WHAT ALABAMA CAN'T ACCOUNT FOR: The Florida Field crowd. The Swamp hasn't always been The Swamp as of late -- it was just last year the Gators conspired to lose an unthinkable three consecutive home games -- but with the 4-0 start, the burst of energy from Muschamp, the primetime start, and no less an opponent than Nick Saban's Alabama, the atmosphere in Gainesville promises to be as hostile as any college football will see this year. On the whole, a veteran team like the Tide should be able to handle it. But can McCarron? And if the Tide fall behind, will he be alone in feeling the pressure?
"It is what it is," Saban said on his show, "Hey Coach". "He's going to be out for this week for sure and, I don't know, probably day to day thereafter. We have some other guys that have an opportunity now."
"We had a couple of guys open last game and just missed the throws," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "We missed a couple of throws in other games, too. We need to keep working on it and developing the timing and the chemistry between players. "It's a little bit of a work in progress that our offensive unit continues to develop." What's missing? "It's just the timing," Maze said. "Really, it's something easy to work on."
"Even though it's a little bit different style, they're still featuring the same players doing things that they're very, very good at, which is making plays in space, running the ball on the perimeter, and making it difficult for you to match up sometimes based on their personnel groupings because those guys are running backs, receivers, that type of thing," Saban said. How do you handle so much speed? "You've got to press the ball and force the ball with leverage all the time at every position on the field," Saban said. "The backside support guy is just as important sometimes as the frontside guy. Most people that you play, that isn't an issue, but with these guys it's an issue."
Don’t expect barbs to be exchanged between Alabama coach Nick Saban and Florida coach Will Muschamp in anticipation of this week’s matchup. Saban gave Muschamp his first real coaching job, and Saban said Wednesday he respected Muschamp from the beginning. "Sometimes you just you meet somebody and you really get a good feel for them," Saban said. "Will just was a real good person, real genuine, and you could tell he was hard-working. … And that first impression really held true."
Alabama allowed just seven points in the first half of last week’s Arkansas game. The Crimson Tide has allowed seven points or less in the first half of its last nine games. The Crimson Tide has surrendered three points or less six times over the span including three first half shutouts. Chronologically, these games are: 3 by LSU (Nov. 6, 2010), 3 by Miss. State (Nov. 13, 2010), 7 by Georgia State (Nov. 18, 2010), 7 by Auburn (Nov. 26, 2010), 0 by Michigan State (Jan. 1, 2011), 0 by Kent State (Sept. 3, 2011), 3 by Penn State (Sept. 10, 2011), 0 by North Texas (Sept. 17, 2011), 7 by Arkansas (Sept. 24, 2011).
Communication at the line was solid at Penn State despite more than 107,000 fans ramping up the volume on te Tide’s offensive possessions. A lot of responsibility for checks at the line fall in the hands of McCarron, who earned high praise for his ability to do so against Arkansas. How that works at Florida is a different story. In terms of communicating within the offensive line, senior center William Vlachos is a gritty veteran with two-year starter Chance Warmack at left guard, and first-year starter Anthony Steen at right guard. Two-year starter D.J. Fluker has been holding it down at right tackle. True freshman Cyrus Kouandjio has been pressing for the starting job at left tackle, but I don’t expect his first start to be on Saturday.
But don’t mistake the growth for a loss of his trademark "swag." Kirkpatrick still works the crowd when it needs energy. His teammates still count on him for a boost when they hit a lull. Dee Milliner, a more reserved cornerback, calls Kirkpatrick "the hype man" of the unit. That vigor infects all levels of the Tide defense. "I don’t think there is another guy out there that could replace a Dre Kirkpatrick attitude," linebacker Dont’a Hightower said. "He’s always ready to go. He wants to go against the best. He wants to be the best cornerback in the nation. He continues to work that way, not only on the field, but in the weight room as well."
The coaches in this league will tell you that running the football successfully is infectious and that it impacts the entire team. But those teams that run the ball well also make a commitment to doing so. "It brings a toughness and a want to man up and be physical," LSU coach Les Miles said. "I think it’s a positive piece and need of offensive football. I think it makes the defense that goes against you all week tougher. It’s a way you can manage the game with the ball in your hands. "Running the football is a fundamental that must happen on the offensive side."
Alabama softball has once again been named an NFCA Top-10 Academic Team, the National Fastpitch Coaches Association announced recently. The Crimson Tide was ranked eighth in GPA among all NCAA division I schools for the 2010-11 academic year. "This is a tremendous achievement for our 2011 softball team," UA head coach Patrick Murphy said. "After finishing third in the nation on the field, they finished eighth among over 275 Division I softball teams. They are true student-athletes in every meaning. We are very proud of their work in the classroom. Not many teams win big both on the field and in school."