Happy Monday, everyone. Alabama managed to make it through the first two weeks of the season unscathed and apparently injury-free, which should bode well for this week's trip to Oxford. We'll start with some recaps of the win over Western Kentucky that was clearly the least satisfying four-TD victory of Nick Saban's career.
At least the defense is having fun:
This secondary rivals the 2011 unit as the best Alabama has ever had to start a season. That team had Dre Kirkpatrick and Dequan Menzie starting outside and Dee Milliner at star, with Mark Barron and Robert Lester at safety. They combined with a devastating pass rush, led by a dominant Jack LB (sound familiar?) in Courtney Upshaw, to torture opposing QBs.
How do you think the two compare thus far? Vote and tell us in the comments.
Nick Saban found plenty of problems with the offense in Saturday's 38-10 win over Western Kentucky. Turnovers, dropped passes and missed assignments all grated at him.
Then there were the 12 penalties called against the Crimson Tide, most in the last 42 games for Alabama. Ten of those were against the offense.
The 12 penalties were the most since committing the same number at Texas A&M in 2013. Of that total, 10 were called on the Alabama offense that had issues finishing drives most of the afternoon. The Tide would not get another first down on drives following six of the offensive penalties. One brought back a 63-yard pass on a play ending at the WKU 1-yard line. A delay of game on a field goal sent Adam Griffith back to the bench in favor of a punt.
Penalties killed several offensive drives, and the majority were nothing more than mental mistakes. Heat can certainly contribute to a lack of focus, though that will likely be an issue in Oxford again on Saturday. This needs to get cleaned up.
If it indeed was a wakeup call, it came at just the right time. Ole Miss is the only team to beat Alabama in each of the past two regular seasons and the Tide drew some heat for its mistake-filled performance last season. The Tide rebounded to win the national title. This time, the ones issuing the harsh critiques are the Tide players and Saban themselves.
"You can't pay attention to the media and the news and this and that because they'll make you seem like you're the greatest team in the world," defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick said. "You've got to really focus on what's going on within the team and what you're doing and you've got to play your best every day and bring it every time."
The struggles of the ground game are cause for concern. And so is the development of Bo Scarbrough. The sophomore looks like a Derrick Henry redux. He's 6-2 and weighs 230 pounds. Throughout the offseason, he was the recipient of constant hype. But Scarborough has yet to gain any traction in 2016. He has produced only 55 rushing yards on 16 carries through two games.
Alabama had just won 38-10. "I don't know that I've ever been this disappointed after winning a game, maybe ever," Saban said, later adding: "I'm almost embarrassed that I didn't do a better job for my team." Being the best team in the nation bestows high standards. But Alabama clearly holds itself to a higher standard than that — is it any wonder why they’re able to maintain this incredible level of success?
This is indeed what separates Nick Saban from certain other coaches who briefly mention the issues in the game before praising his team for "finding a way" to beat a Sun Belt team. As far as Nick is concerned, it's immaterial that WKU was never in the game after the first quarter. His team made mental errors and didn't execute well enough on offense. In Saban's world that isn't merely something to work on, it is flat-out unacceptable. The man is nothing if not a perfectionist.
Cornerback Aaron Robinson lined up on punt return and entered the game on defense with the second team as one of two cornerbacks. His fellow defensive back, Shyheim Carter, joined him in the second-team secondary at Star.
Behemoth defensive tackle Raekwon Davis made his Alabama debut after he was academically cleared by the NCAA earlier in the week. The 6-foot-7 defensive tackle was actually a defensive end along the second-team defensive line.
As Saban said, young players are going to make a huge impact on this year's team. Oh, and 240-lb. junior linebacker T.J. McCollum, a Clay-Chalkville product who landed at WKU after transferring from UAB, will most certainly remember that Mack Wilson got to play:
On to Ole Miss:
Alabama opened as an 8.5-point favorite over Ole Miss per @TwitVI but early action has Crimson Tide up to -9.5.— Cecil Hurt (@CecilHurt) September 11, 2016
This is probably a bigger line than most would expect and indicative of the possibility that a wholly one-dimensional Ole Miss offense will struggle. There is a huge talent discrepancy between the two defenses.
Ole Miss' season opener vs. Florida State showed that the Rebels are vulnerable on the back end of their defense.
Florida State quarterback Deondre Francois threw for 419 yards and 2 touchdowns. Ole Miss has an aggressive front seven, but the Rebels can be exposed if the opposing quarterback has time. Ole Miss had success defending the run, so it may be tough for Alabama to establish the ground game. The Rebels kept Florida State running back Dalvin Cook in relative check at 4 yards per carry.
No. 18 Ole Miss digested its vegetables, Wofford, without much of a hiccup and proceeded to claim a 38-13 victory in front of a record crowd of 64,232 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on Saturday.
Now that Ole Miss is done with its prerequisite, it can shift its focus to next week's meeting with No. 1 Alabama, which defeated Western Kentucky, 38-10, on Saturday.
"We've got our hands full, but it's a great opportunity," Rebels coach Hugh Freeze said of the Crimson Tide. "It's not one that we've been afraid to take on before. We kind of relish that opportunity ... we've got great respect for their program and what they've done. And we look forward to getting ready for it."
As they have the past two seasons, Ole Miss will come out ready to play with an eye toward knocking off the Tide and gaining an edge in the SEC West race. This isn't close to the same Ole Miss team, however. They still have plenty of firepower outside with Chad Kelly throwing to Evan Engram, Damore'ea Stringfellow and others, but running the football is an afterthought and the defense is a shell of its former self.
This was Ole Miss' first matchup with an FCS program since the 2015 season opener against UT-Martin. The Rebels totaled 662 total yards of offense and won 76-3. The Rebels have now won 12 of its past 13 matchups against FCS teams.
For the second consecutive season, the injury bug has bitten the Rebels hard. Metcalf had emerged as a prime red zone target with a TD catch in each of the first two games, then broke his foot WAOM-style while celebrating the second. He joins promising RB Eric Swinney and top CB Kendarius Webster, who were both lost for the season, on the shelf.
Oh, and about that last sentence:
"We got there at 10 and people were already tailgating," said Jones, a four-star recruit listed at 6-foot-2, 185 pounds. "It was cool to see that and the Walk of Champions is obviously pretty cool. "Pregame, being on the field and seeing the stands fill up was awesome. Obviously, it was not as big as an SEC game, but it was still a really cool thing and an awesome atmosphere." Jones felt like the staff made him a priority on his visit. He met with head coach Nick Saban around 11 a.m., talked to the assistants and was able to say goodbye to Saban following the game.
Najee Harris, a five-star recruit ranked No. 1 overall, helped his team bounce back from a loss last week. Harris ran 20 times for 255 yards and three touchdowns for Antioch (Calif.), which beat San Leandro 48-14. What's most impressive about the feat is that it happened in just one half, as Harris rested the second half.
Mac Jones continues to try and recruit for us, Tua put up nine TDs in a game, and Najee went for 250+ in a half.
Other than that, no big deal.
That's about it for today. Have a great week, everyone.