Alabama football: 5 key observations from Tide's 10-0 start
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — We’re 10 games through the 2018 season, and Alabama remains on top the college football world.
The Crimson Tide has won 10 or more games in 11 consecutive years under head coach Nick Saban. Alabama has The Citadel on Saturday before hosting Auburn for the Iron Bowl to close out the regular season. With the SEC West already wrapped up, Alabama will face Georgia in the SEC Championship Game in a rematch of the national championship last season.
Here are five things that have stood out about Alabama’s season thus far.
The offense is explosive (even against good defenses)
Alabama’s offense has come back to Earth a bit, but the Crimson Tide is still a one of the more explosive units in the country, led by quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and a stocked group of skill players. Alabama is third in the nation in scoring offense at 48.6 points per game. Only Utah State (51.3) and Oklahoma (49) average more. It’s setting records for consecutive 20-point victories.
@AlabamaFTBL continues to roll like no other.
The Crimson Tide already had the longest streak of 20-point wins to start a season in the last 40 years.
Now, they've tied the undefeated 2002 Boise State team for the longest at ANY point of a season over that span. pic.twitter.com/Mc1TeAho7Z
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 11, 2018
Alabama is second in the country in yards per play at 7.76. The past two weeks have shown that even if Alabama isn’t hanging 50 or more on you, it can still make explosive plays against talented defenses.
The defense is still elite
Everyone had questions about this defense coming into the season. Could they replace all the NFL talent that was lost? Who would step up in the secondary? Would the defensive line be able to stop the run?
Alabama has answered those questions and exceeded expectations with two games remaining. Alabama just shut out ranked opponents in back-to-back games for the first time — ever. Clearly the defense is peaking at the right time. After those shutouts, Alabama is tied with Clemson as the top scoring defenses in the country at 12.7 points per game.
The offense has scored fewer than 30 the past two games, but it hasn’t come close to mattering. Alabama’s defense is out to remind everyone that it is still one of the top units in the country.
Clemson? No, this defensive line is one of the best in the country
Arguably the most impressive part of Alabama’s defense has been the play of its defensive line, particularly the top three guys in Isaiah Buggs, Raekwon Davis and Quinnen Williams.
Buggs leads the team and is tied for 4th in the country with 9.5 sacks. Davis has posted 36 tackles and 4.5 tackles for loss.
Williams has been the breakout player in all of college football. He’s racked up 5 sacks and 14 tackles for loss (second in the SEC). This group has been able to get pressure on the quarterback without Alabama having to send extra blitzers.
We should also mention outside linebacker Christian Miller, who sometimes serves as an extra linemen giving his pass rushing ability from the outside linebacker spot. Miller has 7.5 sacks on the year.
A lot of juniors will have NFL decisions to make after the season
There are at least eight underclassmen who’ll have to sit with their families and Nick Saban in the coming weeks to discuss whether they will enter the NFL Draft or return to Alabama: Quinnen Williams, Irv Smith Jr., Raekwon Davis, Josh Jacobs, Jonah Williams, Mack Wilson, Deionte Thompson and Anfernee Jennings.
Jonah Williams feels like a lock. He’s been a projected top-5 pick since he stepped on campus 3 years ago. Quinnen Williams has played himself into a projected top-10 pick, so it’s hard to envision a scenario where he returns.
Deionte Thompson is a projected first-round pick. Irv Smith Jr. has the game NFL teams love out of tight ends now — he can block and line up as a receiver. Raekwon Davis is a projected first-round pick. Mack Wilson is in several mocks as well. Josh Jacobs and Anfernee Jennings will also have to decide what they want to do as their stocks have risen. Alabama fans should be used to this by now.
Alabama’s quarterback situation is really interesting right now
Tagovailoa’s knee injury is arguably the most followed storyline in the country because his status impacts the Playoff.
With a healthy Tagovailoa, Alabama has looked unstoppable. But Tagovailoa hasn’t looked healthy the past few weeks despite Saban saying he is OK.
Making matters worse is Alabama’s backup quarterback, Jalen Hurts, is on the shelf with an ankle injury. Having a healthy Hurts would give Alabama fans confidence they could still beat anyone in the country. But have Tagovailoa and Hurts limited makes things tricky as we approach the final stretch of the season.
If you’re an Alabama fan, you’re probably hoping Saban limits Tagovailoa against The Citadel and allows Mac Jones to take the majority of the reps. Last thing you want is for an injury to Tagovailoa before the SEC Championship Game against Georgia.