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Jumbo Package: Alabama Clears First Hurdle in Difficult November

The Tide have reached the stage of the season where only wins, and not style points, matter.

NCAA Football: Louisiana State at Alabama Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Monday, everyone. First off, don’t forget that Alabama’s opening exhibition basketball game vs. UAH tips at Coleman Coliseum tonight at 7pm CT, broadcast online only on SEC Network +. If you have been slow to #BuckleUp for some reason, it is time.

On to the football. Matt Scalici summed up what many in the media are feeling after Saturday night’s convincing win over LSU:

Some of the complaining is rather ridiculous, but such is life when you’ve set the bar as high as Saban has, I guess. I mean, the other contenders were seen getting trashed by Iowa, beating an unranked South Carolina by the same score as Alabama over LSU, giving up 37 points to Wake Forest, or barely escaping NC State, but it wouldn’t be Alabama fans if there wasn’t consternation over every potential flaw.

In any event, here are your breakdowns:

LSU certainly was a factor in that equation. Saban said the Tigers played "mint" defense with eight men in the box.

Looking back at the video from Saturday night, the Tigers often had seven defenders selling out on the run with six Alabama players in to block. There were also missed assignments like the time Bo Scarbrough was tackled five yards behind the line when Arden Key was untouched between tight end Irv Smith Jr., and left tackle Jonah Williams.

Those lamenting the offensive line play are misguided to a large degree. If you rewatch the game, the Tide actually ran the ball quite well early. LSU adjusted with a five man line, and on many second half runs the extra defender made the initial contact on the ballcarrier. Orgeron and crew made the decision to force Alabama to win with the passing game and, while it wasn’t always pretty, the Tide managed to do just that.

Oh, and Danielson was flat-out wrong about Smith and Williams missing a block on Key there. This is the play he’s talking about:

Key was intentionally left unblocked. The play was an inverted veer, meaning that Jalen was tasked with reading the front side end rather than the back side. On a typical zone read, the end crashing means the QB keeps and runs out the back door. It’s just the opposite on an inverted, where a crashing end should leave the outside zone play wide open.

Key executed what is called a “mesh charge,” meaning that he crashed hard to disrupt the mesh read. The proper adjustment to that is to abort the mesh, have Bo block him, and Jalen to get upfield behind his lead blocker. Note Cotton pulling through the hole to lead Hurts. Of course, you can also run the midline instead and force those big guys inside to play the mesh rather than the best edge athlete in the conference.

I really hope to see more of the midline as we go forward. It has been devastating this season. Running the inverted at Key early was sound strategy in effort to make him pause later, but he read what was going on and blew it up. We are lucky it wasn’t a fumble, and Daboll correctly left others as the read man for the rest of the evening.

“Jalen played a really good game,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “They played an eight-man front on us and made it really hard to run the ball. They ran people at the quarterback to try to take [Hurts] away from the running game. Some of the scrambles on third down were really key in the game, and he made some really good throws, as well. When people play like that, you make some big plays, but it can get ugly in between, and that’s how it was today, but I think he did a really good job out there.”

Hurts is now 22-1 as a starter, and as long as he continues to win, that should be all that matters.

Jalen made some beautiful throws in this one, and I think the film study will further build his confidence. He is trusting what he sees for the most part, but there are still some little things to work through, like this 3rd-and-5 pass early in the third quarter. The play works, and Hentges is wide open. The ball needs to come out right here:

Hentges is looking for it, Jalen has the read, and there is a first down to be had. For whatever reason, he hesitates and ends up turning a very easy throw into a difficult one:

The good news is that these issues are becoming fewer and farther between. Hurts passed the team down the field on two long touchdown drives, and on most occasions got the ball out of his hands in good order. This performance was far better than those from late last season.

Between the A&M and LSU games, the biggest change with how Daboll has used the players in this group is within the receiving corps. Foster and Sims have seen their roles diminish while Smith and Jeudy have become increasingly featured. Every other position group has virtually remained static.

The young WRs were obviously featured prominently, but we need to see fewer drops. Devonta Smith had a particularly rough outing in this regard.

In the meantime, LSU did keep its defense off the field and it steadily kept knocking out defensive players that no team without Alabama’s depth could afford to lose. Whether the Crimson Tide can take much more depends on several diagnoses, including that of Minkah Fitzpatrick, Mack Wilson and Shaun Dion Hamilton to go along with the previously injured. By the time it was over, Alabama seemed like Clint Eastwood in one of his later Westerns, having killed everyone in town but looking bruised and bloodied and generally worse for wear.

On Saturday, in a battle between two SEC West powerhouses, Alabama landed a pair of haymakers on LSU and mostly chilled the rest of the night en route to a 24–10 win over LSU at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Crimson Tide quarterback Jalen Hurts orchestrated a nine-play, 90-yard touchdown drive capped by a four-yard touchdown pass to tight end Irv Smith in the first quarter, and an interception from defensive back Ronnie Harrison led to a second score early in the second quarter.

With that, Alabama had taken control. It rarely felt as if the Crimson Tide were in danger of relinquishing it.

For all the hand-wringing, the Tide managed a respectable 5.1 yards per play and gave up 4.1 despite the injuries at linebacker. Take away the one bust on the wildcat where Keith Holcombe was dragged to the ground by the jersey as he tried to fill but Alabama players never get held according to SEC officials the MASH unit that was playing didn’t properly communicate on the formation, and the Tide allowed only 3.5. Of course, there were some pass plays left on the table by LSU as well. Etling can’t throw deep accurately, and Pruitt knew it.

Shank continues to build quite a brand on Twitter. For the unitiated, you can click the embedded tweets to see the responses, etc. and make a response if you have an account. In this case, he made a thread in response to an LSU fan who called Key a “wolf” for bucking the trend and going to LSU rather than Alabama with all the “sheep” who take the easy path. For CarrotTop4 those who demand a refund any time they are asked to click on something, I screencapped the rest of the thread for you below.

I have a feeling we will see Shank on TV at some point.

Recruiting news:

Sanders said "everybody" is trying to recruit him, but he's not thinking about visits to any other schools. Sanders was at Alabama's game against LSU on Saturday, his second trip of the season.

"I'm trying to get the whole team to go," Sanders said Friday. "I want them to cancel the flight (back to Florida) and go to 'Bama."

By “the whole team” he means the football factory that is IMG Academy. Sanders sounds quite solid, and will hopefully bring some friends.

The Tide are big favorites on the road again this weekend:

We will get a good idea of just how much these injuries are going to affect the defense against a solid Mississippi State offense.

Last but not least, a couple of our favorite former petty thieves sent audition tapes to star in an upcoming Dumb and Dumber sequel featuring NFL players:

What a couple of knuckleheads.

That’s about it for today. Have a great week.

Roll Tide.