On a two game wining streak, the Rebels travel to Tuscaloosa this week to
end that streak fight hard. This is going to be a tough, tough game, and nearly everything will have to go right for the Rebels to win. I don't have to say much about just how good Alabama can be. Their fans apparently aren't as high on them as everyone else, which is interesting. If you remember, many of our fans last year also thought that our preseason hype was totally unreasonable and were proven right. Perhaps those who follow the Alabama program the closest are right. Maybe Bama loses another game or two. I certainly don't see two more regular season losses, but maybe it could happen.
Check the analysis after the jump.
I think the story of the game for us on offense is going to be our offensive line. As I explained in the Blogger Q&A I did with Roll Bama Roll, the classifications of our line from left to right are as follows: (RS)JR-FR-FR-(RS)JR-SO. That could easily spell disaster against the Crimson Tide's confusing 3-4 looks. Typically, the way to fight a 3-4 is to run right at it, but it could be difficult to do that basedo ninexperience. I think that true freshman Patrick Junen and Juco transfer Logan Clair have done an admirable job this year against some, frankly, lesser competition, but I'm not sure if they'll fair well against the talented defensive front the Tide present. Couple that with the fact that true freshman Evan Swindall gets the first start of his career at center, and this is a recipe for disaster. The last thing the Rebels need are snap problems. I think that Sowell and Massie will probably be fine, but they're not exactly proven foundations for the offense either.
Before people (like myself) jump all over the inability to tackle that Alabama showcased against South Carolina, let's stop and remember that the Crimson Tide have the #1 scoring defense in the SEC and are allowing just over 13 points per game. Obvously they're doing something right. Bama's linebacker appeared to bounce off of Marcus Lattimore a good bit on Saturday, and while Brandon Bolden probably isn't Marcus Lattimore, he's a very capable tackle breaker (lately) as well. I hope that he and Masoli both run powerfully instead of with timidity. Timid running leads to bad things against Alabama.
More than anything, I'm concerned by Bama's defensive pass efficiency rating which leads the conference at 103.7. If Masoli's passer rating is only 103.7, we're in for a world of hurt. Those are Brent Schaeffer numbers. Perhaps Alabama's thirteen interceptions so far this season help that rating go up. Visions of Jevan Snead dance in my head today, and that frightens me. Masoli didn't throw a pick against Kentucky, and maybe he can keep the ball this week as well. It's a doubtful prospect, but an interception would absolutely crush us. That means we need to keep it away from Robert Lester (4 interceptions) and Dre Kirkpatrick (3). Safety Mark Baron has been incredible for the Tide this year, collecting 40 tackles, 2 sacks, a pick, and a forced fumble so far this year. So yeah.... basically, try not to get the ball to the second level? I have a feeling that our receivers are going to have to fight hard for the ball. Based on what we've seen so far this year, Melvin Harris is our receiver most capable of something like that. I'd guess we'll throw to him a good bit despite the fact that he will likely be blanketed by Kirkpatrick.
On offense, Bama isn't its normal animal. The Crimson Tide are third in the conference in passing yards and surprisingly "only" fourth in rushing yards. Their ability to spread the ball around has been difficult for defensive coordinators and Bama has the number four scoring offense in the conference. Julio Jones leads the passing threat with 32 catches to the next highest receiver's (Darius Hanks) 16. If the Rebels can somehow contain Jones (who is nursing a broken hand), maybe they can keep the passing game in check. It's a long-shot, but again, that's what it's going to take.
I'm certainly not knocking the Bama backs. Trent Richardson and Mark Ingram are each averaging over seven yards per carry, an astonishing statistic. Against South Carolina, however, neither reached the 4 yard plateau. If you're running for under 4 yards per carry, you're probably not succeeding. This issue stems more from run blocking than the backs themselves. Constantly, the holes weren't there or would be closed immediately after opening. It was a tough situation for Saban's ball carriers, and hopefully the Rebels can exploit that. While we are a woeful 11th in pass defense we're a slightly less woeful seventh in run defense. Surprisingly, the only team that ranks behind us in passing defense? The South Carolina Gamecocks. Ponder that.
Alabama by 24. What's your prediction?