What I Learned Watching Alabama and Ole Miss


Sep 19, 2015; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Mississippi Rebels quarterback Chad Kelly (10) is sacked by Alabama Crimson Tide defensive lineman Jonathan Allen (93) at Bryant-Denny Stadium. The Rebels defeated the Tide 43-37. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

With each passing week we’ll learn more about the 2015 Crimson Tide squad. We’ll spot trends as they emerge and puzzle at both the positive and negative outliers.
In this weekly feature I’ll highlight a handful of the lessons this team is teaching me.
Offense lacks Personality – Much as already been made of this topic and the obvious nature of it suggests that further unpacking is not required, so I’ll get to the point. This incarnation of the Alabama offense is not one of a power football team and no amount of hand wringing or re-quoting of Derrick Henry’s measurables will make it so. This is a speed and finesse offense that was beat up by a more physical Ole Miss defense. That’s a hard fact to grasp for many long time Tide fans who expect Alabama to be a grind it out offense but it is no less true. This Tide squad remains unsettled at quarterback and is uncharacteristically thin at both running back and wide receiver. Youth is available to address all of these issues given enough time but is enough available given the week to week grind of the SEC schedule?
Best Deal in Sports – My inner grumpy old man makes regular appearances when the topic turns to the Tide’s kick return game. On Saturday not only was this alter ego on display but he was fed with a vindication buffet. The rant is simple and it goes like this – don’t ever, never, never return the ball from the end zone. Rather, instead, give the ball every chance to go into the endzone. Stand at the 5 or 10 yard line and cheer as it goes over your head. This is true because the best deal in sports is getting to possess the ball on the twenty-five for doing nothing. It’s free money. It’s a free 25 yard gain. On Saturday we saw the peril of greed as twice the Tide returned kicks from its endzone and promptly fumbled, turning the ball over on both occasions, inside its own 20 yard line – once on the 17 and another on the 13. A loss of 8 and 12 on the respective returns based on my calculus only made worse by not retaining possession of the ball. That’s kind of a big deal.
Defense has chance to be really good – It’s hard to walk away from a game in which the opponent gained 433 yards and scored 43 points and still be impressed with the defense but in one of the strangest games I’ve ever witnessed, this is indeed the case. Ole Miss punted on every possession that didn’t start inside the Tide 26 in the first half while being held to under 100 yards of total offense. The Rebels punted twice more in the second half and turned the ball over on downs after failing to convert a 4th and short to seal the game with 2:05 left on the clock. Sure, the defense yielded some big plays but Ole Miss players are on scholarship too. Besides, two of the biggest plays allowed were extraordinarily fluky and the forced turnover on downs gave the Tide possession with a chance to steal the lead and victory. The obvious coaching tweak here and there capable of turning the game upside down is evidence that the defense is well down the right path. If only the same could be said for the Offense.
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.

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