Alabama football: Reassessing the top-ranked Crimson Tide after a 3-0 start
Believe it or not, the college football regular season just finished its first quarter on Saturday. Time flies when you’re having fun.
Alabama seems to be enjoying itself. Time has to be flying at a record pace with all the fun that the Crimson Tide are having this season. However, to casual fans, this Alabama team seems like it’s stuck in time. Bama’s offense is still its same dominant self of last year, right? Not even close.
This Alabama team seems like last year’s national championship team in that they are elite. However, there are differences. The 2021 Alabama defense may be better than it was last season. The 2021 offense still has some room to grow before they reach last year’s status. If Alabama’s offensive skill players start playing anything like their predecessors last year, the 2021 team may be unbeatable.
Never mind the particulars, this Alabama team is really, really good. Here are some early season questions that Bama has answered well:
What have we learned in the first 3 games?
It only took about 2 quarters of play this season to learn that Alabama’s first-year starting quarterback, Bryce Young, was ready to replace Mac Jones, who many thought was the best college quarterback in the nation last year. So far, Young is living up to Jones.
He already has 2 wins against ranked teams — though Miami clearly was overrated. Overall, he’s thrown 7 TD passes without producing an interception.
Young has faced a ranked opponent with multiple defensive approaches. That didn’t affect him. Young was affected only slightly by his first true road game on Saturday at Florida. The Crimson Tide won 31-29.
Young seemed a bit frazzled at times and ran the play clock down further than Alabama head coach Nick Saban admitted he would have liked. Still, with difficulty communicating because of the loud crowd, Young played well. Young completed 22-of-33 passes for 249 yards 3 touchdowns and no interceptions. It would be difficult to ask for a better performance on the road against the No. 11 team in the country.
Should we revise those preseason expectations?
Absolutely not. Alabama was considered the top team in college football and a strong contender to win the College Football Playoff. I haven’t seen anything this season to think that’s not attainable. Alabama should be considered a strong contender to win a championship even if they slip up and lose a game this season.
Which players have emerged?
Alabama fans knew about Young. Now, he’s a household name. Young looks like he’ll be a Heisman finalist. Running backs Brian Robinson Jr. and Trey Sanders have picked up the slack for former Alabama back Najee Harris. Wide receiver Jameson Williams, a transfer, has been spectacular. He leads the Tide in receiving yards and yards per catch (22.7). I’m not sure most expected TE Cameron Latu to share the team lead in TD receptions, either, but he does. He and Williams have 2.
The entire defense has also emerged, led by Tennessee transfer Henry To’o To’o. After arriving on campus, the linebacker has taken over calling the defensive plays and emerged as a leader. To’o To’o was expected to play early, but no one expected an impact so early.
Who has disappointed?
Losing linebacker Christopher Allen to a season-ending knee injury was a disappointment, but it certainly wasn’t his fault when he was sidelined early against Miami. Finding a disappointment on Alabama’s team is nearly impossible. If a young player has disappointed Saban so far this season, he probably hasn’t been on the field. Bama could have come out more crisp last week against Mercer.
Are they who we thought they were?
Yes, yes and yes. Alabama may not set every record as it almost did last year, but the Crimson Tide will be favored in every game, which should include a College Football National Championship Game.
This Alabama is different in two key ways. First, Alabama’s defense looks to be much more suffocating than last season. Second, Alabama’s offensive players are further along than most thought that would have been possible, and Young may best his predecessor.
As has been the case for so many years, it will take a handful of mistakes in one game to beat Alabama this year. Moreover, one mistake might undo an opponent’s chances. That underscores just how perfect a team must play to beat one of the greatest runs that modern-day college football has ever seen.
Alabama still looks like they’re on a much higher level than the rest of the country.