Alabama Football: Whatever weirdness there is Saturday night in Tuscaloosa, it will be over by the fourth quarter.
The next Alabama football game will have weirdness. Mike Leach coming to Tuscaloosa ensures that and we are not talking about his unconventional Air Raid offense. The closest Leach gets to what most call normal behavior is a perennial quirkiness.
He may not coach in a pirate outfit Saturday night (don’t rule it out) but he will attempt to befuddle the Alabama football defense and steal a victory. Wizard though Leach maybe, his chances are slim.
The Bulldogs have not gotten the Air Raid down yet. The season-opening win over LSU gave a false impression. Since then, the Bulldogs’ offense has fizzled. Adding to Leach’s problems is an expanding list of players choosing to exit Starkville. One of the SEC’s best running backs, Kylin Hill opting out to prepare for the NFL Draft was a big blow. In three seasons, Hill rushed for almost 2,500 yards. Defenses spread out to counter the Air Raid, would have left Hill with chunks of available yards.
Leach has two freshmen in his place. Worse, is the Bulldogs are unsettled at quarterback. K.J. Costello shined against LSU but has been interception prone since. Freshman Will Rogers may get the starting nod against the Crimson Tide.
Even with QB issues, the Bulldogs must throw plenty on Saturday. That too presents a problem. The Bulldogs offensive line is still learning Leach’s wide splits. Opposing defenses have consistently applied pressure, often rushing four and sometimes only three.
Mississippi State has a good defense. The Bulldogs are No. 1 in the SEC in average yards allowed-per-game. The MSU defense might cause Mac Jones and company some problems. Based on how the SEC No. 2 for the same stat (Georgia) failed to shutdown the Tide, the Bulldogs will surrender yards and points.
No matter how well the Bulldogs’ first-unit defense plays, the team does not have the depth to stick with the Tide.
By the fourth quarter, the Alabama football offense will be able to throttle down. In the last 20 minutes or so of games this season, Steve Sarkisian’s offense has been good at moving the football while also eating up the clock. The Crimson Tide’s physically dominating offensive line and Najee Harris have been too much for tired defenses. The result is little need to pass and no reason for hurry-up.
There might three quarters of fireworks Saturday night. Some of it will be provided by Leach’s Air Raid. But by the fourth quarter, the game will become predictable. Some might even call it boring. After fun and games, some boring is not a bad thing on an SEC Halloween Night.
After the Bulldogs, the Tide will take an extra day or two to rest and heal from a tough schedule of six SEC games in six weeks. Next will be a five-week run to an SEC Championship.