25 September 2008
Michael at Braves and Birds
and I are swapping scouting reports this week. He's told us how to beat the Dawgs
, and I'll be detailing how we can be beat. Braves and Birds is a blog that covers all manner of Georgia sports - including the Bulldogs. It's a good read if you're a fan - and usually even if you're not.
Although no one has done it (yet), as we head into "the Funeral
" (which is what I'll be calling this game from here on in), the formula for beating Alabama has been on display. There are pieces and parts to be taken from each of the first 4 games. OK, three of the four games - no one learned anything from Western Kentucky.
Hopefully, Mark Richt doesn't read the Bama Sports Report. Here's the gameplan:
1. Return a Kickoff (from week 1 - Clemson)
Alabama has been porous on kickoff returns. Actually, that's not fair. Alabama is ninth in the SEC in average kickoff coverage and, really, it's been worse than that.
The Tide has kicked off more than any team in the league, which means that the big returns we have given up are hidden in with the several times we've stuffed folks. It's mostly been feast or famine for opposing return teams.
In addition to the one touchdown return (to Clemson's CJ Spiller), Alabama had another TD return called back on a hold. It's only a matter of time until we allow another, and it's just that sort of play that can turn a game around.
On the flip side, don't look to return a punt. PJ Fitzgerald has been excellent at pinning opposing punt returners down with high kicks that are difficult to return.
2. Hit Bama in the Mouth (from week 2 - Tulane)
Tulane came to Tuscaloosa angry and looking to hit someone. Evacuated from their homes, they managed to get a huge chip on their shoulder and bring it to Bama. That resulted in a surprisingly bruising Green Wave that seemed to shock the listless Tide.
Alabama was "out-physicalled" (it's a word) early on, and if not for big plays on special teams, this game could have been frighteningly close. Although the Tide prides itself in being physical, if you're able to get the jump on them, it seems like it's hard for them to fight out of it.
3. Force the Tide to Throw (from week 2 - Tulane)
The Green Wave didn't necessarily force Alabama to throw, but we tried anyway. It was ugly. John Parker Wilson was 11 of 23 for 73 yards. The upside for the Tide is that he was still without any "big" mistakes.
Alabama only leads Vanderbilt in passing yards per game in the SEC, and the list of teams lower than the Tide in efficiency to this point is abysmal: South Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, Auburn and Mississippi State. Egad.
Alabama has not yet shown the ability to move the ball consistently through the air. If they are forced to learn how in Athens, it could get ugly.
4. Throw Short, Controlled Passes (from week 4 - Arkansas)
Arkansas threw for only 217 yards against the Tide, but it moved the ball with relative ease between the thirties. Casey Dick was exceptionally successful gaining yards through the air (when throwing to his own receivers).
Petrino's offensive scheme has proved to be effective yardage wise, but he preyed on the linebackers in coverage, and hit those underneath routes with astonishing regularity. Of course, the defense was on the field forever early on because of big play scores for the Tide. That segues nicely into...
5. Wear Out the Defense (from week 4 - Arkansas)
Arkansas held the ball 16 out of the first 18 minutes of the game. This wasn't due to some superior ball control offense; it was because Alabama scored so quickly. However, that marginally backfired on the Tide, as the defense struggled against the Hogs offense. Saban indicated at halftime it was due to fatigue since they'd been on the field so much.
It's not hard to believe that's the case. With so many freshman players, there's not a ton of experienced depth. That means it's easier to get tired if you spent a whole half on the field.
That's all there is. Handle business in those five areas, and the Tide is beatable.