Ah, another Monday following a satisfying Alabama victory. Of course, this week is especially nice since we know how it ends. That's right, folks. Only six more days until we get to see those despondent looks on the faces of fans adorned in prison attire, as their fighting creamsicles once again submit to their Crimson overlords.
Ahhh. Less than a week away. We'll start with some Texas A&M aftermath:
If an Oct. 3 win at Georgia showed Alabama isn't going anywhere -- and might never be an underdog again -- Saturday's 41-23 triumph against No. 9 Texas A&M at Kyle Field showed the Tide once again could be going places. Alabama received record performances from its defense, which recorded three pick-sixes for the first time in team history, and from running back Derrick Henry, who set a career-high rushing total in the first quarter with 153 yards and finished with 236 yards and two scores on 32 carries.
Oh, I just thought you'd want to read about those picks and Henry's stat line one more time.
Remember when Alabama was dead, buried and gone? Those were Nick Saban’s descriptive terms, anyway, for the narrative that developed after that home loss last month to Mississippi. Well, never mind. We’re halfway through the season, and although Alabama has no margin for error in the College Football Playoff chase, the Crimson Tide looks very much like a team that will be in the conversation deep into November. It begins with defense. Recall how the secondary was maligned? Bama got two pick-sixes to build a big lead, then ended Texas A&M’s hope of rallying with a third (and freshman safety Minkah Fitzpatrick’s second of the day).
We remember when reporters were telling us how Alabama was dead and gone. Reality is that nobody in the country wants to play this team, especially this defense, right now.
Senior center Ryan Kelly, the unquestioned leader of the offensive line, suffered a concussion and left late in the second quarter. Kelly didn't return to the field and that meant backup J.C. Hassenauer was called into action. Losing such a steadying veteran influence in Kelly almost immediately resulted in Alabama's offense sputtering. On Alabama's first drive without Kelly, the Crimson Tide had two false starts deep inside its own territory.
Alabama still gained some yardage after Kelly left, but there was an appreciable difference. It doesn't sound like Kelly is going to miss any time, but Saban hinted that Bradley Bozeman would be in the mix at center if he did. Let's not find out.
Alabama freshman cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick was named Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week Sunday. Fitzpatrick became the first player in Tide history to return two interceptions for touchdowns in the same game during Alabama's 41-23 win over Texas A&M on Saturday.
Minkah is obviously getting the headlines, but the entire secondary looked fabulous. I'm not sure people fully appreciate the quality of the players they were matched up against. There aren't many defenses that are capable of limiting them to that degree.
Though Robinson has played in all seven of the Tide's games, Robinson acknowledged following Alabama's win over Texas A&M Saturday night that he is "battling a few injuries." While Robinson helped clear the way for Derrick Henry to rush for a career-high 236 yards and two touchdowns Saturday, he struggled at times in pass protection against Aggies star defensive Myles Garrett.
We have suspected this for some time. Gut it out one more time, Cam, then spend the next week in the hot tub. We need you feeling good for LSU.
"Shot clock was down to one," Saban said. "I'm glad we didn't." Saban said it wasn't a busted play as some initially thought. The call was to pitch to Henry out wide -- an admittedly "risky play," says Saban -- and bank on the big running back being able to pick up the two yards. It worked. "You put everybody in the box, act like you are going to run power, flip the ball out to the guy and he out runs everybody," Saban said. "It's a good play."
Saban certainly doesn't seem jilted by Kiffin overriding him. The two of them are developing quite the synergy.
"I don't like sliding," he said. "I think it's kinda crazy, especially you get close and somebody gets close and you start sliding and they want to get one in on you. I don't believe in sliding." After Henry's career-high 236 rushing yards, Coker was next on the stat sheet. His 13 net yards on seven attempts bettered Kenyan Drake's five for 11 yards. Coker gained a total of 30, but lost 17 on plays ending behind the line.
Coker is built like Tim Tebow. When you are bigger than the guy you are running over, there is no need to slide. Do your thing, Jake.
On to the annual Smashing of the Pumpkins:
Odds makers don't see much of a challenge for the run to extend past the current eight-straight wins. Alabama opened as a 14 ½-point favorite to beat Tennessee, according to VegasInsiders.com. The No. 8 Tide (6-1, 3-1 SEC) has not lost to the Vols since 2006, Mike Shula's last year as head coach. Alabama's dominated as the 12-10 win in 2009 was the only one-score victory margin of the streak. The Tide won 34-20 last October in Knoxville.
Josh Dobbs presents a running threat, but that's about all there is to fear in this one. Jalen Hurd isn't going to have a big game against this front, and Tennessee's depleted receiving corps won't present much of a threat. If the Tide is able to keep Dobbs in the pocket, it's hard to see where their points are going to come from.
Nick Saban doesn’t send thank you notes to opposing programs that have helped him along the way. And he doesn’t donate a portion of his salary to all the less capable programs who have enabled him to achieve wealth and fame at their expense. If he did, Tennessee should be at the top of his mailing list. Aside from Saban’s immediate family and his closest mentors, the Vols have done as much as anyone to assure he will be regarded as one of college football’s greatest coaches. They at least deserve a "Thanks for playing" note.
This is an enjoyable read.
The Tide were favored by 16.5 the last time we could engage in maybe. It was a similar argument in 2009: questionable passing game but a quarterback coming off the best game of his career, excellent running back, relying on Alabama's own issues at quarterback to give you a chance. And the last time we believed in maybe, it turned into almost. I don't think anyone is confusing the 2015 Vol defense with Monte Kiffin's unit just yet. But Tennessee's overall talent level is at least comparable if not better to what the Vols put on the field that day in Tuscaloosa. And as we've seen all year, the Vols can compete with anybody.
Hopefully by the end of the week they will have themselves convinced that they have a chance. Adds a little extra spice to the sadness:
And now he has to watch Kiffin run up the score on him.
We'll close with Tennessee's odds of pulling the upset:
I'd say that's enough for now. Beat the rush, hate Tennessee today.
Have a great week, everyone.