Alabama had the Rebs right where they had put them in every other game since Coach Nick Saban first came to Alabama. It was obvious that Alabama was about to run away with another victory over Ole Miss. Yep, once again the brightest of lights were forcing the Black Bears into hibernation and it was Alabama who prepared to feast on the one dimensional offense that forced Bo Wallace to carry the game on his shoulders. This game was everything we expected it to be…until it wasn’t.

On the biggest day of buildup in Ole Miss’ history, it was the Rebels who seized the day and seized the plays in the second half. Instead of relishing and reveling in the bright spotlights, it was the Crimson Tide who receded at every turn and, in the last five minutes, it became a low Tide, indeed. Say what you will about Alabama gift wrapping the game with bows of turnovers, penalties and missed kicks but it was Hugh Freeze and Bo Wallace who won this day. Simply put, it was Ole Miss who looked like they’d been there before while Alabama looked like they weren’t sure where they were. And while Katy Perry and the rest of Oxford celebrated into the wee hours of the morning, Alabama doesn’t have any time to drown their sorrows as it only gets tougher from here…

Alabama on Offense

Quite honestly, I believe our Friday W2W4 on Ole Miss was about as good as it gets. We warned that the Ole Miss zone defense was extremely difficult to throw against and we begged Alabama to run the ball between the tackles with authority. The Tide offense did have success in running between the tackles but, as we warned, when the Bama backs attempted to bounce the runs outside they were tackled for a loss. In fact, six plays went for negative yardage, nearly all of which played a crucial role in stopping drives and settling for field goals. Combined with the 8 penalties on the offense (one was declined and I am counting a block in the back on the final kick return here), two missed field goals and two turnovers Alabama simply could not overcome the self-inflicted bullet wounds to both feet. In fact, this has been a disturbing trend this season as penalties and turnovers have been the order of the day, only this time the Old Black Bear Mississippi Rebels had a cause and it was the Tide that left Mississippi burning…

Negative Vibes: When it’s a quarterback’s first time starting on the road in a hostile environment and he’s not playing at 100%, it’s imperative that the offense stays “on schedule”. This means no negative plays. No penalties. No huge losses of yardage. No missed opportunities. No settling for field goals. If you want to know why Alabama’s offense only scored 10 points, here’s a sampling as to why:

  • First Bama drive of the game: On 2nd and 8, after Brian Vogler was blown up at the point of attack, Derrick Henry tried to bounce outside and lost two yards setting up a 3rd and 10 from the Ole Miss 34. A Sims scramble forced a long 46 yard field goal that was the first missed opportunity of the game. Alabama had been hammering away with the running game but the poor blocking and poor decision to bounce outside cost Bama this drive. PS – if Kelly could have held his block on first down, that play would have gone for big yardage.
  • Second drive: OJ Howard dropped a pass that would have easily converted a third down around midfield. This was the first of many gaffes on the day for Howard. Four straight passes – punt.
  • Third drive: A false start by Arie K resulted in 1st and 15. A short hopped throw and a dropped interception resulted in a conciliatory draw to Yeldon on 3rd and 15. Punt.
  • Fourth drive: A really nice drive ended with a 3rd and 1 at the Bama 46. 3rd and 1 should have been a layup against the undersized Rebs but was anything but. Yeldon, led by Fowler, ran right off tackle behind Leon Brown, Austin Shepherd and Brian Vogler. On the play, a woefully undersized Denzell Nkemdiche spun off of the Vogler “block”, taking out Fowler and the edge in the process. Meanwhile, Leon Brown couldn’t hold his block so when Yeldon was forced to cut back inside, the inside pursuit swallowed him whole. Loss of one. Punt. On this drive, Alabama began to pound the left side, using a numerical and girthy advantage to nearly break two long runs. Had they converted this 3rd and 1, I believe they would have scored b/c they did so on their next possession.
  • First drive of 2nd Half: Alabama marched to the Ole Miss 24 but Sims lost six yards when he misread a zone read and then he lost another 4 yards when he stepped out of bounds instead of just throwing the ball out of bounds. An inspiring drive faltered from a makeable 41 yard field goal to a missed 51 yard field goal. Ole Miss scored to make it 14-10 four plays later and the game was never the same.
  • Second drive: After a 53 yard pass to OJ Howard, Alabama was entrenched at the Rebel 15 when Derrick Henry tried to bounce a run outside, losing nine yards. NINE! Of course the reason he had to bounce the play outside is because OJ Howard wasn’t ready at the snap and allowed immediate penetration into the backfield (and he committed a holding penalty to boot but it was declined). On the next play, Leon Brown committed his usual penalty (this time a false start) and suddenly Alabama faced 3rd and 20 from the Ole Miss 29! The drive ended in a field goal but it should have been a touchdown and a definitive answer to Ole Miss’ touchdown.
  • Last drive: You guys already know this one so I don’t really have to go in depth on it. Blake Sims converted a first down at the Ole Miss 19 but OJ Howard was called for holding AGAIN. Instead of 1st and 10 at the Rebs 19, it was 2nd and 13 from the Ole Miss 32. Howard had a chance at redemption when Sims lofted a pass into the end zone for the 6’6 tight end but instead of reaching up for the ball, Howard kept his arms down by his shoulders thereby allowing the 5’9 Rebel defender to outreach him for the interception.

