Saturday night was the latest example. The Tide, as a team, did not have its best performance of the season against LSU in Baton Rouge. Jalen Hurts barely completed half his passes, while the Alabama offense on the whole averaged only 4.6 yards per play against the LSU defense. It was the first time this season the Alabama offense looked mortal, and yet it still won the game 10-0, and it felt like the most dominant 10-0 victory you're ever going to see. Even when the game was still tied 0-0 in the third quarter, you never actually felt like Alabama was in any danger of losing. It was inevitable that the Tide would put points up on the scoreboard eventually, and as soon as it did, you knew the game was over.
Sitting in the stadium in the Alabama section, that was really the feeling too -- you never got a sense that LSU could string together a scoring drive: not that night, not with that team, and certainly not with the way the Alabama defense was playing. No one on the team has said it, but all the yapping from LSU offensive players probably annoyed Jonathan Allen and crew, who also rang up 5 sacks, 9 TFLs, and after Alabama's three turnovers (one on downs) allowed a grand total of ONE YARD.
Twenty-one teams have tried, and 21 in a row have failed, including 13 straight AP-ranked teams. You want to stop Alabama’s offense? That’s fine. The defense can pitch a shutout if need be. Four times this season it hasn’t allowed an opponent in the end zone. You want to light up Alabama’s defense? That’s OK, too. If it’s a shootout you want, it’s a shootout you’ll get. And you’ll lose just as Ole Miss did in September -- or, better yet, Clemson in January. Seven times this calendar year Lane Kiffin's offense has scored 35 or more points.
Last week we told you, despite the shotgun formations and hurry-up offense, this one would be an old-fashioned, grown-damn-man game. And it was. No one in the country can come as close to LSU in winning that kind of game, and even they fall short trying to out-Alabama Alabama.
The game against the Razorbacks was a wakeup call for Alabama's secondary. It prompted safety Eddie Jackson to call a players-only powwow among the defensive backs in which they resolved to prepare and perform better. "Ever since Eddie had that DB meeting we've been trying to limit guys, the other team, to less than 100 yards in the air," cornerback Marlon Humphrey said. "I think mainly we just had to focus and lock in more and try to not let the front seven down." They haven't. As the pass rush has accumulated 13 sacks, the secondary has contributed nine pass breakups in the last three games.
The pass defense has been outstanding the past month after taking a few weeks off against Ole Miss and Arkansas. Allen and Kelly are phenomenal with the ball, but not almost 800 yards worth. Eddie Jackson is leading from the locker room and the sideline, so the Tide still have that going for it, despite his loss in the defensive backfield.
Brown did a "good job" against LSU, coach Nick Saban said of the junior. While Brown's stat line consisted of just one tackle, he helped Alabama hold LSU to 125 yards of total offense during the Tide's 10-0 win. The main challenge for Brown going forward? "Just have to work on his confidence and consistency in what he's doing, and sometimes a little bit (more) technique would be helpful to him," Saban said of the 6-foot, 200-pound Brown, a freakish athlete who ran the 40-yard dash in 4.34 seconds during the spring. "The guy is a really good competitor. Just has to channel his energy in the right direction, which he's made tremendous progress at."
Tony Brown quietly had a very good game, especially with LSU drawing up more crossing routes and underneath plays to secondary receivers. That his name wasn't called often is a good sign going forward.
Jonathan Allen flies. Da'Ron Payne just mauls his opponents. Alabama's sophomore defensive lineman added to a blunt-force highlight reel building since high school with his brutal treatment of LSU right guard Josh Boutte. Though he didn't reach Tiger quarterback Danny Etling in time for a sack, the replay of Payne's snow plow made the social media rounds. It personified the "hateful" approach Nick Saban used to describe the Crimson Tide defense.
The best indication of LSU's night was that play -- Da'Ron has been unblockable in his two appearances vs. LSU, and Alabama moved him around the line, especially over the right guard.
