Four different ways to look at Alabama’s ugly win over Virginia Tech

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Alabama's A. J. McCarron scambles against Virginia Tech in the Crimson Tide's 35-10 win Saturday.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Alabama’s A. J. McCarron scambles against Virginia Tech in the Crimson Tide’s 35-10 win Saturday. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

It really doesn’t matter how you look at Alabama’s win over Virginia Tech, it was ugly.  Even the most cynical Crimson Tide fans probably would agree with that conclusion, considering Alabama was held to 206 total yards in its 35-10 victory over Virginia Tech. There have been a lot of ugly games in my lifetime. I watch football unlike many others and I usually remember 95 percent of the games I do watch, but when I think of the ugliest college football games I’ve ever watched, I think of the 2008 Auburn-Mississippi State game. The Tigers won 3-2.

Saturday’s game between the Tide and Hokies was nearly as ugly, although Christion Jones and a 77-yard run by Trey Edmunds stopped the score from being that low (thank goodness). Take away the Edmunds run and Virginia Tech had 125 yards. Take away a punt return, kickoff return, and an interception return and Alabama had 14 points.

In that infamous 2009 game, Auburn had 315 offensive yards. There were 20 first downs in that game, compared to 18 in Saturday’s game. Between Virginia’s Logan Thomas  and Alabama’s A. J. McCarron, the quarterbacks combined to go 15 of 49, for 169 yards.

15 of 49. Let that sink in.

Credit the defenses, but man Saturday’s game was ugly. There’s talk of Alabama’s demise around the country and I even had one Alabama fan, who I only recently met and barely know, say Saturday’s game was one of the ugliest games he’d ever seen. He’s been watching Alabama games for 60 years.

Saturday was ugly, but maybe talk of Alabama’s demise is going too far. Maybe it’s not. It’s too early to know what Saturday’s game means for Alabama’s season and Virginia Tech’s, but it isn’t too early to speculate. Based on Alabama’s play, I came away with four different ways of looking at the Crimson Tide:

  1. If Alabama can beat a former national power like Virginia Tech – who didn’t look bad itself on Saturday defensively – without any real production from its offense, it’s really scary what the Crimson Tide might be able to do once the offense gets its timing down. Christion Jones really saved the day with his three touchdown effort, especially with two special teams scores, but isn’t that why Alabama is as good as it is? Even when the Crimson Tide have had marginal days from their offense, they’ve been able to get a great effort from an unexpected player in order to pick up wins. That has happened over and over in the Nick Saban era.
  2. Maybe Alabama’s offense is overrated. A. J. McCarron looked like he was seeing stars the whole game, missing open receivers who were unable to beat press coverage. Think about it. Amari Cooper, who I believe is the most talented player on Alabama’s 2013 roster (and that’s really saying something) was unable to break out. He had four catches for 38 yards. It’s understandable that super-talented sophomore T. J. Yeldon could only muster 75 yards on the ground, considering the Hokies were throwing nine people at him on every down, but the passing game was a huge disappointment. McCarron’s passing effort (10 of 23) almost made Tim Tebow’s completion percentage (37.5%) NFL numbers look acceptable.
  3. With Alabama’s defense, who cares how good their offense is, because nobody can score on them anyways. Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas would probably be the first to admit that Alabama’s defense is better on the field than it even looks on film. Thomas, once projected as a first round pick by NFL scouts, went 5 of 26 passing Saturday. 5 of 26. Some of that is because his receivers couldn’t catch a Nerf football gently lofted in their direction on a nice fall day, let alone a football against the nation’s most feared defense. But despite that, Thomas has to be better than 5 of 26 passing. Of course, Edmunds, a freshman still rushed for 132 yards against the vaunted defense. Although the majority of that came in one large chunk, it might still show a chink in Alabama’s armor. Everyone is looking for any chink at this point, considering Alabama has lost two games in about 2.5 years.
  4. Could defenses finally be figuring Alabama out? Let’s be honest folks, the offense the Crimson Tide runs isn’t exactly known for tomfoolery. Alabama is going to trot onto the field with lineman bigger than the opponent, use muscle to open up running lanes, allow their quick, powerful running backs to make plays, and play action off of the run. Occasionally, Alabama goes five wide receivers and many times it is effective, but opposing defenses would rather see the Crimson Tide in five-wide sets than doing what they do best – making defensive lineman cry and linebackers miss for big runs.

 

Obviously, we won’t know which of these ways of looking at the game are right until a few more weeks of football have been played. We’ll get to see Alabama’s defense go against the only team to figure it out last year, Texas A&M, in two weeks at College Station. We’ll also get to see whether McCarron and the passing game can get going against an Aggies defense that made Rice’s offense look like a national power in the first half Saturday.

My guess is that the offense will be fine. There’s too much firepower for Alabama not to put up points, although the offensive line was awful Saturday. Saban will likely make that a focus for the next two weeks. Plus, it’s two weeks. Nobody is better with a bye week than Saban, who will surely have his team ready to go for the Aggies.

About Daniel Evans

Daniel Evans owns CollegeFootballSaturday.com and BracketologyExpert.com. He has a Bachelor's degree from UAB in Journalism, He's written for Touchdown Alabama magazine, NFLMocks.com, and does a weekly sports radio show on Blaze Radio. Evans' bracketology is ranked among the nation's leaders, according to rankings from The Bracket Matrix.

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