Alabama Football: Huge question lingers in second Tide road trip

Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports /

Last Saturday, the needle on the Alabama Football ‘Worry Meter’ drifted left toward zero over and over and over.

Those Alabama receivers who couldn’t seem to get open or create any chemistry with Bryce Young? Well, Vanderbilt showed up and last year’s Iron Bowl hero did too. If it was possible for one guy to single-handedly hush the fret-filled chatter, Ja’Corey Brooks sure came close to that with his explosive first quarter. His fellow pass-catching mates like Jermaine Burton and Traeshon Holden began heating up soon thereafter.

You could almost hear the collective sigh of relief from Bama fans.

The offensive line? Against Vanderbilt, the unit played well. Protected Bryce Young. Blew open some nice holes for the running backs. The insertion of Tyler Booker into the lineup a couple of weeks ago has proven to be a huge plus. There’s been a little extra sauciness in the guys up front. A burgeoning much-needed nastiness.

The ground attack? It was rolling last Saturday too. The sight of Jase McClellan bullying and shedding two would-be tacklers to find the end zone and Jamarion Miller looking like the best fifth-string running back in college football history on a late-game dash to the end zone were encouraging sights. And Jahmyr Gibbs keeps producing not only as a runner but as a pass catcher out of the backfield. Yes, the hand-wringing over the running game is vanishing fast, if it’s not already gone.

The devastating pass rush that was supposed to make life miserable for opposing quarterbacks? Found. Finally. Last Saturday. Led by, who else, Will Anderson, who looked a lot more like … well, Will Anderson … against the Commodores. And the rest of the QB hunters seemed to follow suit. They came in waves. And not just pressures and hurries this time. There were sacks. Real sacks. Multiple sacks.

Without question, Alabama’s 55-3 win over Vandy last Saturday was its best and most complete performance of the young season. Alabama looked prepared and sharp, and the guys played physically and made big plays on both sides of the ball. It was one of those performances where Tide fans had to wonder what even the perfection-demanding Nick Saban would find to critique.

In a nutshell, the head coach basically said the challenge for this team now is to keep this thing going.

This brings us to the last real issue keeping that worry meter needle hovering above zero. An issue that wasn’t resolved last Saturday. Because it couldn’t be resolved last Saturday. But it can this Saturday.

Alabama Football and a need for road dominance

This Alabama team hasn’t proven itself to be a dominant team on the road — yet. Adding to the concern is the fact that last year’s Alabama team, made up of many of these same players, struggled mightily on the road pretty much all season long.

True, this year’s Bama team has only had one road game to be judged thus far, but in its lone trip to Austin, Texas three weeks ago the mistake-prone, penalty-riddled Tide looked sloppy and out-of-sorts in eeking out a 20-19 win. And the Longhorns have shown themselves over the last two weeks to not be among the nation’s elite this season.

Arkansas is viewed as a better team than Texas, and, like Texas three weeks ago, will welcome the Tide with a raucous, rowdy crowd hungering to witness an upset that would shake up the college football world. In other words, this will be every bit — and likely more — the test Alabama faced three weeks ago.

Next. Bold Prediction for Arkansas Game. dark

There’s no doubt the Alabama football worry meter needle is lower now than what it was eight days ago. But until this Alabama team shows it’s not two teams — Alabama the Great at home and Alabama the Flirt with Disaster on the road — that worry meter needle isn’t about to drop to zero anytime soon.