Monday, September 5, 2011

week 1 thoughts: a long time coming

The handful of you who read this blog regularly may have noticed I didn't post a great deal of content during August, the time of year when things normally pick back up around here in anticipation of the new season. The truth was, I really didn't have many ideas for blog posts.
 The other truth: I almost gave up on college football this offseason.

The offseason is always interminable, what with all the fan chatter, accusing the other side of cheating in recruiting and holding your breath that none of your players get arrested. But you have to admit: this offseason was the worst of the worst in every regard. Not only did every college football fan spend January-August discussing NCAA probation, player arrests and conference realignment — just for good measure, we endured the worst natural disaster in the history of our state, cutting right through the heart of my adopted home county and my home away from home in Tuscaloosa. The offseason went from being just interminable; it was tragic.
The thing is, sports are supposed to be fun. We started playing sports because they were fun. We go to games because they're supposed to be fun. We watch games on TV because they're fun.
At least, that's what I used to think. Nothing that's happened since January that was football-related has been any fun. And as much as I'd like to put it all aside now that the games are back, so much has happened, I'm not sure if it's possible. I'm not sure if I'm ready to just be a regular football fan again.
(Wow. This is a lame way to start a season-opening post.)

The opener itself was, of course, exactly what it was supposed to be: a routine opener against an overmatched opponent in front of a capacity crowd. There wasn't one moment where Alabama even appeared to be in danger. In short, it was classic Alabama football in the Nick Saban Era.
Considering what Auburn, South Carolina and Kentucky went through in Week One, that in itself is pretty important.
Other thoughts from the game ...
— Depending on who you read, the quarterback race was either decided in favor of A.J. McCarron Saturday, or very little was decided in the game. In truth, very little from any aspect of our offense was terribly overwhelming. Bama benefited from short fields three different times in the first half, that resulted in 17 points. That's the benefit of playing opposite an outstanding defense, as well as a special teams unit that set us up with ideal field position.
— Other positive things from the offense: the wide receiver corps is much better than I was willing to admit in preseason, whether Duron Carter shows up or not. And, of course, there's the play of Eddie Lacy, which excited Andre Ware so much that he was already comparing Bama's current backfield to the Ingram/Richardson combo from 2009-10 (settle down, Andre).
— Having said nice things about the offense, let us also dwell on the negative: the offensive line got absolutely worked for a good portion of the first half, and we never established a dominant ground presence. To be fair, it was difficult to tell on television how much Alabama played its starters up front, and which plays were the province of the backups. Nevertheless, it's a little disconcerting.
— Jim McElwain still throws the ball too damned much.

— Defensively, obviously, was the biggest story coming out of Saturday. The Tide looks downright dominant up front, has speed to burn and the secondary seemed to play with that nasty edge that the '09 team had. Secondary play is one of the toughest things to evaluate for non-football aficionados, but Alabama's DBs look ready.
— Marquis Maze's exploits in the return game were a big boost, as well. This will make me sound like John Madden, but when you can start drives closer to the other team's end zone, it's much easier to score touchdowns.

— In the second half Saturday, the ESPN sideline reporter highlighted a "great Alabama tradition" because her bosses needed her to justify her salary, apparently. Anyway, the "tradition" she chose to highlight was the Million Dollar Band's playing of Green Day's "Basket Case" at the end of every third quarter.
By itself, this isn't objectionable. I love Alabama's playing of the classic tune, and used to call for it as a student when the third quarter ended. What I found curious was the reporter's assertion that the MDB has been observing the tradition "since 1987," even though the song wasn't released until 1994.
Nice job, interns.
— One more thing before we go: it can't be overstated how much respect and admiration we have for the Kent State football squad, many of whom ventured down to Tuscaloosa to help rebuild in the wake of the storms. Their players received an ovation when they took the field, and didn't hear "Rammer Jammer" when the game ended, out of respect. At the end of the day, it's just football. We all have to live together when it's over, win or lose.

And with that, it's time to think about traveling to Penn State. Time marches on.

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