12 September 2010
We'll have more on the 24-3 victory over Penn State in the coming days, but here's a quick look at week two of the 2010 season.
- Virginia Tech seriously hurt Boise State's chances of playing for the national title by not bothering to show up for a home game against FCS James Madison. Boise was going to have an uphill battle on their hands with the strength of schedule part of the computer rankings, and the Hokies dropping a game to a former 1-AA school eliminates the one big win for BSU. If Tech isn't able to rebound and have a 10-2 type season, that victory for Boise State could become a negative in the computers. That's bad luck for Boise State, but that's the system. All they can do at this point is throttle the rest of their opponents and hope. If they struggle against an average Oregon State team, they'll have to have a bunch of two-loss BCS conference schools to get a shot in the big game.
- Florida really didn't look very good against a poor South Florida team. If you just saw the final score you might think that the Gators played well, but they struggled to get any type of consistent offensive threat going. They did take advantage of five USF turnovers, but Florida has to be concerned with the first two weeks of the season.
- Luckily for Florida they have a game with Tennessee coming, and the Vols are bad... really bad. Not only did they get absolutely embarrassed by Oregon, but it looked like the Tennessee players pretty much quit at the end of the third quarter. Of course, this is a team that had to spend time this week learning to bathe properly, so one would expect that they would probably a mentally weak team. Their fan base certainly quit on them at the end of three quarters... aside from the two patches of Oregon fans, Neyland Stadium was pretty much empty with ten minutes left.
- Georgia needs to right their ship quickly, or things will turn ugly for Mark Richt. They looked flat as hell against South Carolina, and that loss means they pretty much need to run the table in conference to have a shot at winning the East. That's not a good place to be when you still have to play Florida and Auburn.
- LSU doesn't appear to have come up with a solution to their quarterback problem, as they failed to complete 50% of their passes against Vanderbilt. They only led 10-3 entering the fourth quarter, which is something familiar to Bama fans in regards to Vandy. The Tigers were able to get some big runs to ice the game away, but Les Miles has to be concerned about how one dimensional his offense is.
- Auburn squeaked by a bad Mississippi State team on Thursday night, but that hasn't slowed the wave of euphoria down on the plains. Cam Newton appears to be the type of athlete that can turn an average season into a really good one. Unfortunately for Auburn, he appears to be the whole offense, an that's not the way you want to try to go through the SEC schedule. With upcoming games against Clemson and South Carolina (both at home), Auburn should know a lot more about what they really have in two week's time. If they're sitting at 4-0, then Kirk Herbstreit's pick of the Iron Bowl settling the SEC West might come to pass. I'm not convinced that Auburn is for real, but their schedule stacks up very favorably. Trips to Oxford and Lexington are their only remaining road games before they head to Tuscaloosa, and neither LSU or Georgia appear to have the type of offense to win a shootout with Auburn.
So with all of that out of the way, what about the Bama game?
What we found out is that Alabama is a good football team. We also found out that the Tide is an extremely deep team.
Neither of those things come as a real shock, but it's certainly nice to get confirmation of it on national television. Bama played tough opponents in week one in each of the last two seasons, but after an easy win in week one, the Tide got its first test of 2010 in week two. Forget the scoreboard and concentrate on how the game really felt... Bama played a top 20 opponent, and the game was never in doubt. I'm a pretty anxious person in general, and a two score lead rarely has me feeling comfortable. But once Kevin Norwood scored his first career touchdown, this game was over.
Bama was once again very vanilla on both offense and defense. That didn't mean a whole lot agains San Jose State, (though the Spartans gave Wisconsin a heck of a game on Saturday) but to be able to beat Penn State with similar schematic ease demonstrates just how dominant Bama could be.
While and entire drive of 5-wide, empty set is something new, the Tide didn't do anything strange out of the set. Bama basically attacked the Penn State secondary with basic crossing routes, and marched straight down the field as though it were a scrimmage. And that was the most unique thing that the Tide did all night. They gave Duke, Arkansas, and Florida something to prepare for, without having to show them anything really new. The Tide also didn't show any new complex blitz packages to David Cutcliffe, Bobby Petrino, or Urban Meyer. Plain and simple, Bama just physically whippen Penn State up and down the field.
