Alabama has been dominant this season. Until last week against Texas A&M, the Tide had beaten every opponent they had played by three scores or more.
The team looks poised to make the College Football Playoff for the fourth consecutive year, but there are some things that they’re going to need to do to prepare for a tough stretch later on this season.
Here’s a look at three of those things:
1. Get the starters used to playing the entire game
Of Alabama’s six games so far, the starters have only had to play the whole way in two — Florida State in Week 1 and Texas A&M in Week 6.
That’s been a great way to keep the starters fresh, but it does come with some problems that a lot people might not realize.
What happens when the Tide is in a tough game later on this season?
They already looked a little sluggish late against A&M when they gave up a fourth-quarter touchdown run to true freshman QB Kellen Mond. With only 2:09 left on the clock, the Aggies easily drove 64 yards on an Alabama defense that had barely played in the fourth quarter of any game since Week 1.
Correlation? We can’t be certain, but there are strong indications.
Getting the defense in better game shape could be why head coach Nick Saban chose to leave the starters in on that side of the ball in the game against Ole Miss. There were some who questioned why they were still in the game up 45-3 in the third quarter — starting DL Da’Shawn Hand was injured during that time.
Having to play the entire game against A&M helps, but Alabama can’t afford to have its starters sitting on the bench in the second half up until the Iron Bowl on Nov. 25.
2. Get healthy
Injuries are not something that teams can control, but Alabama has seen quite a few players need to be held out due to unforeseen circumstances.
Terrell Lewis, Christian Miller and Miller Forristall are done for the regular season — there is the slight possibility that Miller could be back by the SEC championship if Alabama were to make it.
To make matters worse, Alabama lost depth on the offensive line when reserve guard Brandon Kennedy broke his leg on Tuesday. His loss isn’t as significant as the others, but you never want to lose depth at a key position.
Star inside linebacker Rashaan Evans is back on the field, but he isn’t close to 100 percent, which he made clear on his Twitter account this past Sunday.
People actually think I’m a 100%. Muscle was ripped from the bone, when was the last time u did the second digit on my jersey standing up? pic.twitter.com/yKZuxaVzcr
— Rashaan Evans (@616evans4) October 9, 2017
The hope is that he and cornerback/return specialist Trevon Diggs can get healthy enough to help Alabama hold off the teams that will be trying to knock them off.
3. Get Hurts and receivers on same page
I don’t think anyone is going to argue that Jalen Hurts has found any sort of consistency with his receivers so far this season.
There’s been some success, especially on connections to star receiver Calvin Ridley, but Hurts needs to continue working with the other receivers to get more comfortable and gain more confidence.
Now, if you’ll look back at this article that we released earlier this week, you’ll see that those numbers are deceiving due to drops, penalties, etc. The point, however, is that he’s still only completing 5.6 percent of his passes that are thrown 20-plus yards downfield.
That deficiency can’t continue to hinder the Alabama offense once they reach Week 12 against Auburn’s formidable defense in Jordan-Hare or Georgia’s in the SEC championship (if they make it).
Source: Saturday Down South