Alabama vs Colorado State: Game Preview


Following The Crimson Tide’s action packed visit to Kyle Field for their first SEC West showdown, the Tide returns to Tuscaloosa for the first home game of the 2013 season playing host to former Offensive Coordinator Jim McElwain and his Colorado State Rams. Alabama is 2-0 and remain #1 nationally going into week four and control their own destiny in the SEC West race. Mountain West opponent Colorado State comes into Bryant Denny stadium a heavy underdog and will largely be using this game as a true measuring stick for where the program is and measuring where the team is in terms of talent.

After back to back losses to Colorado and Tulsa, the Rams bounced back with a win against Cal Poly at home and are hoping to keep some of that momentum coming into the lions den this Saturday in Tuscaloosa. With this being Alabama’s first home game the Rams players can expect a rowdy, loud, super pumped up TideNation this weekend providing them with a big time college football atmosphere. Alabama has scored 84 points in two games and Co. State has given up 88 through 3 games so the Rams defense have their work cut out for them. Not only have the Rams given up 88 points this year, they have scored exactly 88 points in three games while the Bama defense has given up 52 points in two games. Breaking down a game looked at by most outsiders as merely a tune up game for the Crimson Tide isn’t about advantage and how they will gain the upper hand, it is more about fundamentals and execution on both sides of the ball. Saban and staff won’t spend as much time on game plan as they will on running every play they have had poor execution on in the first two games. These games are just as important to Saban as any game on the schedule because they offer an opportunity to fine tune the schemes and following the A&M performance, get a few auditions out of the way for some young players.

With the current talent and number of players capable of being starters, the staff is continuously faced with assessing which players give them the best chance at being effective as a team. Giving up the most yards ever to A&M is one of the few ways that doors open up during the season for younger players to step in and get a chance to earn a more relevant role on the defense. Despite facing an un-ranked team without the firepower to really challenge the Tide, this game still has enough story lines to be  a really exciting and revealing game. Alabama has recently been on a defensive run unmatched by any school in history fielding top notch defenses five years in a row.  Saban works hands-on with the defense, specifically the defensive backfield, and despite winning the Texas A&M game coach Saban has plenty of work to do with this defensive unit.

After giving up a record number of yards to A&M, the Tide defense will be looking to get back to the dominating force they’re accustomed to being, only giving up an average of 5.5 points during the last 15 non-conference teams. The CSU Rams run a similar look to what the Crimson Tide offense runs, which should allow that Bama defensive line to turn loose a little bit this week. Alabama is pretty well set and stable along the defensive front seven with the starters firmly entrenched and with the only real move being true freshman A’shawn Robinson taking over the #2 spot. With the upcoming slate of games for Alabama, the line should see the most significant improvement in production over the next few weeks. CSU does have a pretty productive running back so it isn’t as if they won’t be challenged at all up front and with young budding starts waiting in the wings, taking a week off for a weaker team could result in a player fighting for his job so don’t expect a lack of intensity from Alabama in the trenches. Tide linebackers are also steady and improving with impressive depth across the board but in the defensive backfield it should get  interesting.

Saban certainly isn’t jumping with joy about the performance of his defensive backfoeld last week and it wasn’t just coach speak when he said it was time for some young players to get a shot at playing time. Alabama isn’t exactly staring down the barrel of a string of top rated passing teams in the next few weeks and there is no better time to see which youngsters are ready for this stage and which ones need more time. True Freshman Eddie Jackson (#4) should be right at the top of Saban’s list with his height and speed at cornerback, he has the  body type and athleticism the staff wants out of their corners and he will have his chance to prove if he is ready or not. Track star Bradley Sylve (#16) has worked long and hard for his shot to come at boundary corner and this weekend it’s audition time for the Louisiana native and former Tide receiver. One other player expected to make a debut is Texas native and true freshman Mo Smith (#21), the perfect nickel corner and possibly a future safety, Smith is one of the more technically sound freshmen corners that you will ever see. The Colorado St QB may not be up for Heisman consideration but he is averaging over 200 yds per game, 22 yards less than McCarron by the way, and they will do everything they can to prove they belong on the field with this Bama defense.

The Tide offense was certainly a much brighter spot than the defense was but they had their holes as well and probably weren’t quite as dominant as they seemed to be given the sad shape of the A&M defense. The Offensive line has to keep on trucking with the same communication, physicality and execution they began to show last week in order to get to where they want to be as a unit.  Pass blocking was much improved in week two and AJ didn’t hit the ground the entire game and the run blocking was much better as well. Alabama running backs have spent the week working on ball security, route running and catching the ball. Word has it that Yeldon will sit out a quarter of this game as a result of his personal foul throat slash following a touchdown last week, meaning Fowler will get the start and CSU will get a very good look at the explosive Kenyan Drake. Yeldon has done a tremendous job chopping away at the defense but his lack of explosive plays is raising a few questions around town. True Freshman Altee Tenpenny will almost surely see playing time this week but i’m told the possibility of a back that has not seen the field yet getting some reps is still on the table (Tyren Jones or Alvin Kamara).

AJ McCarron should expect another clean pocket this week and his newly found weapon OJ Howard will be more involved in the pass game this week from his tight end position. Cooper and McCarron are still working on communication issues and there doesn’t seem to be a logical reason for it but there is certainly some type of kink that needs ironing out. Coach McElwain’s CSU defense is overmatched with all of Bama’s receivers but they are a tough, scrappy bunch who will play until the end for the Former Bama offensive coordinator. To this point, it almost seems as if all of the Tide’s receivers have begun to establish themselves with the exception of Cooper and he is seriously overdue for a big game. Jalston Fowler is another player to watch as he seems to gain more confidence in his rebuilt knee with each carry and that gives The Tide a tremendous veteran presence and sense of trust in the backfield. The main objective here is to execute at a high level, continue to improve, work on communication and exit the game with a win and injury free.

Alabama 49  Colorado State 10

 Final thought; The backup QB spot is of great concern to a lot of people around the program in terms of the passing game, despite the lack of conversation on the subject and there are more than a few people hoping to see Morris (or a pocket passer of some sort) get his feet wet with some irreplaceable game experience.