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Jumbo Package: Alabama drops in polls, Has there been a coaching shift on defense?

Your latest Crimson Tide news and notes.

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NCAA Football: Alabama at South Florida Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Monday, everyone. As one would expect, Alabama fell in the polls following that putrid offensive showing in Tampa on Saturday.

The Crimson Tide’s ranking in college football has dropped for a second consecutive week. Nick Saban’s squad is now ranked No. 12 in the coaches poll and No. 13 in the AP poll, down from No. 10 a week ago in both rankings.

The fall out of the AP top 10 ends a 128-week run in which the Alabama has been ranked in the top 10 of the poll, per the AP. It was the second-longest streak in history behind Miami who had 137 appearances in the top 10 from 1985-1993.

There’s not much way to sugarcoat what we watched on Saturday.

Alabama didn’t lead until 4:35 was left in the third quarter.

And Alabama didn’t put it away until 33 seconds remained when Simpson’s 1-yard run supplied the final score.

Again, against a USF program whose last win over an FBS team came Oct. 23, 2021 over Temple.

If this was supposed to be the angry response to a 10-point loss to Texas before opening SEC play, it belly-flopped in the mid-afternoon Tampa rain puddle.

Somewhere Lane Kiffin was smiling thinking about next Saturday’s trip to Tuscaloosa. Beside him was probably Ole Miss defensive coordinator Pete Golding who certainly feels some kind of way about a return to Bryant-Denny Stadium.

What’s truly bizarre is why Milroe didn’t play at all in the USF game. Through all the agony coming through on the television, you’d think the Crimson Tide would have turned to the most experienced quarterback on the roster who surely could have made plays with his legs to win the game. Instead, it seemed like a prolonged experiment from Saban to see whether someone — anyone — could quarterback this team.

If you’re wondering why nobody on The Athletic college football staff picked Alabama to make the College Football Playoff before the season, this is why: There was no quarterback to believe in — and not enough skill to prop up the QB who won the job.

While Alabama’s offensive line let its quarterbacks down, the Crimson Tide eventually did a really good job of opening running lanes and providing good looks on the ground.

Nine of Alabama’s 10 plays that covered at least 10 yards came on the ground. Williams had two rushes of at least 20 yards, including a 26-yard scamper he parlayed into a 1-yard rushing touchdown — Alabama’s first rushing touchdown of the game. Wiliams combined with Jase McClellan for 203 rushing yards and one touchdown.

Alabama would be smart to lean on that duo moving forward. A strong rushing attack can cover up shortcomings at quarterback. Having someone like Milroe running the offense can add another dimension to the run game, as well.

Josh Pate went so far as to suggest that the team played uninspired ball because they didn’t believe in the QBs.

Not sure I put much credence into that one, but it is true that players tend to be a little more motivated when they believe in the leader.

As I wrote yesterday, it seems painfully obvious at this point that Jalen Milroe is the quarterback. And, I’ll say again, his performance against Texas wasn’t nearly as disastrous as many have made it. He threw two interceptions, and that has to stop, but that is the kind of thing that can stop immediately. Milroe’s game has to be the occasional deep shot to keep the safeties back, in a run heavy scheme that uses RPOs and zone reads for constraint. Jalen needs to carry the ball 15-20 times a game, and will undoubtedly find a couple of explosive runs if he does.

I thought about the fan reaction to Milroe’s performance in that Texas game, and wondered how it would have been different had Bryce never been hurt last year. The fumbles in the Texas A&M game hung a “turnover prone” label on him, and for those who tended that way, the two interceptions served as validation. I wonder if folks would have been a bit more patient without last year’s experience.

In any case, it’s on to Ole Miss now. We will have plenty about that matchup throughout the week, and it’s fair to say that nobody really knows what to expect. Lane Kiffin is doing a little trolling, though, as he is wont to do.

“Our guys watching the TV copy schematical in this last game, it certainly seems like T-Rob’s now calling the defense,” Kiffin said. “We played him before at South Carolina, so we’re preparing accordingly, you know, for him calling the defense. He’s done a good job too. And they’ve got really good players.”

Alabama’s defense did struggle in the Texas game, getting beat over the top by Longhorn quarterback Quinn Ewers, who the Crimson Tide couldn’t get enough pressure to. On his weekly TV show following that loss, Saban did allude to some behind the scenes changes being made.

Lane knows that this comment will prompt a question for Nick at today’s press conference. It may be that a change was made, but it may also simply be that Alabama changed how it relayed calls in the nasty weather.

Last, Deion Sanders was featured on 60 minutes and spoke with reverence about Nick Saban. Watch until the end.

If Nick is able to get this ship turned around, it will be the best coaching job of his illustrious career. It’s not going to be an easy task, though.

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

Roll Tide.