The good folks over at Third Saturday in Blogtober are hosting this week and a big, sincere Thank You goes their way.
1. What are your feelings on Alabama’s current position in the polls? Are we overrated? Underrated? Just right?
Alabama continues to be ranked exactly where they should be. It makes a big statement about the season to date that when my phone started filling with test messages as the polls were released Sunday, those messages were filled with comments about how many first-place votes Alabama received rather than where they were ranked. Up to this point in the season Alabama has been a good team and deserves the lofty rankings they have.
I’ll use this space to give the opinion that I have been formulating since the game clock hit 0:00 Saturday evening and finished in its final form yesterday at lunch: This is a good football team that we have in Tuscaloosa. That does not change because the last victory, over a traditional conference doormat, was secured by an on-side kick attempt sailing out of bounds. This team is made up of solid lines on both sides of the ball, some strong senior leaders, a handful of good skill-position players, and some gritty, determined, and smart defenders. Alabama had a bad game, its worst in many ways as it gave up big plays on defense, had special team miscues, turned the ball over more than its share on offense, and was penalized at more than twice its normal rate. In spite of that it won. In the recent past that probably would not have happened. Beyond Alabama’s mistakes, Kentucky played a good ball game; they were not sloppy on offense, their defense was tenacious, and they never, ever gave up. They will probably win quite a few more games this season.
Southern Cal is undeniably a good football team. They had a less-than-stellar performance against an inferior but determined team and now they have to hope that others lose for them to attain their pre-season goals. Would I have preferred that the Tide put the ball into the end zone every time they were in the red zone and put the game out of reach early? Of course. It would be nice to dominate every game but realistically, and not apologetically mind you, it is impossible to dominate every opponent in this age of college football. Without digging through the record books, my memory serves me, enough to remember that in 2003 Oklahoma ran through their schedule like Tommy Tuberville through coordinators; quickly, mercilessly, and with utter disregard to what other felt about it. It wasn’t even close. That is until they met a obviously over matched Kansas State team that kind of backed its way into the Big Twelve through the utter inability of other teams to stay out of their own way. Oklahoma lost that game. And because the Sooner resume had been so spectacular up to that point they were given a second chance to prove how awesome they were and never really competed against LSU in the championship game Sugar Bowl.
Two bad weeks you say? Yes, I agree but Oklahoma will always be remembered for what it didn’t do that year rather than what it did. If Alabama’s two bad weeks are victories against scrappy teams from Tulane and Kentucky then I am fine with that. The facts are that up to this point, when the eyes of the country were turned to them this Alabama team has responded. And not in that high school quarterback showing out for the nearby practicing cheerleader way either. No they responded in that, you don’t come into my house and sit on my coach and insult my wife kind of way; emphatically and with extreme prejudice.
2. What aspect of the game did Alabama control that shocked you the most? What aspect of the game was Alabama dominated in that shocked you the most?
Shocked and dominated were not the verbs I would choose this week in my descriptions. Alabama did control the line of scrimmage and I was happy about that because I had a little concern that Kentucky’s defensive line would be physical and problematic. I was pleased to see that Coffe’s vision and break-away speed were not and Arkansas-only aberration.
The penalties were obviously worrisome, but based on the rest of the body of work, those actually should be an aberration. The busts in coverage were also troubling but putting on my happy Pollyanna face I think that they will be less and less of a problem as this defense matures and improves.
3. Name your player of the game on Offense. Also name one on Defense.
Glenn Coffee gets my vote for offense because since the 1996 LSU game we’ve all been looking for that next great running back performance, I just never figured it would come from him. I’m more and more impressed with Julio. He is becoming a “go to” type receiver and when McCoy returns and some of the other guys develop he is going to create big problems. John Parker Wilson is also steadily gaining credibility and thus my faith in him is growing.
On defense I’m going with Rolando McClain. He is just becoming such a force and the heads-up play to secure the error on the screen pass and step in the end zone turned out to be huge. Kareem Jackson was also impressive. Obviously the conference’s acknowledgment means so much more than mine but Booby Greenwood also had one of his best games ever.
When I contemplate the youth of this defense and consider that with the high level of play it makes me absolutely giddy about the future prospects of this program.
4. We’re six games into the Process: Year 2, and the team has made vast improvements since last season. Who, in your opinion, has made the biggest jump since last year?
There is not a single person who has not made significant improvement with the possible exception of Leigh Tiffin. This is a completely different team in almost every conceivable way. The attitude, the discipline, the swagger, it’s all just so different. This team plays with a mean streak and I couldn’t be more excited about that.
I find myself knocking on wood, this is the type of team I’ve been wishing for. Granted, the expectations are already so much higher but then again, high expectations are what Alabama has always been about. To quote Reece Bobby, “If you ain’t first, you’re last”. Whether high on peyote or not, when it comes to football that’s the truth. That’s not to say that I’ll be ready to run Saban out of town after a loss, even one to Auburn but Alabama is positioned to once again compete for the conference if they continue to do what they are doing. When they started the year they were underdogs to as many as five teams. There are six regular season games to play and Alabama will be a dog in possibly only one of those (at LSU). This team is better and this team is better because to a man, these players are better. In every way imaginable.
5. Profess your feelings for Jim McElwain. Prose, poetry, in song, or in any other way you see fit.
As I am not feeling creative at the moment I’ll just say this: If John Parker is happy with you – and he appears to be – then I am happy with you. Please continue to make us better.