It’s time to start wondering if this Alabama team can be as good as its predecessors.

I know that seems like an outlandish statement after just 2 games, but it is worth exploring after the Crimson Tide overcame the “rat poison” with a 48-14 win against Mercer on Saturday.

I know we haven’t seen nearly enough of the Crimson Tide to determine if it can really be as elite as last year’s undefeated, record-setting, national championship crew. However, it’s looking that way so far. That’s saying something considering Bama had three Heisman Trophy candidates on offense last season.

Alabama won its first 2 games in 2020 by a cumulative score of 90-43. The Crimson Tide have won their first 2 games this season by a cumulative score of 92-27. Again, the opponents are different, but Bama looks even more perfect this season thanks to a stout defense and an assemblage of offensive players who are ready to make their mark.

Here are 5 reasons Alabama can be better than it was last season:

They’re keeping pace offensively

Alabama has 926 total yards through 2 games after logging 864 total yards after 2 games last season. Let’s take a look at the opponents Alabama has faced. In 2020, COVID-19 drastically altered Bama’s schedule. The Crimson Tide beat Missouri 38-19 on the road and Texas A&M 52-24 at home.

In 2020, Alabama finished 3rd in the nation in passing yards with 358 per game, 47th in rushing with 183 yards per game and 4th in the country with 541 yards of total offense per game. This year, Bama is averaging 389 yards passing, 153 rushing yards per game and 463 total yards per game. Those sets of numbers are pretty close.

While the statistics are comparable, the opponents have been drastically different. In 2021, Alabama has explored both ends of the competition spectrum. Alabama throttled nationally-ranked Miami 44-13. That game was even more lopsided than the score indicated. Then, Alabama beat Mercer 48-14. Alabama hasn’t flinched from the expectations that they’re expected to live up to each and every week and each and every season.

Bryce Young has a higher upside than Mac Jones

It may sound ludicrous to deem Young, who has just started 2 games for Bama, as good as Jones, who started every game for the Tide last season. Yes, I know it’s too early make that leap, but it certainly seems plausible that Young could be better than Jones, who was selected with the 15th pick of the 2021 NFL Draft and will start Sunday for the New England Patriots. Jones was a fantastic college quarterback who was considered a strong Heisman candidate last season. Still. Young may be better. Does anyone think Young will last until the middle of the first round in the NFL Draft? Not me.

As far as tangibles like arm strength, accuracy, mobility and pocket presence, Young has shown he is on Jones’ level. When it comes to intangibles, Young looks like he can handle the pressure of being the full-time starter. The Miami game proved as much. Young was incredibly prepared and poised to step into a starting role in a nationally televised game against a ranked opponent. Young didn’t flinch; he dominated. And he’ll just continue to get better.

Against Mercer on Saturday, Young completed 19-of-27 passes for 227 yards and 3 touchdowns before he was pulled in the third quarter. Young’s play against a lesser opponent showed his maturity. Young wasn’t perfect early, but that stellar stat line isn’t misleading. Overall, Young played well against Mercer. Therefore, there is reason to believe that Young has the intangibles and maturity that Jones showed last season.

Alabama’s defense is better

Again, ludicrous, right? Maybe not. For those that may recall, Alabama had a rash of injuries at linebacker before the 2020 season. Bama was scrambling in preseason camp, which was part of the reason they gave up 43 combined points in the first two games. Now, the linebacker position is a team strength for Alabama. The Crimson Tide’s entire defense looks to be as good — or better — than last season’s crew. That was expected to be the case with 8 returning starters this season.

The Crimson Tide depended on their offense to score last season, especially early, while the defense settled. Now, it seems the roles are a bit reversed. We’ll see how Bama’s offense continues to progress but this Bama defense looks like an upgrade over 2020.

COVID-19 isn’t as much of a factor

The uncertainty last season was daunting. Teams often didn’t even know if they would have a game that week or if it would be postponed due to COVID-19. Barring an unforeseen circumstance, that doesn’t seem to be the case this season. Alabama seems to be overcoming the virus.

The improvement in handling COVID-19 will only help the college football programs with strong leadership, like Alabama has with head coach Nick Saban. Coaches and athletic departments can’t mandate that players get vaccinated, but they can strongly suggest that they do. The reality is that, unlike the NFL, college football coaches have much more power over their players to limit the virus’ effects on games.

Now, please feel free to continue your political pandemic debate.

Saban has already set the tone

Saban isn’t content with thumping Mercer. There were too many mistakes, especially with a trip to Florida looming next week. Constant improvement is what Alabama’s head coach is looking for no matter who is on the schedule.

“I just think we were a little bit sloppy today,” Saban said after the game on The SEC Network. “They’ll understand this week (to prepare better) because they’re going to play a really good Florida team.

“If they don’t wake up and shake themselves, they’ll get shook.”