Alabama Football: Tough test for sputtering Tide offense

Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports
Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports /

An Alabama offense that has had its share of ugly outings will have its toughest test of the season Saturday in Atlanta. The Georgia Bulldogs boast one of the best defenses in recent memory, and Alabama football is coming off a game in which it struggled to move the ball against Auburn.

A common sentiment among Alabama football fans and media alike has been “I don’t see how Alabama can block Georgia.” Alabama’s offensive line has performed miserably against presumably far inferior competition. It was unable to protect Bryce Young effectively in games such as Texas A&M, LSU, Arkansas, and Auburn.

Alabama Football: Run game continues to falter

Yards will certainly be tough to come by on the ground. An Alabama football team that has struggled to run the ball and been decimated by backfield injuries took perhaps its biggest blow yet when Brian Robinson went down against Auburn. It’s still uncertain whether Robinson will play in the SEC title game, and even if he does he will not be at full health.

This means Alabama is down to Trey Sanders, the sole remaining healthy scholarship running back. Sanders has been a good back though he lacks the power of Robinson, and is also a receiving threat out of the backfield. However, it’s hard to say how he will fare against the Georgia defense, and the lack of depth at the position puts a huge limitation on the Alabama offense.

My hope is that Alabama will at least be able to run the ball with slightly more success than it did against LSU (6 yards on 0.2 YPC) and Auburn (71 yards on 1.9 YPC). With the exception of a 37-yard tote by Brian Robinson in the Iron Bowl, Alabama was below 1 yard-per-carry in both of those games.

Even if Alabama can muster a similar day on the ground to the one it had at Florida (91 yards on 3.3 YPC), which was considered a catastrophic performance at the time, that would be enough to keep the UGA defense honest and make 3rd downs much more manageable.

If I’m being honest, I don’t expect Alabama to have much luck running the ball, whether Robinson plays or not. The offense will likely be one-dimensional, much like it was against Auburn.

This means the pressure will be on Bryce Young, the Alabama receivers, and, most importantly, the offensive line to give Young enough time to operate.

Alabama Football: Adjusting to no pass protection

This offensive line has struggled all season, and no one is even giving it a chance to slow down Georgia’s pass rush. The optimist in me hopes that all this doubt will make the offensive line show some pride and play their best game of the season in Atlanta. However, we have gotten no indication that this line is capable of keeping heat off of Bryce Young.

Alabama will have to do what it has done for much of the SEC season: find a way to win anyway. In recent weeks, we have seen some slight tweaks to the play calling that have relieved some pressure. These have included some RPO slant patterns (reminiscent of the offenses run by Tua Tagovailoa) and some swing passes out of the backfield to guys like Christian Leary and John Metchie.

These quick hitters have to be utilized even more this week to make Georgia think twice about bringing heavy blitzes. Bill O’Brien could also turn to some draw plays to punish the Bulldogs for rushing upfield too aggressively.

Additionally, Alabama has game-breaking receiver Jameson Williams back in the lineup. As good as John Metchie is, Williams’ speed puts stress on a defense that Alabama can’t produce without him. There is also the hope that Williams’ Iron Bowl ejection may benefit the Tide going forward, as it forced young receivers like Ja’Corey Brooks to step up in a high-pressure situation.

Alabama has the speed and talent at receiver to give Georgia serious problems downfield. Georgia has yet to see the likes of Metchie and Williams, and even Alabama fans haven’t seen how good some of the younger guys can be. Possession options like Slade Bolden, Trey Sanders, Cameron Latu, and Jahleel Billingsley can potentially play enormous roles as safety valves for Bryce Young.

Another interesting thought I’ve had this week is this: As good as Georgia’s defense is, Alabama’s offensive line might be so porous that it won’t really make a difference. Across the country, people are wondering how Bama can handle Georgia’s front if it couldn’t handle lesser fronts like LSU and Auburn.

In those games, as well as the Texas A&M loss, Alabama repeatedly made the opposing defense look all-world. There was incessant pressure on Bryce Young in each contest. Whether they brought an extra rusher and outnumbered Bama at the point of attack or someone just got beat 1-on-1, this pressure was often instantaneous and unimpeded. There were stretches in all 3 games where it felt like Young couldn’t even get a pass off. I don’t see Georgia generating more pressure than any of these teams did, simply because it’s not possible.

This brings me to my final point. At this juncture of the season, Bryce Young and the rest of the offense are accustomed to playing under duress. Young has been running for his life throughout the second half of the season and has still put up Heisman-caliber numbers. He has consistently been able to create something from nothing, and is comfortable when a play breaks down at this point. Alabama’s offense is what it is in spite of having poor blocking.

Next. Bama stays at No. 3 in CFP Rankings. dark

If the Alabama offense has enough success against Georgia to win the game, its struggles in previous games will be one of the biggest reasons why.