Published October 22, 2012 - 3:10pm
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Just when you thought Alabama was a ball-controlled, non-sexy offensive team that just wins with a superior defense and a game manager at quarterback, think again. This team is growing as an offense and is identifying new playmakers each and every week, led by the demanding Nick Saban and the aforementioned AJ McCarron, who hasn’t even yielded a turnover yet in seven games and has thrown 16 touchdowns.
Yeah, I realize Tennessee’s defense is wretched, but the Vols’ offensive firepower (averaging 38 points per game) was supposed to test the Tide, right? It didn’t happen. And the biggest takeaway wasn’t that Bama held the Vols 25 points below their scoring average, it was that the offense is peaking at just the right time. Including Saturday night, Alabama has scored over 30 points in all seven games.
Weathered veteran AJ McCarron turned in an impactful game, completing 17 of 22 passes for 306 yards and four touchdowns. The most impressive part of McCarron is his time in the pocket to throw the football. The Bama maulers up front give him ample time to look over his options and find the open man. Few have that kind of luxury or time. Defensive backs can’t cover wide receivers for more than three or four seconds, and McCarron has a few seconds to spare, because pass rushers aren’t laying a hand on him. He’s becoming a legitimate Heisman contender and leads the country in passing efficiency.
Before the bye week, we said that if there was one aspect that Alabama could improve upon it would be the running game. At the time, the Tide were averaging 185 yards rushing per game on the ground. In the last two weeks, the Tide have rushed for 362 yards and 233 yards in back-to-back weeks. It must get boring from time to time to just utterly dominate your opponents. The bye week, perhaps, could have been the motivating factor for Saban to once again remind his players of their goal – play to Alabama’s standards, not to anyone else’s.
The emergence of wide receiver Amari Cooper will have the biggest impact down the stretch. Cooper’s ability to be McCarron’s go-to receiver on third downs and be a big-play receiver makes the running game more potent. He’s the Tide’s best receiver since Julio Jones. Cooper caught seven passes for 162 yards and two touchdowns Saturday, and one screen pass he housed was called back due to a penalty. He totals a team-high 28 receptions for 425 yards and five touchdowns. He, too, is peaking at the right time.
The stellar play of the defense, which leads the country in every major statistical category, has allowed the offense to evolve and identify playmakers as the season progresses. And two freshmen – RB TJ Yeldon and Cooper – will be the biggest skill position impact players down the stretch. It’s crucial both stay healthy and get ample touches each week.
Tide BCS Talk
Much has been made about Alabama’s resume, or lack thereof, thus far. Oregon keeps dropping due to the lack of opponents, while Alabama holds true at #1 because they pass the eye test only. Bama has beaten only one currently ranked team in the BCS in #22 Michigan. But Alabama doesn’t care if it drops to #2, 3 or 4 in the rankings. This team is focused on how they finish, not how the rankings look in week nine. To be the best, you have to beat the best. And after Saturday’s performance on the road, no doubt the Tide is the best team in the country, weaker schedule or not.
Oct. 27: #11 Mississippi State
Nov. 3: #6 LSU
Nov. 10: #20 Texas A&M
Nov. 17: Western Carolina
Nov. 24: Auburn
Just in the next three games, Alabama plays the best team Mississippi State has fielded in several years, a legit national title contender in LSU and arguably the top Heisman candidate heading into last Saturday in Johnny Manziel. With that, Alabama plays three ranked teams back-to-back-to-back, not to mention another top ten SEC team in Atlanta. It will surely silence critics. And before everyone gets all up in arms about the BCS, remember, it’s arguably gotten the best two teams in the national championship every year – except maybe in 2004 when Auburn was left out.
Alabama is the best team in the country, and they are becoming a more complete team altogether.