TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Here’s one final look back at Alabama’s 49-10 win at Tennessee as well as a peek at the Crimson Tide’s upcoming showdown with Texas A&M.
Alabama’s offense is one step away
The running game is there. The quarterback runs are there. The one area Alabama needs to improve on is its passing game.
It seems like nitpicking after a team racked up 594 yards of offense and averaged 7.8 yards per play. Alabama had three players rush for more than 90 yards on Saturday. Quarterback Jalen Hurts and running back Bo Scarbrough both went over the 100-yard mark.
Still, the passing game is the one thing Alabama’s offense hasn’t mastered to this point in the season. Alabama coach Nick Saban knows it as well.
“I got on Jalen a couple times today, and the good thing about Jalen is that he always takes it right,” Saban said. “And I always ask him in the locker room, “Should I have gotten on you?” And he said, “Yeah.” So he agrees. He made some good throws today. He missed some throws. He missed some reads. He turned the ball over twice in the first half. Once gave them a score, one took a score off the board for us right before the half, but he’s getting better every week. Obviously his ability to run is something that gives defenses a lot of problems.
“If we can continue to improve in the passing game because of the level of skill guys that we have, I think that would be something that would make a big impact on what we can do offensively.”
There were some flashes from Hurts on Saturday. The 31-yard throw to Calvin Ridley was a pretty pass. There just needs to be more consistency.
There is going to come a time when Alabama matches up with a defense that is athletic enough to take away some of its perimeter quarterback runs. That’s why it’s so important for the passing game to continue to improve each week.
Alabama also wants to take full advantage of all the weapons it has at receiver with guys like Ridley, ArDarius Stewart, O.J. Howard and others.
If Alabama is able to get by Texas A&M, the bye week will be a big help for Hurts and the passing game. It’ll give the players an opportunity to refocus on the basics since there won’t be a specific gameplan that week.
Alabama’s defense was dominant even by Alabama standards
Maybe it was the talk about how the group has struggled with running quarterbacks in the past. Maybe it was the fact that the secondary wanted to make a statement after struggling against Arkansas.
Something clearly had Alabama’s defense fired up. Alabama held Tennessee to 163 yards of offense on 63 plays. That’s an average of 2.6 yards per play for the Volunteers.
No Tennessee player netted more than 30 rushing yards. Tennessee averaged 1 yard per carry in the run game. One.
Quarterback Joshua Dobbs completed 16-of-27 passes for 92 yards. That’s one yard more than Dobbs’ season low when he threw for 91 yards on 10-of-19 passes against Virginia Tech in Week 2. Dobbs was sacked three times on the afternoon.
The biggest illustration of Alabama’s dominance was its third-down defense. Tennessee converted just 3-of-16 third-down attempts. The Volunteers weren’t able to sustain any drives.
“Well we haven’t played great on third down as well as we thought we could this year. But we did a great job today,” Saban said. “I think that was a big point of emphasis for us going into this game. When you play these no-huddle, fastball teams, when you don’t get off the field on third down, they have extended drives. Players get tired, that’s when they get rolling, that’s when they create momentum. So it was a big point of emphasis for us to do a great job on third down.”
We’ve reached the point where Alabama is expected to score a non-offensive touchdown.
Alabama’s defense has allowed 11 touchdowns. Alabama’s defense and special teams have combined to score 11 touchdowns.
Safety Ronnie Harrison’s 58-yard interception return for a touchdown and safety Eddie Jackson’s 79-yard punt return touchdown were the 56th and 57th non-offensive touchdowns of Saban’s tenure. Those scores were the 10th and 11th non-offensive touchdowns on the season for Alabama, which leads the nation and is a single-season record in the Saban era.
Alabama has scored at least one non-offensive touchdown in each of the last nine games (4 interceptions, 4 fumble returns, 3 punt returns, 1 kickoff return) dating back to the College Football Playoff semifinal vs. Michigan State.
Defensively, Alabama leads the nation with 8 defensive touchdowns. The Crimson Tide has scored 4 defensive touchdowns in the last three games.
Seven of Alabama’s 11 defensive starters have scored a touchdown.
“It’s something we practice. If you practice hard for it, you expect it to happen,” Alabama defensive lineman Jonathan Allen said. “It’s come to the point where we’re demanding it from each other that we force turnovers. When we do force turnovers, we need to capitalize.”
Looking ahead to Texas A&M
Alabama’s win over Tennessee set up a top-10 showdown between the Crimson Tide and No. 6 Texas A&M this coming Saturday. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS. Texas A&M is rested and coming off a bye week, but Vegas still loves the Tide in this one.
Alabama is a 16.5-point favorite over Texas A&M, per @TwitVI
Crimson Tide hosts the Aggies on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. CT on CBS.
— Marq Burnett (@Marq_Burnett) October 16, 2016
Alabama has owned the last two meetings, outscoring the Aggies 100-23. All signs point to Texas A&M being improved defensively, but the numbers don’t back it up.
Texas A&M is in the middle of the pack in the SEC in run defense, allowing 159 rushing yards per game. The Aggies are last in the SEC in pass defense, allowing 278 yards per game.
Texas A&M has talented pass rushers, but Alabama had a lot of success running between the tackles last season. Alabama doesn’t have Derrick Henry this time around, but there is nothing to suggest the Crimson Tide won’t be able to find running lanes on Saturday.
Offensively, Texas A&M has always had talented receivers on the perimeter, but the addition of freshman running back Trayveon Williams has made the Aggies’ attack more balanced.
Williams leads the SEC in rushing yards per game (117.33) and is second in yards per carry (8.59). Still, it’s been tough for any opponent to run on Alabama. The Crimson Tide is holding teams to a nation’s best 2.04 yards per carry and 63.86 rushing yards per game.
If there is one way to attack Alabama’s defense, it’s testing the secondary in the vertical passing game. If Trevor Knight can be accurate and Texas A&M’s receivers can make plays on the ball, the Aggies can have some success.
But buyer beware. Dropping back to pass is a good way to get your quarterback killed. Alabama leads the SEC and the nation with 27 sacks.