A few initial impressions after the 53-7 route of North Texas:
- Obviously a dominant performance by the Tide, and frankly one that was over before it ever really started. North Texas was never even close to being in our league and they were just outmatched from the very beginning. We effectively could have named the score today, and honestly this was probably the most dominating performance we've had over a Division 1-A team in many years. At the very least, it was the most points we scored since UTEP in Legion Field way back in 2001.
- On the offensive side of the ball, you really just cannot say enough about the performance of Greg McElroy. Ever since he took off in the Virginia Tech game, he has been practically unstoppable. I think he threw about one bad ball today, but aside from that his performance was completely flawless. And the amazing thing is that he has had three touchdown passes dropped the past two weeks, which means his already gaudy statistics ought to be even more inflated. I'm sure it won't be this good all year, but you would have been hard-pressed to even script a better debut for McElroy.
- Likewise, even without the presence of Julio Jones, the wide receiver corps looked great. Mike McCoy has basically done everything Julio would have done the past two weeks, and Marquis Maze, Darius Hanks, Earl Alexander, and others have all filled out the rotation nicely. Now obviously I'm not going to be so swayed by the past two games to think that we can miss a guy like Julio Jones against the stretch run of SEC teams and not see a dip in production, but it's still encouraging to see that we can get the job done against lesser opponents with #8 sitting on the sideline.
Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson may very well be the best tailback duo in the conference. Both are big, physical runners with good speed, good field vision, and both are threats to catch the football out of the backfield. There is not another duo anywhere in the country that I would trade for those two right now.
- Defensively it was a great day, but honestly things were really vanilla by both the Alabama defense and the North Texas offense. For such a supposed offensive guru, it would be difficult to get much more plain jane than what Todd Dodge put on display today. It was all dink and dunk passes that came out almost immediately, mixed in with a bunch of runs out of shotgun into the interior of the line for no yardage. We were equally vanilla on defense, but there was no reason to do anything else. Terrence Cody and Josh Chapman had a field day with the UNT guards and centers and the 'Bama linebackers were free to roam all day. Our defensive backs were superior athletes anyway, and they were never legitimately tested by the Mean Green dink and dunk offense
- The pass rush looked terrible on paper today, as we weren't able to get a single sack on 23 passing attempts. In reality, though, it was no major issue. North Texas was getting the ball out almost immediately on the snap and it really never gave our pass rush a chance. It took all of the edge rushers out of the game, effectively, but it's no major concern. Our pass rush didn't do anything wrong today, and we should still be in good shape moving forward.
- It was nice to see Leigh Tiffin getting such great distance on kick-offs, but we still had at least one major breakdown in the kick coverage team, and Tiffin played a huge role in that. Every single kick return that has went for a long distance today has been largely assisted by Tiffin being far out of position. It has gotten so bad that it's practically an 11-on-10 match-up when we kick-off, and frankly I don't think I've ever seen someone consistently as lost on a football field as Tiffin is during kick returns. Again, he had a nice day today in terms of kick-off distance and positioning, but at this point you just have to be honest and say that if we need to rely on Tiffin in any way whatsoever to assist bringing down the returner, we're just out of luck.
- And speaking further of Tiffin, the two missed extra points today were ridiculous. What can you say? Just pray that no 'Bama game this year legitimately comes down to a kick. If it does, the post-game drinking is most likely going to be rooted in depression, not celebration.
- One nitpick on the Alabama pass defense: Care to guess how many interceptions we have had since the LSU game last year? One... and that one was Mark Barron's relatively meaningless interception very late last week against Florida International. All told, that is seven games and only one interception to show for it all. The pass defense has generally been good during that stretch, but the complete lack of an ability to force turnovers is very frustrating, and honestly it is something that we need to be able to do in order to truly become an elite defense. As well as our offense has performed, we can really be absolutely explosive in terms of point production if our defense can start getting turnovers for our offense.
- You know whose playing time has almost been entirely eliminated? Cory Reamer. He's still a "starter," per se, I suppose, but he really has not had a lot of meaningful playing time the past couple of weeks, and honestly most of his time today came late in the game with the back-ups. For a "starter," he's probably played less than anyone with that designation in a long time.
- Speaking of Reamer, I think one of the things interesting on defense is that we have largely went with a 3-3-5 look the past couple of weeks. Reamer has gone off the field, and in his place Marquis Johnson has been on the field as a fifth defensive back. And then in long-yardage, obvious passing situations, we move to a dime package with four defensive linemen -- with Rolando McClain the only linebacker on the field -- and the defensive line consists of the two "normal" defensive ends being moved inside, and Dont'a Hightower and Eryk Anders playing with their hand on the ground at defensive end. All in all it's been successful, but it's still an interesting note. We really haven't lined up very much in a traditional 3-4 look (or 4-3 look, for that matter) the past couple of weeks. These past two opponents have been spread teams trying to throw the football, so perhaps the 3-3-5 is the way we're choosing to attack spread passing teams moving forward. Given the success so far it's hard to overly complain.
- With the playing time that Star Jackson saw today, there is no question whatsoever that he is indeed our back-up quarterback. We simplified things for him and kept everything short and underneath -- and he did get away with one pass that could have easily been an interception -- but he looked pretty decent. He has good physical tools and he's developing nicely. He's not ready to play right now against high level competition, in my opinion, but we knew that Jackson was a developmental project when we signed him, and to that end he seems to be developing nicely. That said, though, again, he's not really ready to play right now, and if McElroy goes down against quality competition, we're really going to see a drop in offensive production.
- Very few true freshmen on the field today, even against North Texas. Trent Richardson, Rod Woodson, Dre Kirkpatrick, Michael Bowman, and Nico Johnson played, but those five players had played already, and to the best of my knowledge no new true freshmen played today. With that in mind, I imagine the general plan for just about everyone else at this point is to redshirt.
- Speaking of players who didn't play today, Burton Scott was absent for the third consecutive game. He's healthy, not suspended, and he was dressed out today, but he never went in. Instead, Dre Kirkpatrick, Tyrone King, and Chris Rogers played corner in mop-up duty. I'll be honest, at this point I think you have to say that Scott is going to redshirt this year.
- Fortunately, no major injuries today from what we can tell. The only other semi-serious injury was to Demetrius Goode who went down with what was later diagnosed with a hyper-extended knee. Thankfully it doesn't look to be anything overly serious, and hopefully he'll be ready to go in a week or two. Unlike what was the case against Florida International, thankfully the price of victory in terms of injuries wasn't quote so high this week.
- All in all, it was just a dominating performance today by the Tide, and with no major injuries confirmed thus far, there is really nothing to complain about. Of course, on the other hand, North Texas was clearly nowhere in our league, so by the same token you shouldn't necessarily draw any hard and fast conclusions about anything from today. Nevertheless, it was a good day for the Tide, we won big and we stayed healthy in the process. Now let's just ready for Arkansas...