Welcome to this week’s installment of the Roundtable. You can find the other responders and a wrap-up post right here. On to the questions:
1. What is the biggest lesson we learned in the win over Arkansas last
The first thing that comes to mind would be resiliency; Alabama did what they had to do late in the game to win. Sometime in the third quarter, when Arkansas was up by two scores, thoughts drifted back to a few previous Alabama experiences: at Auburn last season, against a Saban coached LSU team in 2000 and against the eventual national champion, LSU, in 2007 (which still had some Sabanistic toughness now missing in Baton Rouge). All three of those games were won, eventually by the better team (two of them were Saban-led) despite the fact that they trailed in the fourth quarter.
This team has confidence and a belief in what it is doing.
The second thing that was learned, and perhaps just as important, is that this defense still has a lot of work to do. This shouldn’t really be a surprise to anyone at this point. They were atrocious in the first half. If there is a silver lining it is that they did appear to grow up some in the second half. Now, let’s see if they can keep the intensity and effort up for a whole game.
2. What is the biggest concern going into the game with Florida next
The defense’s ability to stop Florida is the biggest concern. Granted, despite the production against Kentucky last week, Florida has not appeared to be the offensive team we’ve come to expect from a Meyer led team but there is potential for Brantley to find some success with the deep ball – two other opponents have and Florida is more than capable.
This weekend’s game appears to be a case of strength on strength (Florida’s defense versus Alabama’s offense) and weakness on weakness (Florida’s offense and Alabama’s defense). The talent gap you can count on with most of Alabama’s opponents is almost non-existent. It’s going to come down to who makes the fewest mistakes.
3. Will this contest be a preview of this year’s SECCG? Why or why
At this point, due to obvious weakness in teams from the East, Florida is without a doubt your odds on favorite. South Carolina is the only team that could conceivably beat them, but that would seem to be a long shot at this point.
The West, however, is a different story. There are three teams that have a shot. LSU has holes, yet they’ve remained unbeaten. The same could be said of Auburn. At this point Alabama has to be the favorite, but there are some holes there, too.
If Alabama can make it through the next two weeks unbeaten (or even with one loss) it stands a good chance of beating Ole Miss and Tennessee and making it to the bye week in position to get it legs under it and focus on fundamentals for a week before preparing for the always tough trip to Baton Rouge. Auburn could very well stumble down the stretch but right now they’ll be the favorite in every contest now except for one. The gmae on the day after Thanksgiving could very well decide the West’s representative in the championship game.
If this does indeed turn out to be a copy of the bill for the title game, it would stand to reason that both the Alabama defense and Florida offenses would be better.
4. What part of this week’s gameday experience are you most looking forward to?
While this appears to be one of the most perfect combinations possible in the football world – a top-ten match up of the conference elite, a clash of cultures and some of the best football weather imaginable – I find that I’m excited about this contest more than any other this season for other reasons.
For the past twelve consecutive seasons, I have gathered for at least one game with two of my closest college buddies. The core three have stayed the same, but without fail at least two more join us and it becomes an annual celebration. This might not seem like that big of a deal, but these guys travel from at least 1,600 miles away. While they have definite Alabama ties – one’s grandfather played with Paul Bryant on the ’31 National Championship team and later worked for the Athletic Department for years – it’s their passion for Alabama in distant, heathen lands that has brought new converts into the fold. We now have a group of several guys from western states that make a yearly trip to the Capstone to watch Alabama play, despite the fact they have no ties to the University or SEC football. It’s going to be a big weekend for me.