Scattered parting thoughts on Alabama after watching the SEC Championship Game:
- The complete series of 'Alabama All Day' posts can be found here.
- It's a small thing, but one that shouldn't be overlooked and can't be over-emphasized: Alabama's tailbacks finish their runs. It's a yard here, two yards there, but their offense depends on those three yard runs picking up five because Ingram or Richardson or Upchurch takes a hit without ceding momentum. They keep the chains moving, keep the defense off the field, and move drives into field goal range.
- On a related note: Texas must-must-must tackle well. The importance of the little things are amplified exponentially against Alabama. They want to out-execute you and win on the margins. Extra yards on missed tackles are an outcome-defining variable.
- After studying Alabama more closely than I had all year, I'm more impressed by their offense and less intimated by their defense. The offense is balanced, steady, physical, and synchronized -- like something you more often see in an NFL team. The defense is superb, but short of dominant. The linebackers not named Rolando McClain are merely solid; Cory Reamer borders on an out-and-out weakness. The defensive line is excellent at filling gaps, maintaining assignments, and containing the inside rush game, but as a group they're a notch below both Nebraska and Oklahoma (thank God). The secondary is very solid and more than capable of creating turnovers, but the linebackers make the Crimson Tide a team against which you can pass the ball.
Florida was a lot closer to breaking through offensively than the final suggests; they were plagued by inexcusable drops on multiple occasions that negated what would have been difference-making plays. One could fairly estimate 10-14 points were left off the board just because of Gators drops.
- I'll be interested to see how Alabama decides to deal with Shipley. If they defend with the same zone principles they deployed to deal with Tebow, Shipley's going to present them with a lot of trouble. If Alabama takes a different approach -- Saban and Smart are not stupid, after all -- the importance of Colt McCoy rushing the football cannot be overstated.
- Back to the Bama offense: I was very impressed with their offensive line and how well they worked together as a run-blocking unit. Left guard Mike Johnson is as good as any I've seen play this year. In pass protection, the Tide are slightly less impressive, and one of the key match ups of the game will be LT James Carpenter -- who struggles at times -- against Texas's defensive ends. It'll be a big boost to the Longhorns if Alabama is forced to adjust their blocking schemes to provide help.
- I think Julio Jones can be dealt with one-on-one and that the bigger threat is getting mismatched in coverage of either Peek or Maze -- both are a problem for linebackers. What makes Alabama so tough offensively is their diversity; the power rushing game is consistent and demands uncompromising attention, but they do a really nice job passing out of rush looks, in particular with Peek and Maze. Add in a legit screen game and you can't overemphasize any one thing defensively. The balance commands respecting a multitude of options.
- Florida's punter did a great job punting high and to the sidelines to neutralize Alabama's excellent return man Javier Arenas. I'm curious whether Texas will do the same with John Gold or try to keep Arenas from returns with the rugby-punting of Justin Tucker, which has been erratic in its effectiveness this year.
- I'd be surprised if either Texas or Alabama got a special teams touchdown and also lost the game. Kick coverage will be big.
- Alabama's offense is a rhythm offense and I'll feel a whole lot better if Texas can make a play or two early that gets McElroy thinking out there. When he's comfortable, they're going to move steadily down the field as often as not. A turnover and/or a few jarring blows will help the Longhorns immensely.
- And finally, let's just hope that Colt McCoy doesn't try to do too much, all at once. He needs to be steady and patient, taking his shots downfield where he can, and not getting carried away with antsy feet in the pocket when there's time for receivers to break open.
- This is gonna be fun. Two weeks to kickoff...