Anderson finished his night in Baton Rouge with six total tackles, including one sack (-4 yards), one pass breakup and one quarterback hurry. His tackle for a loss increased his team-leading total to 12.5 on the season (-65 yards). The senior linebacker played a key role on the Crimson Tide defense that limited LSU to only 125 total yards and just 1.2 yards per carry on the ground and 3.8 yards per attempt. Alabama forced a 3-and-out on nine of the Tigers’ 12 possessions and did not allow LSU to reach the end zone all evening. Another standout night from Scott helped flip the field on the Tigers and keep LSU from ever getting significant field position on the Tide defense. Scott averaged 51.6 yards per kick on his five punts for 258 yards. He booted a long of 66 yards with four of his five punts going for 50-plus yards
It's good to see Anderson finally get some love. He's been Alabama's most consistent LB the past two seasons (taking nothing away from Foster's stellar 2016 season,) and he'll probably have a very good draft night (like the less-heralded Jarran Reed before him.)
J.K. Scott was outstanding for most of the night, as he has been on most occasions this season. It's rare for a punter to go to the NFL early, but Scott would be a fool not to (and I hope he is that foolish)
We want them to be aggressive and competitive, not in the real world, but on the football field. These characteristics are important in defensive players. We’re evaluating these guys for what they’re like in Sunday school, which may not be the same.’ "We want a guy that’s going to go hit a guy that weighs 250 pounds, running downhill, as hard as he can hit him. Let me figure out. Is a D tap a good thing or a bad thing? Even though we have an expectation of guys to represent themselves off the field in a first-class way, good defensive football players have a competitive edge about them that requires a lot of mental toughness, a lot of physical toughness, and they have to have a lot of resiliency.
But what does it mean to play hateful? "It's what defenders do," Alabama outside linebacker Ryan Anderson said with an intense look. "Mostly, we are hateful guys. We hate everybody on the other team and everybody lined up across from us. We want to try to kill you."
Every sentence out of Ryan Anderson's mouth is hateful, just like his play on every snap.
Are the 2016 Buckeyes on the level of their 2014 predecessors? Not yet. But that team, like many of Meyer’s, was a lot better by the postseason than it was for much of the regular season. Ohio State will have to knock off Michigan on Nov. 26 to even have a chance to possibly match up with Alabama. If they can get there, though, they have three key ingredients for that matchup – an elite coach, elite recruits and a dynamic dual-threat QB. It’s a pretty simple formula. In fact, it’s Alabama’s.
Behind only Clemson, this is the team that could give Alabama fits. With 15 of the starters being freshmen and sophomores, this is probably the team to beat in 2017. Admit it, while you want to shut Harbaugh up, you want to see Urban Meyer ashen-faced in a rematch beatdown, don't you?
Reuben Foster led the linebackers in a variety of drills. He was followed by Shaun Dion Hamilton as the group practiced shuffling then making a cut to catch a pass, which simulates a short interception. They also worked on the sled to practice blocking. Also, Foster had his left wrist wrapped up in a cast. The senior still ran through every drill. It didn’t seem to affect him.
Let's hope this is a play-through-it sort of injury for the All-Everything inside linbacker. The other major injury takeaway is that Alphonse Taylor isn't just not participating in contact drills, he's not even practicing anymore. I don't want to think this probably concludes his Alabama career, but I lean more that way with each passing week. The running backs are a little dinged up too, especially Damien Harris. That is expected three months into the season and especially after that dog fight in Baton Rouge. They're all expected to suit up, except for Emmons and his "indefinite injury to the foot" (which sounds like coach-speak for a nagging, season-ending turf toe.)
There would seem to be a notion making the rounds that the once-proud, non-Alabama members of the Southeastern Conference are now cowered into the corner in a fetal position. To quote Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy: "That ain't true!" "Yeah, I read that, and hell no, it isn't true," an LSU staffer said while standing with a group of fellow coaches who paused to stand outside the tunnel and watch a few seconds of the Tide's celebration before following their team into the locker room. "What they are is a target, a goal. And we'll get there."
Exactly. No one is afraid of Alabama -- it is the moving target everyone aspires to. That has made the West better, to be honest, and has made those teams find better coaches and recruit better. In return, the divisional competition has kept Alabama sharp in games where it matters the most.
But fear? Nah.