Three weeks ago, many were saying it was over for Alabama after the Crimson Tide’s loss to the Ole Miss Rebels in Tuscaloosa. The annual declaration that the Tide’s dynasty is over began to pop up and the 8-4 predictions finally started to seem like a reality.
But after the 38-10 blowout win against the Georgia Bulldogs between the hedges, media and fans are singing a different tune about the Crimson Tide.
As improved as the Tide looked against Georgia, Alabama needs to back up that performance with another strong effort against the Arkansas Razorbacks inside Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday evening.
Alabama has shown fans two different teams on the field in the first half of the 2015 season. There was the Alabama team played against Ole Miss. The Crimson Tide struggled to move the ball early on offense and five costly turnovers gave the Rebels consistently strong field position.
But on the more appealing side, there’s the Alabama that we’ve seen against Georgia and Wisconsin. Against the Bulldogs, Alabama played fast, physical and with a chip on its shoulder. By no means was it a mistake-free performance, but it nothing close to the self-implosion by the Tide against the Rebels.
If Alabama wants to keep its hope to finish the season with one loss and have a chance at a return trip to the College Football Playoff, it’ll have to prove the team that showed up against Ole Miss won’t be making an encore performance.
With the Razorbacks, the Crimson Tide will face an offense similar to the one employed by the Bulldogs. Arkansas is a power, downhill running team featuring an elite running back. That formula didn’t bode so well for Georgia, and there hasn’t been a team that’s had consistent success in the run game against the Crimson Tide.
The Bulldogs did run for 193 yards against Alabama, but 83 of those yards came on one busted play with the score sitting out of reach at 38-3. Several other of those yards came in garbage time against second-string defenders.
Georgia was rarely able to move the ball on the ground when it mattered and it’s tough to picture the Razorbacks having much more success. The Razorbacks will feature another talented running back in junior Alex Collins, who has already rushed for 656 yards this season. But the offensive line play for the Razorbacks has been less than stellar, and against the stout Crimson Tide front seven, Collins isn’t likely to have many holes to run through.
The Razorbacks appear to be a favorable matchup for the Crimson Tide, but if Alabama makes mistakes in bunches the way it did against Ole Miss, the door is open for any team to have a chance at an upset. Last week, Alabama proved it has the ability to be a championship team. This week is about proving it has the consistency to reach college football’s pinnacle.
A large burden of cleaning up the turnovers will be placed on quarterback Jacob Coker. In many ways, against Georiga, Coker proved that as he goes so go the Tide.
Coker played an insanely efficient game against the Bulldogs completing 11 of his 16 pass attempts for 190 yards through the air. More than anything, Coker played with complete confidence and the rest of the team followed suit. His ability to make better decisions in the pocket and protect the football is the key piece in eliminating any costly mistakes.
Alabama can’t afford to lose another game in 2015 if it wants to play in a national semifinal. There’s a long journey ahead of Alabama, but it can’t allow Arkansas to be a bump in the road on that journey.