"Everyone thought we were too young, too inexperienced, couldn't handle success," the Alabama football coach said at the beginning of his Monday news conference. "Everybody was saying all those things about our team. Now, people are saying something different. "But my question is, what's different? Nothing." Nothing? College football experts from coast to coast are buzzing about the second-ranked Crimson Tide. Saban is tuning out the praise. The man who could find flaws in the Hope Diamond is his team’s worst critic. "We're still young. We're still inexperienced. We've still got things to work on," Saban said. "It's going to be all about the maturity that the team has to be able to focus on what they need to do to correct the deficits that we have, whether it's individually, collectively as a unit in some part of our team, so that we improve as a team.
The three longest pass completions in Saturday's Alabama-Michigan game -- two by the Wolverines and one by Alabama -- came on double-move pass patterns, a topic UA coach Nick Saban addressed Monday. Double moves are meant to draw defensive backs in on what looks to be a shorter route, then break for a long pass. According to Saban, however, the cornerbacks in coverage weren't the only ones who could have helped prevent Denard Robinson's completions of 71 and 44 yards. "We were in middle-of-the-field coverage when they happened. Both corners gave one up - something that we worked on going into the game, something that they had had success doing in the past, and we need to do better," Saban said. "But we also need to rush better because it takes a long time for those plays to develop. ... Once we were in a four-man rush and the other time we were in a pressure and we didn't execute the pressure properly. If we would have, they probably wouldn't have had time to throw it."
Alabama freshman running back T.J. Yeldon became the first player in school history to rush for 100 yards in his first game. Yeldon has great speed, but his balance is even better. Good luck in getting him on the ground.
"Honestly, we weren't surprised. We had been seeing that out of him for a long time," said offensive lineman Barrett Jones. "I don't think it's a secret that he might be the next one kind of in line to take over that title of our great running back. We feel good about the future with him."
Milliner said the film study on Michigan showed a tendency that the Wolverines’ would run certain plays out of certain formations. Milliner got a good jump defending quick slants. "We knew coming in any time that they got in that formation that they like to run the quick slants backside," the cornerback said. "So I was anticipating that and knew it was coming." "We flip-flopped corners," Saban explained after the game. "Dee played into the boundary and Deion (Belue) played into the field." Milliner said he was pumped up to finally play a game. He also pointed out that, even though he’s started since he was a true freshman in 2010, his role is much greater this season. "I was very excited because it’s the first time I would be on the field full-time, with the nickel and dime and the regular package," he said.
Alabama is ready for another national title run: Mostly True The 41-14 shellacking of Michigan didn't answer all of the questions about the Crimson Tide's new-look defense, but it answered enough to quiet the doubters at least until the Arkansas game. Alabama rolled over what was a Top 10 team before the showdown in Jerry Jones' Death Star but might do well to remain in the Top 20 after Saturday night. Alabama's place as the favorite in the SEC West might now have less to do with the dismissal/suspension of Tyrann Mathieu and more to do with the fact that Alabama is just that good.
Alabama’s offense did just about everything to Michigan’s defensive players except take them one by one and toss them into the stands. If the Crimson Tide wanted, it could’ve taken them, held them upside down and shaken them for loose change. Alabama’s 41-14 win over Michigan was equal parts assault and battery and assault again. The score may not look like that, but after the Tide went up 24-0 early in the second quarter, Nick Saban clearly called off the horses.
The Crimson Tide started out the new season the way it ended the last one: with total domination. Alabama spanked LSU 21-0 to win the 2011 national championship and jumped to a 31-0 lead over Michigan to open this season. That’s 52 straight points against two pretty good opponents. If you throw in the second half of the Alabama-Auburn game last November, that opening blitz meant the Tide had outscored three teams 70-0. Saban has created a monster. Since going 7-6 in his inaugural season at Alabama in 2007, he has lost a grand total of six games. He always seems one step ahead of the alleged competition.
Missouri held talkative defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson out of media day Monday after the player's unflattering remarks about Georgia and the SEC in general. Richardson, a junior, said after Saturday's opening victory over Southeastern Louisiana that he watched some of the Bulldogs' opening victory over Buffalo earlier in the day but turned off his TV because "it's like watching Big Ten football. It's old-man football." Team spokesman Chad Moller said Richardson "earned himself a vacation." "Well, you know we certainly want to say the right things, do the right things," Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. "I think he just got carried away a little bit, but I handled that internally."
Largely forgotten from Alabama's 21-point first quarter was the Crimson Tide's relatively woeful first possession, where seemingly nothing went right. Right guard Anthony Steen's "shoe malfunction," as Jones described it, provided some nice symbolism for how much Alabama appeared to look out of sync. So, out of sheer curiosity, I asked Jones today if that possession motivated Alabama for the rest of the game. Was it a wake-up call? "I don't know. First drives are always overrated," Jones said. "There's always a lot of emotion and people freak out I guess if we don't get a first down."
The last thing he wants to hear is how much playing time the back-ups will receive against Western Kentucky.
"It’s typical of what you all would think and what our fans would think that because these guys play in the Sun Belt that they’re not very good. It really is presumptive … and so presumptive that I’m not even going to answer it. "Look, we’d like to play a lot of players. We’d like to get Phillip (Ely) a lot of experience. If the opportunity comes up on whatever game that we play, then that’s something that we’d like to do. But to ask that on Monday is pretty presumptive."
All summer, people asked coach Willie Taggart how his team would match up against Alabama, and all summer he told them the Toppers were focused on Austin Peay. With WKU’s season opener in the past, Taggart finally addressed the defending national champions when he took the podium at the team’s weekly media luncheon on Monday. "They are good," he said of the Crimson Tide. "They are one of the best football teams out there, and to be honest with you, I think they might be the next expansion team to the NFL."
"It seems like those same players are back. They just put some different numbers on them," Taggart said. "I was banking on it. They lost all those guys to the NFL. You're like, 'There's no way they can come back and have that same type of defense.' "Once again, Nick Saban proved us wrong. He reloaded, restocked. Probably have another six guys on their defense who are ready for the NFL."
AJ McCarron, QB, Alabama: Don’t be surprised if McCarron plays his way into elite status nationally this season. He’s the most talented quarterback Nick Saban has had at Alabama and loves playing on the big stage.
"This team had a challenge of trying to create an identity for themselves ... and I think they took a step in that direction," said Saban. If that quote sounds familiar, it's because Saban repeatedly said something exactly like it during last year's title run ... and the year before that, and the year before that, too. But for those disenchanted by the coach's near-robotic philosophy, at least this year's edition of The Process has the potential to be more entertaining for the casual viewer. "I don't know if you guys are just catching on," said Jones, "but we have a chance to be a really explosive offense -- a more explosive offense than people are used to seeing here, an offense that scores a lot of points." A nation still reeling from 9-6 and 21-0 thanks him kindly.