Runaway Tide: Can anyone stop Alabama's run game?
So, here’s a small secret in case you haven’t heard: Alabama has an incredibly effective run game. Oh, and in other news, the sky is blue.
All jokes aside, Alabama’s deep stable of running backs has been nothing short of incredible this season, rotating in and continuing to create havoc.
The group continues to be led by junior Damien Harris, who added another 125 yards and two touchdowns to his already stellar start to the season against the Razorbacks on Saturday night.
Coming into the game, the former 5-star prospect was already leading the SEC in yards per carry (8.5). That might seem impressive (because it is), but it doesn’t even begin to compare to the 13.9 that he averaged versus an improving Razorbacks front seven.
Yet again, Harris showed off his breakaway speed as he took the first carry of the game 75 yards for a touchdown, but he also put his blend of power, balance and pure will on display during several runs.
We might have hit that point where it’s becoming harder and harder to leave the Richmond, Ky., product off your Heisman Trophy watch list.
Harris isn’t the only Alabama running back making life difficult for SEC defenses.
Bo Scarbrough, Josh Jacobs and Najee Harris seem to be making a weekly case for why they’re a problem as well. All four averaged over 4 yards per carry against the Razorbacks, and Scarbrough came close to averaging 10 yards himself (9.3).
For the second week in a row, the offensive line continued to have its ups and downs creating holes in the run game, but after seeing the team put up 304 yards and 4 touchdowns on the ground, it’s hard to argue that trying to consistently stop the Tide’s ground assault is next to impossible.
We haven’t even gotten to Jalen Hurts’ ability to put pressure on defenses with his legs, either.
Najee Harris is listed at 6-2, 227 pounds, so Hurts, at 6-2, 218 pounds, isn’t far off from a pure size standpoint. In fact, Hurts has shown time and time again that he has the elusiveness of a receiver in the open field, but he also adds a certain degree of power that comes from a bruising tailback as well.
His 558 rushing yards led all SEC quarterbacks by a wide margin — 112 yards to be exact.
So, how do you stop this group? More and more, you don’t.
With Alabama’s depth at running back, it’s hard for the entire crew to be off their game at the same time. If Harris were to struggle — he hasn’t up to this point — then you’d still have Scarbrough, Najee Harris, Jacobs and even Brian Robinson to lean on until the Tide’s leading rusher got out of that slump.
Someone might suggest the offensive line. Prevent those guys from being successful creating holes, and Alabama’s run game should fall apart.
That’s much easier said than done. The only time they’ve been held under 200 yards rushing was in the opener against Florida State. Even then, the Tide averaged 4.12 yards per carry.
Over the past two weeks, Texas A&M and Arkansas have seen some success stopping the Tide’s run game. What they couldn’t do is prevent Alabama from turning out big plays.
Hurts managed to take one for 38 yards, and Harris had runs of 75 and 27 yards as well. You can contain the team’s run game for short periods of time, but to think that you can shut it down might be fool’s gold.
That’s evident by the 540 yards and 6 touchdowns that Alabama has churned out on the ground during those two weeks.
Now, the run game will continue to see more test as the season progresses. LSU’s run defense, which held Auburn to 189 yards after averaging 277.7 against its three previous SEC opponents, comes to Tuscaloosa on Nov. 4. The Tide travels to Auburn three weeks later on the 25th.
With that being said, there is no reason to believe that Alabama won’t continue to find success on the ground versus its two biggest rivals in the final month of the regular season.