TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Here’s one final look back at Alabama’s 34-6 win over Kentucky as well as a peek at what the Crimson Tide have coming up in the next three weeks.
Alabama’s offense is still a work in progress
It’s tough to judge Alabama’s offense in games like these because what we saw against Kentucky likely isn’t the offense Alabama will run as the games get tougher.
The slow offensive starts are a bit concerning, but it’s worth noting that Alabama’s offense also wasn’t at 100 percent. Starting running back Damien Harris was limited due to an ankle sprain. Starting wide receiver ArDarius Stewart has been out with a knee injury the last two weeks.
Losing quarterback Blake Barnett to transfer created a serious issue for Alabama’s depth at the position as well as how the team will manage freshman Jalen Hurts.
We saw Hurts used on a lot of designed runs early in the season. We didn’t see very many on Saturday. Most of Hurts’ rushing attempts came on scrambles when things broke down.
Having Barnett gave Alabama a cushion when using Hurts as a runner. Cooper Bateman, who is now the backup, isn’t as talented as Barnett. David Cornwell has a lot of talent, but he is isn’t as dynamic of a player as a runner.
Alabama’s passing game is still trying to find its way. Hurts needs to be quicker on his reads. He also needs to put a little more touch on his deep balls. He overthrew or missed open receivers altogether.
The one thing Alabama fans should cling to is the fact that Hurts and Calvin Ridley found a rhythm in the second half, particularly the third quarter. Hurts and Ridley connected for 133 yards and 2 touchdowns in the third quarter, so whatever adjustments were made at halftime worked. Alabama’s offense should pick up once Stewart is back on the field as well. But it still will be worth monitoring how the coaching staff uses Hurts as a runner.
Ronnie Harrison’s 55-yard fumble pushed Alabama’s non-offensive touchdown total to 7, tops in the nation.
Alabama has scored a non-offensive touchdown in seven straight games dating back to the 2015 College Football Playoff semifinal vs. Michigan State.
Further, Alabama has scored 5 defensive touchdowns this season, which is also the best in the country.
Alabama’s defense has scored the same amount of touchdowns it has allowed. Four of those touchdowns came against Ole Miss in the Tide’s 48-43 victory, and the other came vs. Western Kentucky. That means three of the Tide’s opponents have failed to score touchdowns.
Don’t expect the streak to come to an end any time soon.
“Yeah, it’s kind of a thing right now,” Harrison said. “We have to get one on defense every game.”
Damien Harris and Joshua Jacobs should make a nice 1-2 punch
Not having Harris (ankle) much for the last two games gave freshman Joshua Jacobs more opportunities. Jacobs responded with 197 yards and 3 touchdowns in the last two outings.
Harris showed he can be a feature running back vs. Southern Cal and Ole Miss. Jacobs did the same on Saturday vs. Kentucky.
With Alabama’s offense struggling in the second quarter, Harris took the first carry for 4 yards. The other 6 touches on the 7-play drive went through Jacobs. He ran for 57 yards behind the left side of Alabama’s offense line on the drive, capping it with a 1-yard score to give Alabama the lead, 10-3.
Both Harris and Jacobs have shown toughness and big-play ability throughout the year.
When Harris gets completely healthy, Alabama now has a one-two punch to help the offense through this upcoming SEC stretch.
Upcoming 3-game stretch won’t be easy
This is where things get tough. Alabama plays at Arkansas, at Tennessee and hosts Texas A&M over the next three weeks.
Arkansas doesn’t have the most explosive offense, but the Razorbacks are physical. They run the ball well, and could control the clock.
Tennessee has proven to be a resilient team, with comeback victories over Florida and Georgia, which are big confidence-boosters. Tennessee’s Josh Dobbs is the type of quarterback who could give Alabama some problems. The Volunteers offense is explosive enough to make things interesting.
Texas A&M’s offense is one of the more potent units in the SEC. But it’s the Aggies’ improvement on defense that makes them one of the top teams in the country.
If Alabama wins these next three games, November is set up favorably with LSU and Auburn both being subpar offensively.