What Alabama Needs to Focus on in Bye Week
Alabama, after dominating Mississippi State last week, is trading the playing field for the practice field as they have a bye week before their meeting with LSU on Nov. 14. While the Tide played their most complete game of the season against the Bulldogs, there is still more to build on for this team.
As Bama moves through their bye week, there are some things on both sides of the ball that the team needs to continue to focus and build on.
Finding Ways to Get the Ball to Other Receivers
Let me start by saying Devonta Smith is one of, if not the, best receiver in Alabama history. In no way does him touching the ball as much as he did against Mississippi State hurt the offense, but teams will start to key in on Smitty, especially with the loss of Waddle, and there has to be options elsewhere. Luckily for Alabama, there is a plethora of excellent wide receivers ready to step up to the task.
John Metchie and Slade Bolden are going to need to be reliable targets for Mac Jones if the offense wants to be successful. Metchie has already shown how explosive he can be in the vertical passing game this season, having two games with over 100 receiving yards. Bolden showed flashes against Tennessee, in his first action this season, catching six passes for 94 yards, but needs to continue to build on that performance. The offense will have to come up with some new schemes and play design to get Bolden the ball, given his very different skill set from Waddle.
Alabama is also loaded with freshman receivers like Javon Baker, Traeshon Holden, and Thaiu Jones-Bell, all who could find their way into the rotation this season with the absence of Jaylen Waddle.
Defense Needs to Build on Shutout
The Crimson Tide defense pitched its first shutout since LSU in 2018 against Mississippi State this weekend, and was happy to let everyone know they had awoken a monster. Before exiting the game, KJ Costello was 4/11 for 16 yards and his replacement, Will Rodgers, finished the game 24/37 for 147 yards. Rodgers averaged just four yards per attempt and threw two interceptions, one of which Patrick Surtain brought back for a score in the fourth quarter.
Alabama held Mississippi State to 37 rushing yards and 200 total yards of offense, the lowest numbers the defense has allowed all season. The defense needs to use this performance as a confidence booster, and continue to build on what they did right. Tackling looked much better in this game, and pressure up front was very apparent, forcing two sacks.
LSU looked lost last Saturday against a decent, at best, Auburn team, and had one of the worst rushing attacks of the season, running the ball 27 times for 32 yards. Alabama needs to continue to focus this week on stopping the run, after having so much success against the Bulldogs.
Blocking out the Noise
To hear Nick Saban say it, the team has been exposed to a lot of "rat poison" in recent weeks, having beaten the third ranked Georgia Bulldogs handily and then also handling Mississippi State in the fashion they did. Also this week, unless you live under a rock, you may have heard Mac Jones is the new Heisman Trophy favorite, meaning there is a lot to be distracted by if you're a part of this team.
While I want a Mac Jones Heisman just as much as the rest of you do, I also want this team to play for a championship. Nick Saban knows what it takes to get to that level, and he repeats the same sentiment every single season: don't buy into what the press says about you. This Alabama team is extremely good, but they need to continue to stay grounded and play with a chip on their shoulder like they have all year.