Ohh J Howard: What a horrific game for Howard. Two dropped passes, two penalties, several missed blocks, including one drive killer, and the inexplicably poor attempt to go up for that final pass in the end zone. If you go back and watch it, the ball was lofted and Howard adjusted his route to match the flight of the ball. But, instead of reaching upwards with his arms to high point the ball, Howard kept running and left his arms down beneath his neck and shoulders. You can debate Sims throwing into double coverage but there’s no debate that Howard had an absolutely horrible game in a game that he was finally a featured part of the attack. He clearly can’t be trusted blocking (you’ll remember in a critical 4th quarter possession he was the culprit who was holding against Auburn last season) so that makes it hard to put him in as an every down tight end.

Here’s to You, Mr Robinson: Each week we see snap infractions, delay of games and false starts by the offensive line but they are never on the true freshman left tackle. Pretty incredible.

Silent Night (or Afternoon): We are accustomed to seeing Derrick Henry burst thru the line and dumptruck opponents but in this game he never seemed to have a pure running lane. Instead, he seemed to be chopping his feet more than normal and it never seemed to allow the Henry wrecking ball to get up to full speed.

Man on the Run: I thought overall TJ Yeldon had a very good game. There was one play that I really wish he had just put his head down and gotten the extra yard needed for a first down. It ended up being a critical play as Alabama was trying get off their own goal line in the 4th quarter leading 17-10. Yeldon burst up the middle for 7 yards but instead of lowering his shoulder and taking the impact that would net that final needed yard, he cut to his left and was chopped down immediately. Ole Miss scored three plays later to tie the game at 17.

Livin on the Edge: Soooo many running plays were one block away from being big gainers. Credit Ole Miss’ defense for their ability to shed blocks and make one on one tackles. Overall, the line did an ok job as most of the losses in yardage came from poor blocks from the tight ends. I will say that Ryan Kelly got pushed around a good bit before he left due to a knee injury and that was a bit of a surprise.

Emergency: I’m not sure I’ve seen anything more disturbing than watching and listening to Kenyan Drake after he broke his leg. It was awful. Watching the replay, I knew it was coming and it was positively just as awful the second time around. Later, losses to Kelly at center and Denzell Devall thinned the ranks even further. Now, two days after the game, it was discovered that Arie Kouandjio is walking around in a boot. Oh, and we may have mentioned that Blake Sims isn’t healthy. After watching him inexplicably bounce three different passes, I can’t imagine he’s 100%.

Tidebits

As predicted, it was a conservative approach focused on implementing a power running attack and keeping Blake Sims and his arm out of harms way.  Ole Miss’ defense was as advertised and their pursuit basically negated the wide receiver screen, probably the staple of the Tide offensive attack. Cooper was targeted on this play four or five times, all for very little yardage. Also, it was amazing to go back and watch Alabama line up with clear numerical blocking advantages to the side the runs were called and then see the Rebel defenders swarm in to close the gaps. Second level blocks were extremely difficult to make as the smaller, quicker Rebs managed to avoid several blocks (our WRs and TEs had a difficult time) and made saving tackles. Last point – don’t underestimate the losses of Drake and Kelly had on this game as their losses had a huge impact. Drake was a key part of the game plan and while Kelly was in there were no issues with clock management and getting the snaps off. Also, Kelly’s snaps were accurate whereas Bozeman’s were all very low and resulted in throwing off the timing of the plays.

Alabama on Defense

As we stated on Friday, Ole Miss could not, would not and did not run the ball against the Bama front six. Facing a QB who could formerly best be described as erratic, the feeling here was that the defensive line would overwhelm the Rebs’ o-line and force Wallace into his customary “Bad Bo Wallace” big stage persona. However, armed with several big play receivers, we warned that plays would be available down the field against the Bama linebackers and Cyrus Jones if they were forced to play coverage for long periods of time. However, since the Ole Miss line was absolutely overrun over by Memphis we expected the Bama D to do the same. Well, obviously that didn’t happen.

