A few thoughts from the early aftermath of the Tide's 63-7 victory over Georgia State:
- The general theme of last night was complete and total domination. In terms of the disparity between the quality of the two teams competing against one another, there has probably not been this wide of a gap involving Alabama in my lifetime, and the end result was exactly as expected. Nearly everyone in crimson, walk-ons included, looked good and for the most part we could do no wrong. Now, obviously, given the quality of the opponent that is almost wholly meaningless, but the important development from last night was a lack of injuries for Alabama. In that regard, teams like Alabama stand to lose much more than they can gain against bottom-tier D1-AA opponents, and if nothing else we apparently did not suffer any new injuries with the Iron Bowl looming in a mere seven days. In the end, that is of infinitely greater importance than anything else that happened last night in Bryant-Denny Stadium.
- I know the general meme is that powerhouse teams tend to go vanilla when they face patsy opponents, but we may have set some Guinness World Record last night for the most basic gameplan in the history of college football. Defensively we played a nickel look for most of the night with a four man rush, and blitzes tended to be rare and relatively unimaginative. On offense, the overwhelming majority of the passing game consisted of simple screens to the wide receivers and the tailbacks, and the bulk of the running game seemed to consist of a simple dive and one off-tackle play.
- Anthony Steen started tonight at right guard, and judging by the post game comments from Nick Saban it seems clear that Steen will be the starter if Barrett Jones cannot play in the Iron Bowl, a legitimate concern given that Jones is still in a walking boot. I had somewhat expected yesterday that Alfred McCullough may be moved inside and get the start at right guard, but obviously that did not turn out to be the case. For better or for worse, 'Bama will sink or swim with Steen if our worst fears are confirmed with Barrett Jones' ankle.
- The biggest disappointment of the night, in so much as there was one, was easily the offensive line. The line looked good in pass protection and generally paved the way for runners to get outside, but the interior running game was once again dicey-at-best. Four interior runs to Mark Ingram netted a whopping eight yards, and with the exception of a couple of nice runs later in the game by Eddie Lacy and company, the interior running game generally struggled. What can you even say at this point? It's one thing to have little success in the trenches against the LSU's of the world, but against first-year Division 1-AA teams it's simply inexcusable. As an additional note, talk all you will of Cam Newton, but if you struggle to move Georgia State around at the point of attack, exactly how in the hell are you going to do it against Nick Fairley and Auburn? Perhaps at this point it should come as no great surprise that the starting offensive line stayed in the game longer than either the starting quarterback or the starting skill position players; I think we need every rep we can get at this point.
- Mark Ingram finished the night with an impressive stat line -- 86 yards on the ground and 16 through the air -- but having established he really did not look good last night. He looked sluggish and winded throughout most of the first quarter, and at no point did he ever seem at ease. The fact that he came out of the game for good with ten minutes remaining in the second quarter probably speaks volumes about where he is at physically at the moment. Whether it is solely the knee that is bothering him or whether he has some sort of ailment that we are not aware of, either way he did not look healthy at any point last night.
Trent Richardson dressed for the game and in the post game comments Saban said he probably could have played had we needed him. The problem, though, is that you really don't know what that means. I'm sure he'll play in the Iron Bowl, but will he be near 100% or will he be Trent Richardson in name only? Only one way to find out, I'm afraid.
- Want to have some fun? Go back and watch the game film, and only watch Marcell Dareus. Killing people is probably an understatement. It didn't show up in the final stat line because Georgia State was getting the ball out quickly, but most of the night the Georgia State offensive line could barely even engage Dareus, much less actually block him.
- The starting defense stayed in the game a good bit longer than the offensive starters, with the entire starting defense playing the first series of the second half. Much like with the offensive line, I think it's clear that this unit needs every rep it can get at this point, and the garbage time snaps against Georgia State were just a way of doing that. On the whole they played well -- how could they not given the quality of opponent? -- but when everyone decides in the eleventh game of the year that we don't need to cover the tight end on the opening play of the game, obviously you still have a lot of issues to work through.
- No one will ever accuse Eddie Lacy of being a natural runner at the tailback position -- he's pretty much the antithesis of a natural runner in every way -- but it's hard to dismiss his raw talent and clearly his upside is amazing. Given the quality of coaching that he will continue to receive in the coming years, it's hard to see him not becoming a star before he leaves Tuscaloosa.
- Dear Star Jackson, 'tis better to be depth chart fodder on a defending national championship team than it is to be depth chart fodder on a Division 1-AA team. I know some people think he may transfer back into Division 1-A after the season, but while he clearly has some talent it's admittedly a bit hard to see many programs taking a chance on him at this point. Kenny Rogers is really going to have to work his magic on this one if he wants out of Atlanta.
- Cade Foster occasionally boots a few kicks that would make Jamie Christensen proud, but it's hard to doubt his raw leg strength or the fact that he is apparently coming along nicely. He nailed the 49-yard field goal that was negated by the delay of game, and narrowly missed the 54-yard field goal that followed. That final kick could have probably been good from at least 60. If he can continue to hone his mechanics, in time he'll be one of the better kickers around.
- The back-to-back kick-off returns by Georgia State in the second quarter were a vivid example of both the potential risks and rewards of having Cade Foster be so active on the kick coverage unit. On the first return, Foster forced a fumble that was recovered by Alabama to avert an otherwise successful return. On the second return, however, Foster got sucked up inside and when the rest of the kick coverage broke down the Georgia State returner was off to the races. That's the risk / reward... by having Foster so active you end up making a lot of plays with your special teams unit that would otherwise not be made so far down the field, but if you do have a legitimate breakdown on your coverage team then the returner is likely headed for the end zone because there is no one playing safety to clean things up or even force the returner back into the heart of the pursuit.
- Want to know how weird of a night this was? Robert Ezell, a walk-on wide receiver whose previous claim to fame was his Nick Saban impersonation, played quarterback. Literally no less than fifteen walk-ons earned letters. In the fourth quarter, every single player on the field was a white kid, undoubtedly the first time that has happened in decades. And it all happened on a Thursday night. Against a former 'Bama coach. Bottom line, this was a weird one, and it's probably going to be a very long time before you see another game like this one.
- All in all, this one was the shellacking that we all expected, so be happy that we didn't have any injuries and that the obligatory cupcake is out of the way. In all honesty, we've all been focusing on the Iron Bowl since the scoreboard clock read 00:00 on the Mississippi State game, and with the Georgia State game going into the history books, now all eyes can officially turn to Auburn.