Alabama Football: What We learned From The Auburn Game


With each passing week we learn more about the 2014 Alabama football team. In this weekly feature I highlight a handful of the lessons this team is teaching me.

Blake Sims is clutch – Yep, we’ve already shared observations about Blake being clutch but not only is it worth mentioning again, it’s worth wondering if he relies on a little pressure to bring out his best.

Early in the season, he had the pressure of winning and then retaining the starting job. Against several opponents – Tennessee, Arkansas, LSU, MSU – Sims performed best when under pressure. However, against Auburn he took the pressure to another level as three interceptions led to Coker taking warmup throws. But Sims elevated his play, in completing 10 of his next 12 passes including three for touchdowns.

Moving forward, I predict Blake has turned a corner and that Bama fans should expect to see him perform at a high level for the balance of the season. Here’s hoping that entails three games rather than just two.

Lane Kiffin is auditioning – First, to be fair, we all market ourselves each and every day. We may not always acknowledge it or act like it, but it is no less true.

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The difference here is that Kiffin knows it – oh does he know it – and oh does he work to make the most of it. After all, what better way to demonstrate his offensive acumen than to beat Auburn and Gus Malzahn in a shootout? Sure, a run-heavy game plan would have been equally as effective while also slowing the Auburn offense, but where’s the offensive signature performance in such an approach? Where’s the opportunity to signal a touchdown on a one-play drive before either the quarterback releases the ball or the receiver makes his second move?

Don’t get me wrong. I am very pleased with Lane’s hire and I like most of what he brings to the table but there are times when I wonder – just wonder – if he’s not ignoring a boring approach that will work in favor of a more explosive (and exciting) approach that might work. Further, I’m not predicting that Lane will leave after only a single season – he needs to demonstrate more continuity than that. However, make no mistake, he is capturing images and assembling talking points for his next interview opportunity.

Defense was disappointing – There was a lot to both like and dislike about the Tide’s showing on defense. Auburn was held to five field goals, each kicked from within the red zone. However, the defense did yield 44 points and 630 yards – an all-time high for an Alabama stop squad.

My prediction or expectation here is that the Tide’s defense will rebound. If Alabama is to compete for another national title, the defensive unit will yet play a critical role in bringing it to pass.

Team has depth – The Tide’s depth is perhaps too subtle for many fans to even recognize, much less appreciate. However, if the Tide’s current roster were only as deep as it was a couple years ago, we’d be looking at a three loss squad.

Consider, as many as four players have taken first team snaps at left tackle, freshmen and redshirts litter the special team units (allowing more starters a break in the action), at least seven defensive backs have started and 10 have taken first team snaps. The Tide has rotated more than 10 defensive lineman in contests with 79 (Ark), 79 (TN), 82 (LSU), 88 (MSU), and 90 (AU) defensive snaps.

The demands placed upon this Tide roster – especially on defense – is about as impressive as I’ve ever observed. Assuming the Tide can dispatch Missouri on Saturday, the depth of rested talent and healthy experience will serve Alabama well in a four-team playoff.

Sweet Release – As strange as this may sound, I believe the Tide will feel less pressure Saturday against Missouri than it has over the last month. The gauntlet of LSU, MSU, and Auburn has weighed heavily on this team and while Alabama will have more pressure on them than nearly any other team playing on Saturday, the weight will feel less relative to prior weeks.

I say this with no disrespect to Missouri, but to date the pressure has been a fear of not making it to Atlanta and now the pressure is to perform well in Atlanta. The flavor of pressure is different and I suspect the Tide will wear it well.

Check back next week as I continue to track these and new items as they emerge from the field. Also be sure to check out our podcasts as I explore and debate these topics and many more in a more animated format.