Coach Saban is famous for saying “if you do the same things over and over again then you will get the same results over and over again.” As we pointed out against West Virginia earlier in the year, Alabama once again didn’t blitz and simply tried to play coverage against Wallace, giving him time and space to survey the field and make accurate throws. Instead of allowing pressure, the Black Bear line mauled Bama’s front four and rarely, if ever, had to face a fifth defender from a blitz. This was a recipe for disaster. On the final death blow from Wallace, Hugh Freeze bunched his wide receivers to the right, faking a screen and hitting Jalen Mathers on a wheel route. The formation locked Mathers against Landon Collins and exposed the Bama coverage scheme. Instead of Saban tightening the noose around the one armed, one dimensional Ole Miss offense, it was the Rebels who seemed to have all the answers in the second half. Once again, the Bama secondary was exposed and with Texas A&M, Mississippi State and Auburn on the horizon, you should know that if something doesn’t change with the defense then you can expect this result again. Bama’s D can’t simply rush four and hope the opponent screws up – offenses, quarterbacks and receivers are far too good for that plan to work week in and week out. Credit Hugh Freeze and the Ole Miss offense for finding and using their bunch and trips formations to confuse and abuse the Tide secondary.

Wide Open Spaces: It seems every week we lament the fact that Trey DePriest and Reggie Ragland cannot cover in space and Ole Miss exploited this to the Nth degree in the second half of the game. And these are just the plays they completed, people. The one time Alabama sent Trey DePriest on a blitz thru the A gap (next to the center), Reggie Ragland blew the coverage and left TWO receivers wide open. But, the effectiveness of the blitz (the only one we called) forced an early, errant throw. There were several times when the linebackers neither covered nor rushed as they just kind of muddled around until they knew for sure the back would stay in to block. Then they would take a couple of steps towards the line of scrimmage but by that time the ball was already being delivered. Look for your better passing teams to absolutely scorch these two in pass coverage.

Land of Confusion: Where to begin. Personally, I love Gary Danielson (referred to as GD by some of you, I’m sure) because he breaks the plays down and does a fantastic job in illustrating what’s going wrong. For example, as poor ole Verne had a come apart because there was no flag thrown when Jonathan Allen raced to get off the field before the snap, Gary calmly told us that when Allen left Alabama HAD ONLY TEN MEN ON THE FIELD! How does that even happen? But, this segment is really about the secondary and blown coverages. Remember, with no pressure on the QB then he has time to allow different route combinations to work their magic against the coverages. So when Landon Collins bit on a route down the middle designed to take him away from the back, it opened up an easy throw to the back down the sidelines on a wheel route. Or, when Landon Collins bit on a different route over the middle that was designed to suck him in, Bo Wallace could then easily throw the ball over him for a touchdown to Sanders. There were at least three other near misses where Ole Miss essentially had uncovered routes all over the field. At one point, Ole Miss had to actually call a time out because they were so confused by the fact that Alabama stupidly lined up only ONE defender against a trips left look. The rest of the time, Alabama would have two defensive backs lined up against the trips formations and would use Trey DePriest as the third man in coverage.   I think we all know how that went.

Tired of Excuses: Tired of excuses is not a song title but, rather, it’s an intense feeling that I have that I feel I need to share. Like it or not, lately the Alabama defense has made mediocre QBs look like rock stars. Johnny Manziel set a historic passing record against a team that had a year to prepare for him. Trevor Knight looked like the second coming of Peyton Manning against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl (he’s currently ranked 70th in passing efficiency and he was horrid last year with the exception of one single solitary game). Clint Trickett (who?) scorched Alabama for nearly 400 yards passing in the opener this season. And Saturday the Tide D turned Good/Bad Bo Wallace into GREAT Bo Wallace. At some point we need to realize that rushing four and playing coverage and hoping that the QBs make mistakes isn’t working. With no pass rush and a limited back seven any average QB is going to make some hay. This has been tried…this has been proven. At some point you run out of excuses and have to point out the trend.

Quit Jammin’ Me: On the flip side, Alabama suffocates the running game like no other. This should give the Tide a leg up against run first teams like Arkansas, LSU and Auburn. Alabama’s ends stuff the fly sweeps in such a way that it essentially negates the running game of these spread teams and it forces everything back into the middle of the field. Xzavier Dickson had a great game in this respect.

