Monday, September 15, 2008

come to the table

Welcome back to another edition of the Crimson & White Roundtable, something we started participating in this year because ... well, because every blog needs a few gimmicks to keep the entries rolling out. Anyway, as always, we remind everyone that we're doing this for fun and probably don't represent the blogosphere at large. This week's host is 3rd Saturday in Blogtober, one of my favorite sites.

1. What are your feelings on Alabama’s current position in the polls? Are we overrated? Underrated? Just right?

Top-10 rankings have always made me nervous. I recall in 2005, when a worried-looking girl in my office asked me in October (after the Florida win), "Is Alabama overrated?" And the answer was "of course," but it was because Florida was overrated, and Alabama thumped them on a national stage.

The same thing holds true this season. Clemson was more than a little over-hyped -- in fact, their #9 ranking was a result of some bizarre obligation pollsters feel to put at least one team from each major conference in the top 10. And when Alabama whipped them, that automatically made the Tide the team to take over that spot.

Time will tell whether the rankings are deserved. The next two weeks, specifically, will prove a great deal.

2. What aspect of the game did Alabama control that shocked you the most? What aspect of the game was Alabama dominated in that shocked you the most?

Alabama's defense continues to impress me, if only because they're much better than I'd anticipated. Of course, to paraphrase John Madden, when you're playing Western Kentucky, that means Western Kentucky is the team you're playing. But Alabama's defense is tougher than previously believed, and that's a good thing.

3. Name your player of the game on Offense. Also name one on Defense.

Not necessarily related to this particular game, but I'm going with Nick Walker on offense. One of my father's many football adages is this one: the tight end is always open. Always. And to see John Parker throwing to him on a daily basis is heartwarming.

Defensively, it's hard not to be impressed with Rolando McClain. Alabama has a long list of impressive linebackers -- this kid can be one of them. That's the highest praise I can give.

4. Who on each side of the ball has been the biggest surprise to you so far?

Andre Smith has been impressive, not just for his ability, but because of what he means to the offensive line. With him in the starting lineup, Alabama has racked up remarkable numbers in two games -- in the one game he's missed, the Tide looked like a junior varsity.

Keeping with that theme, you can't help but get excited when watching Terrence Cody. Saban's 3-4 defense simply won't work if you don't have a beast to occupy the centers and guards and allow the linebackers to move. And he's the guy.

5. The last three weeks were fun, but now it’s time for conference play. What area of play concerns you now that we’re getting into the more physical stretch of the schedule?

At the risk of sounding like an alarmist, pass rush is the biggest problem at the moment. I never thought Wallace Gilberry was that good, but in the first three games without him, the DLs have generated very little heat on opposing quarterbacks. One thing I learned from '04-'05: if you can generate a big rush up front, then it makes up for a number of deficiencies in other places.

And if you can't, well ...


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