There are few people in the country who still think Alabama is undeserving of its No. 4 Playoff ranking after a 30-16 dismantling of No. 2 LSU on Saturday night.
The Crimson Tide excelled in every area, prompting one ESPN analyst to say they would “pistol whip” No. 1 Clemson “every day of the week.”
Let’s break it down:
This was the team’s weakest area against LSU, but it still managed to hang 30 points on the Tigers. It’s becoming clearer by the week that Jake Coker is never going to shed the silly mistakes.
We saw more Saturday: a fumbled handoff, bad pocket awareness, and one throw that hit a defensive lineman square on the numbers.
But he also made enough plays in the passing game to free up superstar Derrick Henry for a 210-yard performance. The offensive line paved the way for 250 yards on 55 carries, including 68 and 10, respectively, from Kenyan Drake.
The only real problem spots were a pair of long passes from LSU quarterback Brandon Harris to star receiver Travin Dural.
Other than that, the front seven turned in a dream performance against Heisman Trophy favorite (until Saturday, anyway) Leonard Fournette, who rushed 19 times for 31 yards and a late touchdown.
The defensive line lost a little energy in the fourth quarter, but it did more than enough to seal a victory by that point. The Tide’s power in the trenches during the first three quarters was almost unbelievable, and the “D” held strong until the offense was able to find its legs.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A+
Nick Saban got a perfect night from his special teams unit. Kicker Adam Griffith hit from 55 (!), 29 and 22, while punter JK Scott launched a few excellent punts.
Coverage was key: Alabama laid the wood twice on kickoffs (including a missile shot by Tony Brown), and freshman Minkah Fitzpatrick made a nicely-timed tackle on one of Scott’s punts.
The most impressive play of the bunch was A’Shawn Robinson’s freakish leap to block an extra point in the fourth quarter.
Lane Kiffin’s offensive approach was inconsistent to begin the game (don’t forget that awkward fourth-and-1 keeper by Coker), and a strong defensive effort against Fournette appeared to be wasted when the teams were tied, 10-10, with 0:21 left in the first half.
But Nick Saban made the call of the night by allowing Griffith to kick that 55-yarder. The embattled specialist nailed it, giving Bryant-Denny Stadium an extra jolt of energy, and Alabama never looked back.
The coaches also inserted Robinson, a defensive tackle, in at fullback in two goal line situations. The results: two touchdowns to his side.
Beating the No. 2 team in the country by two touchdowns is a rare accomplishment. The Crimson Tide need to avoid a loss in Starkville this Saturday (no easy task) before getting a cupcake tune-up for the Iron Bowl.
But things are certainly breaking Alabama’s way as it nears a 16th national title.