Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray is considered a first-round prospect in the 2013 NFL Draft. On Saturday, he was victim of a cave-in underneath the Crimson Tide defense.
After throwing eight touchdowns in three previous SEC matchups, Alabama’s cornerbacks had better receiving numbers than Bray’s receivers, recording a pair of interceptions. Bray failed to throw a touchdown pass.
It was the opposing quarterback that had a first-rate performance.
The preternatural exploits of Saban’s defenses will be told by analysts and opposing defenses for decades to come. Unfortunately, the offense’s brilliance has gone unnoticed by casual college football fans. After Saturday’s 44-13 victory, the Tide have now scored at least 30 points in each of their first seven games, which is the longest streak to start a season in their illustrious school history.
It’s understandable to overlook Saban’s offense when he’s got a defense that has been leveling opponents like a tank juxtaposed in a Civil War re-enactment.
In the past three NFL Drafts, Alabama has produced a pair of Heisman winners at running back, it’s first two in program history and a top-10 pick at wide receiver. All three are now in the NFL but that hasn’t stopped the Alabama offense from churning out points at a more blistering pace than ever—14th best in the nation.
More importantly, the offense is now operating in tandem with the defense.
The Crimson Tide have scored 11 touchdowns off 13 interceptions this season and stamped their end zone passports 15 times after the 20 turnovers they’ve forced.
The evolution of Alabama’s offense is best exemplified by AJ McCarron’s progression as a quarterback. In a sport overrun with pass-happy offenses, McCarron is the best game manager in the nation. He hasn’t been forced to sling it around in a close contest yet but you get the feeling he could if the situation called for it.
In 2011, Alabama’s offense tallied 453 points in 14 games and McCarron threw for 16 touchdowns and five interceptions. This season, the junior signal caller has tossed 16 touchdowns but has yet to throw a stray pass into the arms of an opposing defender. The offense is averaging 41 points per game.
While there won’t be any Heisman invitations arriving in the mailboxes of junior Eddie Lacy or true freshman T.J. Yeldon, the Crimson Tide’s thunder and lightning combo are both on pace for 1,000-yard seasons.
Yeldon has rushed for 273 yards, averaged 8.3 yards per carries and four touchdowns in his past two most recent outings, including a 43-yard touchdown dash that put the finishing touches on Tennessee.
McCarron has spread the ball around fairly evenly to his receivers but true freshman Amari Cooper has been the top receiver in Alabama’s offense and McCarron has bestowed effusive praise upon him.
"(He) doesn't surprise me one bit. He can be as good as he wants to be. As long as he keeps working and keeps putting forth the effort, the sky's the limit for that kid." said McCarron.
Against the Vols, Cooper recorded seven catches for a career-high 162 yards and a matching pair of touchdowns. If he continues at this pace, Cooper would join an intriguing trio of freshman to lead ‘Bama in receiving yards including Ozzie Newsome, David Palmer and Julio Jones.
Remarkably, McCarron is actually missing his top freshman receiver in Chris Black, the nation’s No.-2 wideout in the class of 2012. Black suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in preseason practice.
Last year, the Crimson Tide offense averaged 39 points through seven games but lacked balance because of their elementary passing game. The next week, they were shut out of the end zone in a 9-6 loss to LSU. One year after their Alabama’s last loss to LSU loss, the Tigers look to waltz into Bryant-Denny Stadium, presumably cross midfield and repeat history.
Based on what we’ve seen from McCarron since his epiphany of a performance in January’s BCS Title game, things should be different this time.852703