Alabama Crimson Tide look weak in win over Texas: What it means moving forward
What it means moving forward
AUSTIN, Texas— For more than a decade, as Nick Saban has built one of the most defining families in sports history, Alabama has carried an aura of championship inevitability.
Predicted from its classic uniforms and Saban’s sideline growl, Alabama’s title contention has been as reliable as the year. Sure, there have been dips and surprises, but the Tide has made seven of eight College Football Playoff appearances and six of the last 13 national titles.
Alabama’s place in the game’s championship conversation is readily accepted as part of the game’s soundtrack. It will remain there Saturday when the No. 1 Crimson Tide expands after an unusually sloppy and underwhelming 20-19 win at unranked Texas.
The idea of tossing Alabama out
Any idea of tossing Alabama out of the national title picture remains ludicrous, as cyberspace is littered with terabytes of Alabama’s premature demise. But simply pencilling them into the College Football Playoff based on past performance seems like enough, because that lacklustre performance takes away the glow of belief that often surrounds Alabama.
The plan, according to Texas coach Steve Sarkisian, “was to go out there and get out.” “I don’t care about impressions.”
The same can be said for the offseason impression of the Big Three in college football, that it was Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State and then everyone else.
The Alabama team that survived Daryl’s Royal Stadium has distinct weaknesses. The biggest proved to be self-inflicted injuries and a lack of discipline, as Alabama committed 15 penalties for 100 yards, the most of Saban’s tenure.
But perhaps even more obvious was that Alabama looked lethal, as their receiving corps is below average in the SEC, they were going to taunt their corner-happy offences and their offensive line has shown no signs of being capable of grinding out wins.
13 of Bryce Young’s 27 completions were to wide receivers, the least number. In an era where spreading the field has become critical to winning national titles, Alabama has a quarterback with a dynamic arm and a receiving staff that lacks dynamism. It left Young dancing, squirming and, on the obvious play of the game, magically avoiding a header to clinch the win.
Sarkisian contrasted him with Houdini, yet Youthful needs additional enchantment from his playmakers. There was a distinct lack of speed that caught the trained eye on Saturday.
One NFL scout said, “All the corners and receivers out there are in the same boat.” He’s played but never really been ‘the boy.’
“I haven’t seen a lot of speed,” another NFL scout added.
Alabama will get a Texas-sized portion of the opposite of rat poison, the kind of scepticism and negativity Saban will inevitably use to shape and mould his team.
But as they look ahead, it’s not crazy to cast Georgia as the clear favourite in the SEC with Alabama at risk of missing multiple regular-season games. In today’s college football, it’s difficult to compete if you don’t have outside skill and speed on both sides of the ball.
After the game, Saban observed, “It’s like playing an SEC game on the road.” “They are visiting the SEC. They would most likely be in the top half of the league right now if they were playing in the SEC.”
And that may be the most damaging statement of all. Alabama has a packed league schedule that includes home games against Texas A&M, Mississippi State and Auburn, plus road trips to Arkansas, Tennessee and LSU. Alabama has a long runway to get better, which is Saban’s speciality. And college football is a strange game where ideas are often shattered, as Texas A&M found out in Saturday’s loss to Appalachian State, 17-14.
At least for Alabama, there are plenty of speed bumps ahead with the flaws exposed today.
How much credit does Texas get for Alabama looking so un-Alabama? This is a good question. The biggest surprise of the game may have been how physically the Longhorns played, and for that, they should be commended. That was to be Alabama’s biggest advantage. And credit goes to the Crimson Tide, which never felt comfortable.
How bad were the punishments? Alabama Crimson Tide look
Six were offsides or false starts, including three by star end Will Anderson Jr. and two by right tackle JC Latham. There were a couple of facemask penalties, and one that was not called that could have changed the game.
Anderson was called for a clear personal foul, there was an illegal block in the back, and there were two Kool-Aid McKinstry pass interference calls.
Perhaps the most important Alabama play of the day came via a penalty. Linebacker Dallas Turner was flagged for a rough passing call that knocked Evers out of the game with what Sarkeesian later said was a sprained collarbone. (Evers spun the ball brilliantly, throwing for 134 first-quarter yards, sending Texas fans’ imaginations spinning with delight.)
The game was a coda to the last time these programs met in the 2010 national title game, where Colt McCoy was injured. Depending on which program you follow, this is the subject of a great ‘What If’ or a decade of worry.
Long before now, this game’s legacy will be established. But in the short term, Alabama’s road to where they’ve been at the top of the game looks more dangerous than usual.
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