Tuesday, September 30, 2008

table this thing, would you?

Interesting note before we start this week's roundtable: I just saw LeRon McClain make a big catch for the Baltimore Ravens on this morning's Sportscenter. And also, I saw Jarrett Johnson drill Big Ben during last night's game, too.
(Random question: do you think LeRon ever watches himself in college, just muttering obscenities over and over again? I mean, he was one of the keepers from the Shula era, and he was just wasted. And not in a good way.)

Anyway, we move on -- this week's Crimson & White Roundtable comes on the heels of the biggest win for Alabama's football program since 2005 (and with no one losing the lower half of his right leg to boot). For the record, we at the DP are changing our approach slightly: since I'm moving off the sports desk, I have fewer reasons to keep the fan side of me repressed. Even referred to the team as "we" a few times Saturday night.
So the sky's the limit from here. Let's get to it, because the grass still has to be cut, editor or no.

1. What are your feelings on Alabama's current position in the polls? Are we overrated? Underrated? Just right?
Read my entry from Sunday for my complete feelings about the ranking situation. I keep telling myself we can't be that good, there's just no way. But you keep winning, more people will take notice, eventually you can't stem the tide of positive press (no matter how hard Nick Saban tries).
Also, there's this: according to the guys at BCS Guru, guess who'd be #1 if the standings came out today. So maybe #2 is OK, for now.

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?
Not this game inparticular, but one stat from the first five weeks has stood out: Alabama has outscored its opponents 74-0 in the first quarter thus far this season.
What does that mean? Simply, it means this team has been impeccably coached to this point. Saban, McElwain, Kirby Smart, whoever -- someone is putting together outstanding game plans week-in and week-out, and it's been working to something close to perfection. And it's huge for Alabama's offensive plan, since the Tide gets to play from ahead and pound people with that rugged offensive front.
The Tide wasn't dominated in any aspect of the game, but Matthew Stafford had an incredible second half. I don't know if it was obvious to people who don't know a lot of football, but Stafford made some incredible plays after halftime -- many of the throws he made were made on the run, into double and triple coverage, and he made them anyway. That dude is scary. Can he graduate, please? Pretty please?

3. Name your player of the game on Offense. Also name one on Defense.
For defense, I'm going with the tired line of Terrence Cody. In 2007, Moreno and Thomas Brown tore 'Bama's defense up, mostly because the defensive front was being held together with gum and twine. Not this time around.
Offensively, I'm tempted to go with Stafford -- I don't think people realize how good he actually is. But, since you're probably interested in Alabama's offense, I'll say Travis McCall and Antoine Caldwell. Caldwell calls many of the blocking schemes at the line, and McCall -- as Todd Blackledge pointed out during the broadcast -- is the guy who's doing the lead blocking much of the time.

4. The Wildcats are a very quiet 4-0 with lackluster wins over Louisville, Norfolk State, MTSU, and Western Kentucky. Obviously every game in the SEC is going to be a tough one and the Tide could be in danger of a letdown after such a huge win, so are you at all worried about UK? Why or why not?
I'm worried, and you should be, too.
Look, I'm not saying the first five weeks have been a mirage -- however, this team has yet to face a squad that can match it in physicality up the middle (as good as Georgia is at the skill positions, they've always been somewhat soft up the middle, and it's why they typically struggle against more physical opponents like Tennessee and Auburn).
Kentucky, defensively, may not be able to match Alabama physically. But they'll hit, as they showed against Louisville, and they absolutely won't back down or be intimidated. And as the Tide hasn't yet played a nip-and-tuck affair, it's tough to know how they'll respond in such a situation.

5. John Parker Wilson is a new man this season, looking like the kind of savvy game manager that can make just enough throws to keep defenses guessing we need in this offense. What's your take on his sudden emergence, and are you comfortable with him under center in clutch situations?
John Parker remains a riddle, wrapped inside a mystery, rolled up in an enigma. Obviously, the team's propensity for taking early leads has allowed him to play without pressure, as has that run game and that rugged offensive front. His tendency to be erratic, of course, still has to scare most Alabama fans, particularly in the SEC, where every game is bound to come down to a handful of plays. But even Saturday night, with the score at 31-17 and the crowd ready to explode with one more stop, he made the necessary plays to get one more score and put the game back out of reach.
There's a parallel from recent history here: Jason Campbell at Auburn, who played for three coordinators (Petrino, Ensminger and Borges) his last three seasons and was considered as much a liability as an asset until sometime midway through his senior season (2004), when it became obvious that the light bulb had finally clicked on for him. John Parker doesn't have Campbell's raw talent -- I doubt you'll ever see JPW play in any uniform besides Alabama's -- but it does seem as though that elusive bulb is slowly growing brighter. Like Campbell, he's completely comfortable in his current system, he's made the right read in every situation and he's putting every throw exactly where it needs to be.
And if we're going to stay up around the top-5, he's going to have to keep doing it.



-D. said...

You're moving off the sports desk?! And going where?

-D. said...

Oh, and props to you for the Churchill reference regarding JPW.