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Beat Alabama - Part III (Is Alabama Overrated?)

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Hopefully that title will be posted on Alabama message boards far and wide, expanding the reaches of the Red Solo Cup.

The answer, though, is, "Probably, no."

I say "probably" because it obviously hinges entirely on what one thinks about this Tide team. If one is an Alabama fan that looks at the remaining schedule for the Tide, sees only an LSU team that got trounced in the Swamp this weekend, and, consequently, feels entitled to an undefeated national championship season, then, yes, I think one's expectations might be a bit lofty.

If one looks at the starting roster for the Tide and boldly asks, "What weaknesses have we?" then, likely, one might be overrating the Tide a bit. Previously mistake-prone quarterback John Parker Wilson has been largely error free. Is this a sign of maturity, or a sign that he's due? Andre Smith, the sophomore, is leading a surprisingly dominant offensive line. But the opponents against whom it has been best exhibited, Clemson and Georgia, have not been lauded for their power or speed up front. Admittedly, Alabama didn't have to play its best ball against Kentucky, Tulane, or (in the second half) Georgia, but that admission does not erase the fact that in those circumstances, Alabama looked exceedingly mortal. So, either this team is inconsistent, or Coach Saban is taking his foot off the pedal now and then.

The point is Alabama has questions. I'll try not to step all over the upcoming preview feature, but those question include things like:
  • Why are they down in the pass defense cellar with the Rebels at 211 and 228 yards per game, respectively?
  • What effect will a kickoff coverage team with one touchback have against the best kickoff returner in the conference?
  • Why has your, supposedly, dominant offensive line allowed three more sacks than has the Rebel line?

I don't mean to insinuate that the Rebels have some statistical advantage against Alabama. In most respects, they are the statistically superior team. And in the only statistic that counts - wins and losses - Alabama is holding court as the only remaining unbeaten in the Southeastern Conference. That means something.

Tide fans, though, for their own health, should not excise the memory of the 2005 season in which "'Bama was back" under Mike Shula (though, apparently like Aslan or Galactus they came and went seemingly irrationally) with an 8-0 start. That team's strengths were drastically different from this edition's. Yet, like the 2008 team, the 2005 Tide was talented but not deep. The loss of a playmaker (in 2005 Tyrone Prothro; in 2008, potentially Wilson or Coffee) could dramatically alter the course of the season. Not unlike the Rebels, the Tide seem to live and die by a select group of players.

Overrated? Certainly not. Let it never be said that I accused their strong resume of being inflated. But dominant? The claim cannot be made. Unbeatable? Quite a shaky contention. A more learned questioner might offer two queries: Will this team lose at some point? Probably. Will that point come this weekend? I'll defer to my honorable colleagues, those who will compose the Friday preview.