As most football fans expected, the Crimson Tide dominated FAU on Saturday in an electrical storm shortened 41-0 win. It was a much different result from the Week 1 win over West Virginia.
As to be expected in a game like the Tide played on Saturday with a foe like FAU, Alabama moved the ball at will and shut down the Owls offense. So, it is difficult to measure this team by that game.
Alabama was happy with the ten point over West Virginia but it was much closer game than most expected. Add into the equation that we don't know what kind of team the Mountaineers will have this season. If they go on to win 9 or 10 games, we can look back at that win with pride. If they go 4-8 or so, it does not help the Crimson Tide's resume for a Final Four spot.
Which leads me to ask the question to this team: Who are you?
If Saturday's game was any measure, Blake Sims will be the starting quarterback from here on out. He was very efficient throwing 11 of 13 for 214 yards, 2 passing TDs and 0 interceptions to go with a nice 7 yard run for the first score of the game. HOWEVER (you knew this was coming), he still has yet to stretch the field with long passes or throw a red zone touchdown pass. If you don't think these issues are problems, you are in denial. If Nick Saban's vague post-game press conference comments are any indication, the goal line fumbled exchange between Sims and T.J. Yeldon was Sims' fault. That was the fifth year senior's one flaw on the day for what plays were called for him. But it leaves one wondering if Saban and offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin are limiting the playbook because of lack of faith in what Sims can do. Or perhaps they are not ready to show all their cards yet.
Jake Coker had an inconsistent day throwing 15 of 24 for 202 yards and 1 TD, 0 INT. He looked okay but has yet to prove that he is a better option at quarterback. He does have the arm and also showed some wheels as he scrambled for 15-yards down to the FAU 3-yard line. He finished with 23 yards on the ground.
One curious development on Saturday was the lack of a running game or perhaps more appropriately put - the lack of creative running plays called. If you calculate the rushes by running backs only, it amounts to 25 rushes for only 147 yards and 1 TD - very un-Crimson Tide.
Prying information out of Nick Saban is harder than getting water from a rock. So, it is unclear whether he and Kiffin are holding back some plays or packages.
Clearly the play-calling of quick passes and slant routes has been molded to the abilities of Sims and the talents of wide receiver Amari Cooper. But will that continue to work when tougher competition comes along? Is Kiffin going to find a way to exploit this strong stable of running backs? Or is this offense going to lay all their hopes on the shoulders of Cooper's yards after receptions? And why can they not find a way to involve tight end O.J. Howard in this offense?
The defense is definitely better with middle linebacker Trey DePriest at the helm. Scheme-calling and coverages were more in control with errors significantly diminished. He also added some leadership that seemed missing on this young squad from a week ago.
Corner play was much improved as well. The plan was to play Eddie Jackson 40 plays on Saturday which sends a sign that Saban and staff are comfortable with starting him at left cornerback. Jackson played very well making some big tackles and causing a fumble. Some of the biggest offensive gains by FAU came on mistakes by nickle and dime backs.
The return of DePriest and Jackson to the lineup is encouraging. But this Alabama defense has still uncharacteristically been lacking in the takeaway department. In eight quarters of play, they have only caused one turnover, the aforementioned caused fumble by Jackson. There appears to be a dearth of ball hawks like C.J. Mosley and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix of recent years past.
An encouraging sign from the defensive front is that the Alabama defense added 3 more sacks to their total of 6 on the season. The shortage of sacks was a point of contention last season.
Is it too Gumpy to say this is one of the most solid group of specialists the Tide has had in many years? Placekicker Adam Griffith has been excellent with every field goal and extra point attempt seemingly going symmetrically down the middle. JK Scott did not see the field on Saturday but there is good reason to think he will be a good punter for Bama. Long snapper Cole Mazza has been solid. Kenyan Drake has been exceptional in kick coverages.
The return game has been okay but blocking needs improvement. We know Christion Jones can break the long ones but he has not had too many seams opened up for him. The only major hiccup on the young season was the 100-yard kickoff return by West Virginia.
The most important stat is that the Tide is 2-0. The pollsters likely keep them at number two [don't pretend polls don't have their influence]. That said, there are still many questions to answer and an identity to be established.
The offense is scoring points and the defense is improving. I have to hope that we have only seen a fraction of the offensive playbook. I am still waiting for someone to emerge from this defense as a game changer.
Things get real on September 20th when Florida visits Tuscaloosa followed by trips to Ole Miss and Arkansas, and a visit from Texas A&M.