The depth shown by the Tide was absolutely ridiculous, also.
First and foremost was Trent Richardson. He put up the first 100 yard rushing game for a PSU opponent since 2008, and racked up a total of 202 all-purpose yards. And he did it without having to touch the ball 38 times. He looked like one of the nation's best players, and it's very possible that he'll be the Tide's backup next Saturday. Mark Ingram is expected to return for the Duke game, and that should give Bama's offense an entirely new dynamic.
Marcell Dareus didn't play either, meaning the Tide was without it's most explosive defensive player. Bama hasn't been great at getting consistent pressure on the quarterback, but it is important to remember that Bama has played without its best past rusher. He'll be added back the mix next Saturday, which means that Damion Square will go back into the rotation with Luther Davis. How did Bama account for Marcell's absence against Penn State? They started Davis alongside two nose guards (Josh Chapman and Kerry Murphy). We also saw a ton of Nick Gentry and Darrington Sentimore, meaning that Bama could legitimately have a defensive line rotation of seven guys beginning next week. And that's not accounting for Brandon Lewis who is likely to play more as the season goes on.
Courtney Upshaw was limited to a handful of plays, so Bama started Ed Stinson in place. All Ed did was lead the team in tackles. When Bama went to the rabbit rusher package, the Tide slid Dont'a Hightower into Upshaw's spot and played Chris Jordan in the middle. Jordan injured his shoulder (he'll have an MRI soon), and Bama inserted C.J. Mosley in his spot.
Now ask yourself this... did you notice a production difference between the defensive line groupings? Did things drop off when the true freshman Mosley entered the game? Bama has tremendous depth in the front seven, but being able to replace two starting linebackers in the same game against a top 20 team is not something that any team should be able to do.
What is also scary is that Bama showed depth in the secondary that we didn't know was there. DeQuan Menzie wasn't fully healthy, so the staff started DeMarcus Milliner in his spot. Milliner tweaked a hamstring, so Bama ran out Phelon Jones in his spot. While Penn State had some open receiver, the Tide was into its second group at a crucial position on the field, and it didn't result in any touchdowns.
Name another team in the nation that could withstand that type of attrition on defense and still keep a top 20 team out of the end zone.
Similarly, on offense, the Tide was able to fully impose its will once Alfred McCullough replaced James Carpenter. Carpenter is expected to be fine for next Saturday, so the fact that he didn't go back into the game should tell you a lot about the confidence the staff has in Alfred.
Sure, there are things that Bama didn't do particularly well. The staff will have plenty to work on this week. But when you consider the caliber of opponent that the Tide whipped, despite these injuries, you have to be amazed at the potential of this team. But in the end, the offense didn't turn the ball over, they put up 400 yards of total offense, and the defense got four takeaways and kept the opponent out of the end zone.
And next week Bama gets the reigning Heisman Trophy winner back on offense and the MVP of the BCS Championship Game back on defense. The schedule doesn't get any easier, and even with great depth Bama needs to be lucky on the injury front. But at this point in time, you have to like Bama's chances of representing the SEC West in Atlanta.
Congratulations to Preston Dial and Kevin Norwood for earning their first career touchdowns. Also a big congratulations for Will Lowery notching his first career interception.
On another note completely, any fan of college football would have gotten chills at the sight of Bobby Bowden, Joe Paterno, and Nick Saban shaking hands at midfield. I find it funny that the guy looking on, Mal Moore, has more national championship rings than all of them combined, but that's beside the point. Bama loves to trumpet its tradition, an it was wonderful to see the overall tradition of college football represented on Bryant-Denny with these three coaches. Kudos to the Bama fans who recongnized Paterno with the class and respect he's earned.
Bama will have Sunday off before beginning Duke practice on Monday. We'll have our normal reports.
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