(CBS Local)- Nick Saban’s Alabama Crimson Tide have been rolling so far this season.
Ranked #2 in the country, the Tide have dispatched their opponents with ease, racking up an average margin of victory of nearly 40 points (39.2). Granted, the schedule hasn’t exactly been filled with difficult matchups, with games against Duke, New Mexico State, South Carolina and Southern Mississippi. But, they are doing exactly what is expected of them so far, dominating teams that they are better than.
This week, the Tide welcome SEC West foe Ole Miss to Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa for the SEC Game of the Week on CBS. The oddsmakers don’t foresee the Tide having much difficulty with the Rebels either, as ‘Bama is currently a five-touchdown favorite. But, knowing Saban’s pursuit of perfection is never-ending, he is sure to have specific goals that he wants to see the team work towards this week. CBS Sports Network college football analyst Kevin Carter believes the biggest area of improvement for the Tide is the running game.
“They are going to use this weekend to run the football. You saw great things out of players like Najee Harris out of the backfield. But, coming straight down hill, you saw the evidence of what the can do with Georgia against Notre Dame,” said Carter. “It is one of their (Alabama’s) strengths, but they haven’t been taking advantage of it. Alabama isn’t the top rushing team in the SEC right now. They are not relying on the run as their bread and butter.”
That may seem a bit strange for those who have watched the Tide under Saban, as they have consistently churned out big-name running backs while not often turning out top-flight passers. Now, the roles have been reversed, with Heisman runner-up Tua Tagovailoa holding the reins and being flanked by a deep group of receiving talent.
“It’s Tua and a host of receivers. Right now, you could argue that Bama has the best receiving corps in the country with Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III, Devonta Smith, and Jaylen Waddle,” said Carter. “They have a slew of guys, and Tua is slinging it all over the field and setting records. They are comfortable to rely upon such things as a part of their offense, and they have conceded to the fact of how they are built.”
“Alabama is lethal at passing the football, but when they run right now, they have guys, but they are just not doing a whole lot on the ground,” continued Carter. “Look for Alabama to slow things down a bit and really work on getting movement up front. They are going to have to rely upon that movement when they play a quality team.”
The Tide running game has averaged a respectable 178 yards per game and 5.3 yards per carry so far this season. But as Carter points out, that checks in at sixth in the conference to this point. Not exactly where you would expect the Tide to be.
The good news is the Tide will get a good opportunity to work on the run game against a good run defense this week. Ole Miss has allowed just 95 yards per game and 2.8 yards per carry on the ground so far this season. They are much less stingy against the pass, allowing opponents to complete 66 percent of their passes.
On offense, the Rebels have been, inconsistent at best. They average a little over 25 points per game while averaging four yards per carry and 7.7 yards per pass attempt. In a game like this, where you enter as big underdogs, Carter says the team is just looking to work on improving some of their weak spots and making progress against a tough defense like the Tide.
“They are just trying to get more consistent. You can’t think you are going to win this game. But, coming up you have Vanderbilt, Missouri, Texas A&M, Auburn, New Mexico State and LSU,” said Carter. “You have a heavy slate of games left. So you want to be more consistent running and throwing the football. Right now, Ole Miss doesn’t seem like the kind of team that is going to be bowl-eligible by the time the season gets to November.”
The Rebels visit the Tide this Saturday, September 28th, with kick off set for 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time on CBS.