Chess: It was fun watching the cat and mouse game between Hugh Freeze and Kirby Smart. Freeze watched the way that the Bama linebackers reacted to the fly sweep and then used that to his advantage when he could. Motioning the fly sweeps and/or the backs out of the backfield would oftentimes move Trey DePriest out of the middle of the defense. This opened up at least two different QB draws that gained first downs. Alabama eventually stopped sending DePriest out with the motion and kept him at home in the middle of the defense. In some formations, Alabama used their slot corner to blitz into the fly sweeps and this caused Freeze to just use them as a distraction…

You Found Me: The back shoulder fades, when thrown on time, are virtually unstoppable. You knew they’d find Cyrus Jones and they did. Credit Jones for being in about as good of coverage as you can be in most of the time. Also, credit Jones for making what should have been the death blow to Ole Miss’ chances. Great play by Jones to strip, scoop and score a touchdown before the half!

Bat Men: I think there were three or four Bo Wallace passes that were deflected but there were numerous other throws that were near misses. I didn’t realize this during the game but it was uncanny the number of times the ball was nearly knocked down at the line.

Ain’t That Unusual: That was the worst game I’ve ever seen from Landon Collins. He missed an easy tackle in space and he blew four coverages that I can think of. Pretty shocking.

Tidebits

Maybe I’m overreacting but I saw the exact same issues I saw against West Virginia play out this past Saturday. No pass rush. Linebackers exposed in coverage. Completely blown coverages where defenders are somehow running free in the Bama secondary. Frankly, the score should have been worse. While Bama fans bellyache about two missed field goals it’s helpful to know that the Rebs missed a chip shot themselves. Evan Engram had a ball tickle off his fingertips or else Wallace throws for FOUR touchdowns and no interceptions. A couple of batted balls and a hurried throw eliminated other wide open receivers from catching passes. Sitting back in a 4-2-5 and hoping the opposing offense screws up is suicide and sooner or later if you keep handing the QB the knife he’ll eventually be glad to slit your throat. Alabama lined up ONE pressure over the center and blitzed DePriest, resulting in a hurried throw and an incompletion (although they did admittedly have two receivers wide ass open as a result). There were a couple of delayed blitzes called but, by the time they delayed and blitzed, they were neither in coverage nor pressuring the QB – they were in no man’s land! I could go on but this is the same thing we saw against A&M and Oklahoma last year and West Virginia this year. And if you are going to play a “bend but don’t break” style of defense in the hopes your foe will screw up, at least hold them to field goals. Three consecutive touchdowns in the second half were knockout punches. Hold them to one field goal and the situation isn’t nearly as dire at the end of the game.

Alabama on Special Teams

Alabama was outplayed in all three phases of the game but none was more critical or extreme than special teams. The game began with a low kick and a 54 yard return and only got worse from there. With the exception of the exceptional JK Scott and his howitzer punts the entire special teams were a complete disaster. We even got a delay of game on a punt! On the first kickoff, the Tide got creased easily as Derrick Henry, Rashaan Evans and Landon Collins all were removed from their lanes and on the first play of the game Ole Miss was off to the races. Later, Adam Griffith had to make another touchdown saving tackle on yet another kickoff return. WTF? And, of course, we are all aware of the fumbled kickoff that essentially cost Alabama the game and we know all about the missed 51 and 46 yard field goals. Put it this way, if a dog named Special Teams swallowed a diamond, JK Scott would be the one shining object in a big pile of shit.

Conclusion

I truly believe that we Alabama fans will look back on this game and kick ourselves repeatedly until we just grow numb. This was a very winnable game against a very beatable opponent. I continue to believe that Ole Miss ranks below Mississippi State, Auburn, A&M and Alabama (yes, I know, they beat us head to head) in talent and I believe at the end of the year the standings will bear this out. While I still (yes, still) believe Alabama is the better team, they simply cannot be a better team when they are severely outplayed in all three phases of the football game. This is not your brother’s 2009 or 2011 defense so the offense will have to carry the load in most games. Six negative yardage plays, eight penalties, two dropped passes, two missed field goals and two turnovers cannot be overcome by this year’s team. It’s just that simple.

Also, you should know that there are much better teams on the horizon for Alabama who can better take advantage of the Tide’s coverage woes. If you think giving up three touchdowns to Ole Miss in a little more than a quarter was bad, it will most definitely get worse for the defense. And, with Blake Sims playing hurt, Kenyan Drake and Ryan Kelly out and Arie K hobbled, I don’t see how things will get better any time soon on offense.

So welcome to the 2014 box of chocolates version of the Alabama Crimson Tide. Tune in each Saturday because you’ll never quite know what you are getting when the game kicks off!